There’s something odd going on in the worldwide Sikh community. (Sikhism, in case you didn’t know, is a Dharmic faith strongly influenced by Islam, particularly Sufic Islam.) It began in Vienna (Austria) and has already spilled over into Sikhism’s native land, India, as the AP reports (via Google News):

Sikhs wielding knives and a handgun attacked two preachers at a rival temple in Vienna in a brawl that left one of the victims dead Monday and at least 15 others wounded, police said. A related clash later broke out in northern India.

Witnesses said a group of bearded and turbaned men attacked the religious leaders at the temple in Austria’s capital on Sunday and their followers moved to defend them. …

Police spokesman Michael Takacs earlier said the scene was “like a battlefield.” Six suspects were in custody with more arrests possible, he said. …

In India, fighting between mainstream Sikhs and followers of the guru broke out in the northern city of Jalandhar several hours after the Vienna clash, in what locals there described as an apparent reaction to the melee in the Austrian capital. Sanjiv Kalra, a senior police official at Jalandhar, said that protesters had set fire to a number of vehicles and erected several roadblocks across the city. He gave no other details.

Reasons for this bloody attack are not all that clear, at least not to me. The AP report offers what explanation it can:

Witnesses said the perpetrators were fundamentalist Sikhs from a higher caste, who accused one or both of the preachers of being disrespectful of the Holy Book. Indian news reports said the attackers were incensed that one of the preachers was given a ceremonial shawl considered a high Sikh honor.

I can’t even begin to guess as to how, exactly, a savage mass attack like this is a reasonable response to being given a shawl. It’s also not clear to me how Sikh temples have managed to divide themselves along caste lines, since I’d thought that Sikhism denounced caste distinctions (see e.g. this Sikh-written Web page, and keep in mind that Sikhs have a ritual called Langar, in which free food is eaten by those of all castes, side-by-side. The ancient Hindu caste distinction — whose evils I blogged about before — appears to be inflicting yet more harm on people, even in the 21st century, and even in a religion which branched off from Hinduism centuries ago.

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  • Sundri

    The RELIGION does denounce the caste system, but some of the POEPLE choose to label themselves by caste anyway. Sikh temples do not divide themselves by caste, but some POEPLE are stupid. If you choose to believe that Sikh temples divide by caste, maybe you should go to one and actually see everything with your own eyes. And Sikhism is not influenced by Islam because the two religions have almost entirely opposite beliefs. Just because they both are major religions in one country, doesn't mean they are the same.

    Religion causes too many fights amongst people. -_- But it does not matter if I am agnostic or not regarding this issue. I am very familiar with these religions and i'm sick of people who have absolutely no knowledge or background information on these religions but choose to hand in their half assed opinions.

    As for the Sikh religion, I respect it tremendously. God is not referred to as any gender in their holy scriptures (besides the english translations of them) and women and men are supposed to, universally, have one last name for all so women do not need to change theirs when they marry (kaur and singh, meaning lioness and lion, respectively). They do not condemn any other religion and are non-proselytizing. If you are a muslim, be a good one. If you are a christian, be a good one. You can go to heaven even if you're not Sikh. The actual Sikhs who are 100% devoted to and are living by the Guru Granth Sahib Ji, not the idiotic ones who know nothing about their own religion and believe in castes, are impossibly down to earth and true.
    If I were to give religion a chance, it would have to be this one.

    Excuse the rant. Excuse the long, drawn out sentences. Excuse the lecture.
    And note to author: any cynicism or rudeness I expressed was not directed toward you, just the world in general. 🙂

    • No offense taken to your comments. I thank you for them. I suppose it's not clear enough … especially from my last paragraph … but I was genuinely perplexed to hear this news. I have little problem with Sikhism, for the reasons you state (especially it not being an exclusive religion) which is why I found this so puzzling. I thought I did make a distinction between what Sikhism explicitly teaches, and what people are doing with it, especially referencing the egalitarian Langar.