The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus


Movie screening demonstrates struggles of Sikh community

TAYLOR MARTIN/ The Daily Campus

(TAYLOR MARTIN/ The Daily Campus)

“Why would anyone move to a new country to just hang on to the traditions of the old one?” asked the main character of “Ocean of Pearls,” a movie that has won a number of audience choice awards nationally.

The movie, a semi-autographical production, was shown by the Sikh Students Association at SMU to address issues of tolerance, discrimination and inner struggle that affect the Sikh community.

In front of a packed Hughes Triggs Forum, the audience learned about the life of a young professional, Dr. Amrit Singh, who takes a position at a new transplant facility in Detroit, leaving his family and his girlfriend behind in Toronto.

Faced with struggles to assimilate, Dr. Singh, a Sikh, cuts his hair and removes his turban to attempt to fit in with the needs of the hospital.The turban is an article of faith — an identity symbol — in the Sikh religion. When Sikhism was in its initial stages, Guru Gobind Singh gave Sikhs “bana,” which is a distinctive dress that includes the turban.

The Guru’s decision was a strategic one. For centuries, Mughal emperors and aristocrats donned turbans as a sign of nobility and respectability.

Faced with growing persecution, the Guru boldly displayed the Sikh community’s identity without fear of persecution. In effect, he turned the tables on the ruling class.

Spiritually, the turban gives Sikhs energy from the Guru and pride.

Sophomore Jaywin Singh Malhi, treasurer of the Sikh Students Association, believes wearing the turban is an important part of the religion.

“We wear the turban as a symbol of who we are and what we represent,” he said.

The ninety-minute film followed Dr. Singh from his aberration from the Sikh faith to his realization that the Sikh faith offered him comfort. At the end of the movie, Dr. Singh returned to the Sikh faith.

Compromise was not an option for Dr. Singh.

“A compromise on one issue will lead to compromise on many other issues,” Dr. Singh said .

A lively audience asked questions about the history and current status of Sikhism after the film. Sikhs, often standing for universal human rights, have faced backlash from the Indian government and other sociopolitical groups.The Sikh religion has suffered from past massacres. In the modern era, backlash against Sikhs led to the Sikh Holocaust that took the lives of thousands.

“A nation was embroiled over the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by two Sikh bodyguards. But, that was not the whole story,”Malhi said. “The Indian government sent tanks and infantry into our Holy Temple with little warrantable cause.”

“While the Sikh community does not condone the actions of the bodyguards, we have many future challenges,” Malhi said.

In “Ocean of Pearls,” Dr. Singh struggles with discrimination he faces in the workforce because of his turban and many Sikh students in attendance reiterated the sentiment.

But, instead of giving up and conforming, the Sikh community has maintained their identity through education and advocacy.

“The community has formed legal organizations and is attempting to follow the systems used by the black community to defeat discrimination,” Malhi said.

Even more than civil litigation, Sikh students agreed that education was key to achieving tolerance.

“We have come a long way,” Malhi said. “But we have much work to do for people to know what Sikhs truly stand for.”

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