Atlast!!! Q & A for Hindu school students!!

Atlast I have found a Q & A for minority Hindu school students  – which parents should instruct their kids -to fend off queries about their faith from curious (and even unfriendly majority peers etc).

 

Mr A: Are you a Buddhist?

Mr B: Hey no! He is …

Mr A: Oh I get it, India has mostly Hindus!!

US (Thats me): Yes, I am a Hindu. But we worship Buddha also. He was from India and thats where he … Oh! I was born not far from where he got the message.

 

Mr B: So what do Hindus worship? Do you worship many Gods?

 

US: Hindus believe that at one point of time all humans were pure and divine. So we worship those early humans but we also believe in ONE God. These humans are divine, like Buddha , but not God.

 

MrB: I hear that Hindus believe that if you do bad deeds you will be born as a gecko or dog, if you do good then only you will be born as human?

 

US: Yes, we believe so. We believe that dogs, humans all living beings have souls. So if one dies one's soul can be reborn as any living creature -even a dog. We beleive in rebirth. So do Buddhists and do all the 4-5 religions which have originated in India.

 

MrB: So when are we born as humans?

 

US: When we become spiritual – like Buddha – who got – you know … Nirvana…..OK lets get back to work.

 

This was with a few high school students who were frank enough to ask me these questions. I was having the privilege to view first hand what confuses others about Hindu faith – and find in it strange. These students were from Buddhist and Christian majority area country –children of recent immigrants.

 

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I could add a bit more about casteism having religious sanction — comparing it to religious sanction through Psalms in Bible to slavery etc.

 

Having seen muslims ridiculed in Hindu majority India (behind their backs by adults) as (Cut-vas – those whose genitals are have been cut off – circumcised)   and Sikhs ridiculed openly with Sikh jokes calling them happy-go-lucky fools (Sardar-ji ke barah baj gaye — Sikh has gone loco at mid-day) . Sikhs and muslims having long been minority – have learnt to tolerate and have a thick skin.

 

 Hindus not only have a notion of “glorius past” but a wafer thin skin (mine has become thicker perhaps after setbacks in one-sided college romance in 1990s with a top notch Delhi girl–earning ridicule/sympathy from all sides).

 

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I cannot believe that entire Oxford Univ has conspired to make sure that Sikh turban be kept away from US textbooks – must be handiwork of a few in the Univ Press. Same in case of McDougall Little book on Modern  World History. So why do we blame entire Saudi Arabia as fomenting hate literature – must be the handiwork of a few only.

 

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Will Oxford honor the request?

 

BTW: My former Sikh student told me that only a few months ago he and his entire family (incl father) has their turbans removed after their father explained that mistrust against Sikhs ever since Hindu-Skih riots in 1984 when his mother's uncle and aunt were burned in Delhi with car tires around their necks –allegedely by Congress party workers after Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was shot dead by her Sikh body guards. P

 

Perhaps his father was afraid about 2 -3 Sikhs getting killed in US (as my student told me – 12 yearold only) after Sep 11, 2001 attacks by Al-Queeda.

 

 

Umesh

 

Bowing to Sikhs’ Call, California Wants Textbook Change



Published: March 10, 2007


SAN FRANCISCO, March 9 — The picture on Page 95 of “An Age of Voyages: 1350-1600,” a seventh-grade history book used in California schools since last fall, had been unremarkable to state education officials: a stiff 19th-century portrait of a man with a trimmed beard holding a few beads and wearing a crown.

 

But for Sikhs, that image of Guru Nanak (1469-1538), their religion’s founder, is anathema to everything they believe about the prophet, a simple man who preached to the poor and certainly, they say, never wore a crown.

 

 

So, after months of lobbying by Sikhs, the California Board of Education voted unanimously on Thursday to ask the book’s publisher to remove the portrait from future printings, and to provide a sticker with another image or text to place over the portrait in existing copies.

“The image itself was offensive to the Sikh community,” said Thomas Adams, director of the Curriculum Frameworks and Instructional Resources Division of the State Education Department. “And it wasn’t defensible on the issue of accuracy, because it is from a later period” than the one in which Guru Nanak lived.

 

 

Sikhs, who trace their religion to the late-15th-century Punjab region of what are now Pakistan and India, number some 24 million around the world and about 500,000 in the United States, says the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund, based in Washington. According to Kavneet Singh, the fund’s Western regional director, 75,000 to 100,000 live in California, though some estimates put the number at twice that. Many arrived in the United States in two waves, immigrating either as laborers during the early 20th century or as skilled professionals since World War II.

 

Sikhs in California had pushed to have the picture removed from the text ever since the book first arrived in schools at the start of the academic year. Gurcharan Singh Mann, a Sikh who lives in Fremont and who was active in the effort, said that in addition to the crown, the trim of Guru Nanak’s beard was in the style of a Muslim or a Hindu rather than a Sikh.

“It is not a suitable picture,” Mr. Singh Mann said. “Every Sikh at their home has a picture of Guru Nanak, and it looks like the modern dress of the Sikh, of the 21st century, with a turban and a fully grown beard.”

 

The book’s publisher, Oxford University Press, did not return a call for comment. But education officials and other publishing houses said the episode was just the latest example of a textbook change prompted by concerns about giving offense to various racial, ethnic or religious groups.

 

California’s school board has a public — and often lengthy — process of reviewing textbooks before they are made available for purchase by individual school districts. Last year, for example, the board took comments from a variety of groups, including representatives of the Jewish, Muslim and Hindu religions, each looking for changes to a proposed social sciences curriculum. The textbooks were approved last March, but only after the board had given publishers a 126-page list of suggested tweaks, trims and fixes.

“This has always been the story of the California adoption process,” Mr. Adams said. “It is intended for the public to participate. It’s not intended for a bureaucrat like myself to sit behind a desk and do it comfortably.”

 

But publishers say that with the rise in cultural sensitivity and in new educational standards, including those from federal programs like No Child Left Behind, the cost and time consumed in making schoolbooks have also increased.

 

“We jump through a lot of hoops, and a great deal of money is spent in terms of developing materials,” said Jay Diskey, executive director of the school division of the Association of American Publishers. “And there’s a very strong correlation, particularly in California, that the new standards do indeed lead to more pages and lead to more costs.”

 

Still, publishers usually make the changes, if only because of California’s size and buying power. The schoolbook market in the United States is roughly $4.2 billion, Mr. Diskey said, and California schools are the nation’s No. 1 purchaser: the state government allocated $403 million for schoolbooks in 2006, Mr. Adams said, not counting federal money or lottery revenue.

 

It is not just ethnic or religious groups that lobby over the issue, either. Last year the California Legislature approved a bill forbidding any negative portrayal of lesbians and gay men in textbooks, though it was vetoed in September by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on the ground that existing antidiscrimination law was sufficient to address the matter.

Mr. Singh Mann said the depiction of Guru Nanak was important not only for historical reasons but also to help keep students from confusing Sikhs with other ethnic groups. He said that several Sikhs were assaulted after the attacks of Sept. 11 and that some non-Sikh students still treated Sikhs with suspicion or worse.

 

“You’re in the school and some kids have a turban, they’ll be called Osama bin Laden,” Mr. Singh Mann said. “And the kids want to drop out the school. We don’t want to be a burden on the country, but if a kid drops out, it is a problem.”

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