Wednesday, April 16, 2008

'Sikh Bengali Row' Called A Trivial Matter

A senior Malaysian Indian leader has urged the country's Sikh community not to get annoyed at being called Bengalis, calling it "a trivial matter".

Opposition lawmaker Karpal Singh, who has roots in Punjab, has sought to play down Sunday's gaffe by Perak state's Mentri Besar (chief executive) Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin, who he said, had referred to Sikhs as Bengalis "in ignorance".

Urging the Sikh community "not to get upset", Karpal Singh said although Sikhs and Bengalis were different, it was a very "trivial" matter.

"In Malaysia, both are commonly referred to as the same, so there is no need to be offended. After all, a rose would smell as sweet by any other name," he said after attending Baisakhi prayers at a gurudwara Monday.

Some Sikhs in the audience walked out after Jamaluddin greeted the Tamils on the New Year and then the Sikhs, calling them Bengalis, a common misnomer in Malaysia.

Karpal Singh, who heads the opposition Democratic Action party (DAP), was elected to parliament in last month's general elections where he sits alongside his son, Govind Singh Deo.

While he has sought to take a lenient view, some in the Sikh community of an estimated 100,000 do not agree.

Khalsa Dharmic Jatha Gurudwara vice-president Baljit Singh said: "That very utterance has made the Sikhs a laughing stock of other communities. How can we expect society to know the difference between the two communities when the leaders themselves cannot?" he said, adding that Jamaluddin owed Sikhs an apology.

Jamaluddin, who made the reference at a function in Ipoh, later admitted his mistake.

In Malaysia, Sikhs have been mistakenly referred to as Bengalis for decades, The Star newspaper said.(Times Of India)

***** It is time for the Sikh community to listen to Mr Karpal Singh, drop the matter and move on. The Mentri Besar has admitted he had made a mistake and that should be sufficient. To stubbornly demand an apology is to prolong the issue unnecessarily and risk losing all the goodwill they have painstakingly earned through the years.

The other Malaysians frankly couldn't care less what the Sikhs are called or not called. That's the reality in Malaysia. By demanding an apology it doesn't mean that the Sikhs would not be called Banggali/Bengali by the other communities in the future. No amount of coercion, public display of anger or threats is going to change what has been deeply ingrained in the minds and vocabulary of some Malaysians.

To say that the Sikhs have become a 'laughing stock' is pretty misleading. On the contrary they are a respected lot in the country, well known for their diligence and talent. If at all anyone is to be blamed at this point in time, it is those Sikhs who are now publicly highlighting and giving free advertisement for the misnomer.
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Blogger kittykat46 said...

Heheheheh...there's a Malaysian Sikh (I believe) blogger who calls himself "Bayi"

Aiyah...lets educate people to use the correct term, but don't get too uptight about the issue.

I tell a lot of Ah Beng jokes, and Mamak jokes as well...

2:29 PM GMT+8  
Anonymous SM said...

Yes, the Sikhs have been called Bengalis for years. Most people still don't know the difference (or don't care).
It's no excuse of course but the MB made an honest mistake. He was not out to "insult" anyone lah! Come on, grow up!
Saying it will make them "Laughing Stocks" is a joke! Although prolonging this issue will make them just that!

2:38 PM GMT+8  
Blogger CY said...

Before this incident, I honestly didn't know Sikhs and Bengalis are different...

4:48 PM GMT+8  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think it is wrong to trivalise such matters. Sikhs in Malaysia have been referred to "Banagalis" in a derogatory manner.For a MB to make such a statement just reflects his breeding. I am not a sikh, and I feel offended.
Come on..Malaysia is a mulitracial country learn some basics how to make a speech without offending your constituents..maybe there is an idiots guide to how to write a speech.

9:16 PM GMT+8  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

all my folks back home in ipoh in general and batu gajah especially know how a mangkali looks like. tell them a sikh - he will most likely tell you I DUNNO.

9:47 PM GMT+8  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Silly punjabis who practice sikhism, love to do a Bhangra in every damn thing.

The same goes here. At least Karpal is sensible among the Turban lot. No wonder he doesn't wear one.

The MB has apologised. So, what the hell do u need a public apology!!!

Balik minum susu lembu dan makan capati!!!

10:05 PM GMT+8  
Blogger warta tua said...

Will some knowledgeable Sikh write to this comment column to enlighten us the difference between Sikh an Bengali and how and why it is offensive to mistakenly call a Sikh a Bengali. We, other races will benefit from the knowledge and avoid the mistake in the future.

10:17 PM GMT+8  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There are worse things to worry about !!

3:43 AM GMT+8  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The homeland of the Sikhs is in Punjab, near Pakistan, while Bengalis refer to those who come from Bengal near Bangladesh, about 1,000 miles away from Punjab.

11:48 AM GMT+8  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I didn't know Sikhs & Bengkalis are different but that does not mean I disrepect them.

Correct what is wrong and move on.

No one is laughing at Sikhs over this matter. So drop it


3:30 PM GMT+8  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The confusion between Sikhs and Bengalis arises because in those colonial days Calcutta use to be a major port for the British. Many Punjabis board ships in Calcutta to Malaya thus the confusion of calling them Bengalis in Malaysa until now. By the way Sikhism is a religion.

3:45 PM GMT+8  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Punjabis or Bengalis are not the same which only i come to understand the difference when i was corrected by my punjabi classmate than who i initialy thougt or always thought as a bengali. The point i am trying to make is, i realised the diference early on and i dont get it how come the MB did not get it for such a long time!. If its not ignorance on his part, i dont know what else?. On the other hand, his remark definately could not have made them a laughing stock because as human beings we cannot expect everyone to have a perfect knowledge on everything. People do make mistakes.

3:59 PM GMT+8  

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