A call out to Sikhs around the world

Dear Sikh brothers and sisters around the world,

We as a community often stand together in times of crisis and when we are made aware of people who need our support. I am now reaching out to all the Sikh communities, and challenging them to join the Pride events that are occurring around the world this month and to actively support your local LGBTQ community.

I have come across many LGBTQ Sikhs, who still have not ‘come out of the closet’ due to the intolerance within our community and I think it’s time we all began to actively support each other. I don’t claim to know what it would feel like to have to hide a certain part of ones identity, because people do not understand or do not accept your sexual orientation. However, as friend to the LGBTQ community, I can provide my support and challenge those who do not.

Similarly, this year the Khalsa Diwan Society, of Vancouver, also extended this hand of friendship and support during Vaisakhi in 2017; when they joined forces with the LGBTQ support group for South Asians, Sher Vancouver. The significance of this union was paramount given the religious importance of Vaisakhi. Together, this union between the Khalsa Diwan Sikh religious organization and the LGBTQ support group Sher Vancouver, they made a profound statement.

That statement was clear and a defining moment for many Sikhs around the world: that intolerance within the Sikh communities was unacceptable and the Sikh mandate is to support all people; in particular those being marginalized and oppressed in society. Let us embrace the union these two organizations have created and extend it around the world.

As a Sikh woman, I can understand why many LGBTQ find it difficult to come out and or discuss aspects of their life, because traditionally our community has been very homophobic. I can only imagine the pain that I have personally seen in some of my friends eyes when they talk about their experiences and fears as a LGBTQ Sikh.

I have Sikh friends who are part of the LGBTQ community, many still are or have been, at some point in time too afraid to ‘come out.’ As a friend, I have a responsibility to support them. I have a responsibility to stand for those who are afraid to speak out or to come out – As a good friend of mine once said “You don’t have to be gay to support the gay community, you just have to be human.”

There are many LGBTQ Sikh children and adults who are suffering, because they are being marginalized and sadly, in some cases being persecuted for their sexuality and we as community need to rally around them and give them the support that they need.

In light of all the hate and fear that has been coming forward this past year, there have also been many great acts of love and support from people. This month is also Pride month and is a time we all need to gather together in solidarity and support one another regardless of sexuality, race, gender, faith, caste, class or creed.

For all the people who have not ‘come out of the closet’ because they are afraid – show them, they need not to be afraid.

Perhaps, seeing Sikh men and women marching for their rights will give the LGBTQ Sikhs that are too afraid, the confidence to come out and to be themselves. Moreover, by showing support and marching during the pride parade you will also be actively challenging societal misconceptions of both the LGBTQ community and the Sikh community. Lastly, and most importantly it gives us all an opportunity to learn from each other.

We need to start embracing each other and supporting each other.

I challenge all Sikh men and women, whether you are LGBTQ or not, to support Pride this month and every other month.

I will be at the London Pride parade on July 8, 2017, and I hope to see many of you joining your local pride events.

Lastly, as a proud Canadian, I would also like to acknowledge the Canadian High Commission in London, U.K., for the very first time in history will be participating in the Pride London parade. In fact, I believe the Canadian embassy is the only embassy that is participating in this year’s pride parade – I will update if I hear of any other countries joining in, but until then… Go Canada Go!

Representation is important – Please share your support

Love is Love

Sunny Mangat

Twitter @mangat_sunny

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Religion should never supersede humanity.

Religion should never supersede humanity.

I am not an overtly religious person, but I have my moments. More specifically, I don’t follow any religion in extreme, but rather I follow the teachings of all religion. However, I do believe that religion is personal; within the large umbrella of religious faiths such as Christianity, Catholicism, Islamism, Hinduism, Sikhism or Buddhism etc. For many of us, we were born as Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus or Sikhs etc. and we were never given any other choice. We were never taught about other religions, in order to make an informed decision. However, as we grow older and educate ourselves we make religion unique to us, we make it personal, we pull from it what we need and when we need it. Some of us have given up on religion altogether, some of us are following our chosen religion, some of us have moved from one to another, and some of us are still searching for what is right for us. Truth be told, I have sat in many Churches, Mosques, Gurdwara’s, Mundar’s and Temples and I always get the same feeling, irrespective of “whose” place of worship I have entered – a sense of peace. This peace stems from the silence and self-reflection that occurs within that religious space and/or sometimes the unified hymns of people singing. The space given for religious worship is meant for peace, regardless of your religious background, so when you enter – you should feel safe.

Often, we struggle internally with our own beliefs and those that have been enforced on us, from when we are born. Many people, such as some in the LGBTQ community can probably agree. On the one hand they are homosexual, but on the other hand they are unable to come out due to ‘their’ religion, or perhaps they have come out to their family, but are forced to be ‘straight.’

The base of all religions is meant for maintaining peace and harmony within society, thus if your thoughts and beliefs supersede humanity – then that is not the doing of religion. If you turn to your religion as your card to offend, hurt or manipulate – then that is not the doing of religion. If your religion makes you feel angry, depressed and spiteful then you need to re-evaluate, find your place and continue your journey.

In simple terms, if you believe that your religion outweighs humanity, then you are following the wrong religion. Find another.

Religion is meant to find hope when you are feeling hopeless. Religion is meant to provide strength for when you are feeling weak. Religion is meant to provide compassion during times of hatred and cruelty. Religion is meant to provide peace amidst anarchy.

Regardless of which religion you follow – that is what religion is for.

Religion is fluid and personal and will change with time as we grow older and have experiences within the world. Religion does not mean that you believe in a god, it can be many gods, your god may not be a person, or your god may be a living person. For myself, my god comes in many forms such as my parents, my brother and my sister – my family. I also believe god comes in other forms such as doctors, police officers and teachers etc. – those who serve the public. That is not to say my way is the correct way, but your god(s) whomever that maybe, should provide you only peace.

As I was reading about what happened in Orlando, it made me incredibly sad to think that at the very same time when a conflicted man, in the name of his god, murdered people for their chosen way of life – because he was unable to choose his. Yet, at the very same time, those who were being innocently killed were turning to their god for mercy, strength, peace, compassion and hope.

What happened in this man’s life that filled his heart with such hate? And why is that these young innocent lives were taken so viciously and harshly? My heart literally broke, as Mina Justice read her son’s text messages during the shooting “Mommy I love you,” which was one of Eddie Jamoldroy Justice’s last text messages to his mother. He didn’t deserve this and neither did his mother.

Religion is such an interesting concept, one in which we turn to when we are feeling at our most vulnerable. Religion can also corrupt our souls when we don’t stay true our hearts. I question why we use the power of religion to hurt each other and in some cases ourselves? Why we continue to fight over whose religion is the one to be followed? In particularly, when even those who follow the same religion are divided into many sects themselves. Yet, we fail to question that. Moreover, why we continue to follow a religion that does not give us internal peace? There are many who are conflicted with their own religious beliefs, because they have never stopped to question their beliefs. We are so quick to defend our communities and our beliefs, but fail to question them when something goes wrong. We need to start accepting others for who they are, but most importantly we need to start accepting ourselves for who we are – we cannot have peace, if we do not have peace inside ourselves.

As you may have noticed throughout this piece I write ‘your religion,’ I do this because religion is personal and we have no right to push our beliefs on anyone else. When we start to understand, that each of our experiences in life shapes our thoughts and beliefs; only then can we obtain peace. If we continue down a path of division and we move away from understanding each other, then we will have given up on humanity.

Once we give up on humanity, then there is no religion in the world that can save us.

I will always believe that humanity comes before any religion.

#LoveWins – at least in my book. How about yours?

Sunny Mangat

Twitter: mangat_sunny

The F-word and the Canadian Government

Feminism has become the latest buzz word for the new Canadian government.

Many Canadians and the world witnessed the Prime Minister of Canada inadvertently “elbowing” female NDP MP Brosseau. Since then the term feminism, gender equality and gender based violence has been thrown around left, right and center. However, after many of you saw the footage, I think it is quite apparent there was no maliciousness and it was unintentional. Prime Minister Trudeau has since then publically apologized for his behavior and actions. Sadly, the media and much of the opposition want to use this accident to discredit Prime Minister Trudeau’s support for feminism.

What they are not talking about is why the confrontation took place, which is when a conservative MP appeared to be blocked by oppositional NDP MP’s, so the vote on the physician-assisted suicide bill could commence. This is when PM Trudeau got out of his seat in attempt to remove the blockade and have MP Brown seated. Amidst the Prime Minister’s attempt, female MP Brosseau was inadvertently elbowed by the Prime Minister. While, I think it safe to say in hindsight PM Trudeau should have stayed seated and allowed those ‘adults’ to do their jobs respectfully.

However, from that point on the Canadian government circus began. NDP leader Mulcair began screaming and yelling at PM Trudeau, “What kind of man elbows a woman. You’re pathetic” repeatedly as the PM went to apologize when he realized he may have elbowed Brosseau. However, what I found even more alarming was NDP MP Niki Ashton’s statement which addressed the public, House of Commons and PM Justin Trudeau after the incident (see video link below).

Although, MP Niki Ashton’s speech could have been seen as an impactful one – but it was not because her point of reference was the wrong one to use.

As a feminist, an advocate and researcher of victims of abuse I was quite disheartened and frankly angered by her statement in the House of Commons. She stated that “If we apply a gendered lens, it is very important that we recognize that young women in this space need to feel safe to come here and work here.” While that is true, she manipulated the situation and used feminism in her attempt to discredit the PM. If we applied a “gendered lens” (another buzz word) it is still evident that the incident was not directly related to female safety. MP Brosseau was not targeted by the PM because she was a woman, it was simply an accident.

More importantly, does Niki Ashton know how many young girls and women are under constant scrutiny when they report abuse? How many of them are questioned about the validity of the abuse they have endured or still enduring? How many are never believed? Niki Ashton’s statement in the House of Commons is the very crux of why many young girls and women claims of abuse are dismissed, ignored or not believed.

The meaning of feminism is for equality, for the rights of both men and women to be respected. I am constantly defending feminism and her statement made it just that much harder. Feminism is not about being boisterous or making unwarranted claims or ignoring all other elements to fit your personal agenda.

As a woman who sits in the House of Commons she has the power to give voice to young girls and women, to inspire and to make change – she is a role model. I urge her and all the other members of parliament not to use the victims of abuse or feminism to propagate your own personal and party interests – that is the very opposite of what feminism is truly about.

A personal note to MP Niki Ashton – It was through the hard work of feminism and feminist that has given you the opportunity to sit in the House of Commons today. Please respect feminism – particularly if you choose to use feminism as the backbone for your arguments in the House of Commons.

A reminder to all our Members of Parliament, remember who you work for – not yourself, not your party but the public. With this epic charade that occurred in the House of Commons, you lost sight of what you were all there for. This is your time to serve your people with respect and dignity as you are the representatives of Canada.

Video footage link to “incident” that took place in House of Commons https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X4DJjuO9n7E

MP Niki Ashton’s addressing the House of Commons http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2016/05/18/niki-ashton-justin-trudeau-feminist_n_10036422.html?utm_hp_ref=canada-politics&ir=Canada+Politics&ncid=tweetlnkushpmg00000067

Sunny Mangat

Twitter mangat_sunny

Do political campaigns that use fear tactics and divisiveness actually work?

Last week, London UK voted in for the first time ever a Muslim mayor. Sadiq Khan, a practicing Muslim and Labour Party politician. Khan will replace current conservative mayor Boris Johnson, who took office in 2008.

The blatant racism that has been seen throughout this electoral campaigning process and as well as post-Khan victory, raises serious concerns of the Western world politics today.

Similarly, the current USA presidential elections stand no different than what we have seen in the UK, with the antics of Donald Trump – the presumptive republican candidate.

Many of the political candidates of Western countries such as the USA and Great Britain, hold powerful global positions and have great influence on the world of human rights and responsibilities. These politicians who lead with divisive campaigns are destroying the reputation and position of Western world leaders. However, the people of London, UK spoke loud and clear that fear mongering and racism has no place in London, when Sadiq Khan was elected as Mayor of London last week.

The question remains is whether or not there are any profound effects of this type of campaigning on the people? Perhaps not – but there is definitely a level of uncertainty that raises eyebrows around the world. This uncertainty questions the ideals and rights the Western world so proudly presents in the face of the Eastern world. When, political candidates are given a platform to arguably spew hate and division amongst its citizens, one most definitely questions the level of trust and integrity of Western politics. The likes of Donald Trump, who not only are given a platform (albeit it is a democratic right) but he continues to lead in the public poll says something in itself.

Perhaps these Western leaders should take a lesson from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and should refrain from their backwards and divisive tactics simply #Becauseits2016. Today’s world has no place for hate, bigotry and or racism etc.

But I do question – At one point did we as citizens of the Western world allow and condone these blatant electoral campaigns that are based on division and carry racial undertones? And most importantly why do we condone it? We all have spent and repented learning from historical injustices, only to undue the work of our predecessors. I can only assume we have allowed this type of hatred back in – simply out of fear. We as a society have become weak, and it is time we collect ourselves as a global society and fight back against those who attempt to destroy the unity we have spent so long working to create.

Sadiq Khan says it very simply “We all have multiple identities,” he said. “I’m a Londoner, I’m British, I’m English, I’m of Asian origin, of Pakistani heritage, I’m a dad, I’m a husband, I’m a long-suffering Liverpool fan, I’m Labour, I’m Fabian and I’m Muslim.”

I think we need to stop fearing differences, and learn to accept each other for our various identities and learn from each other. We need to stop compartmentalizing people into certain boxes, because we are not all just our religion, or just our gender, or just our color. We are more than that, and it is about time we remember and appreciate those differences.

Sunny Mangat

Twitter: mangat_sunny

See below for some twitter reactions to London’s newly elected Mayor Sadiq Khan.

Tweet 1Tweet 2Tweet 3Tweet 4Tweet 5Tweet 6

Just because the verdict was “not-guilty” doesn’t mean he didn’t do it.

Just because the verdict was “not-guilty” doesn’t mean he didn’t do it.Yesterday, the Jian Ghomeshi trial ended with a not-guilty verdict.

Jian Ghomeshi a Canadian musician, writer and former CBC radio broadcaster, was acquitted of all charges of sexual assault and choking. In closing statement, Ontario court of Justice Judge William Horkins stated the testimony and memories of the complainants were not trustworthy and appeared to be dishonest. Judge William Horkin’s argues that with the number of messages exchanged between the complainants, it appeared to be a plot to ruin Jian Ghomeshi. Further, Judge William Horkin’s topped his decision by stating ‘the court recognizes it needs to guard against stereotypes about how a woman should act after an assault’… ‘However, the twists and turns of the complainants’ evidence in this trial illustrate the need to be vigilant in avoiding the equally dangerous false assumption that sexual assault complainants are always truthful.

Much of the public was outraged with the ruling, claiming that Judge William Horkins, did not in fact put Jian Ghomeshi on trial but put the women complainants on trial. Others leaned towards Jian Ghomeshi’s class and celebrity status and they believe that allowed him to ‘get-away’ with these crimes and related Ghomeshi to Bill Cosby. These all lead to the need for a discussion around ‘rape culture’ and a better understanding of the victims psyche. The simple fact is not all victims will behave in the same manner, nor in a manner we may want them too. People will react differently to abuse based upon their environment, childhood upbringing, resiliency levels, culture, class and religion and so on. Alternatively, those who support Judge Horkin’s decision argued “if the complainants were truly victims they would not have carried on relations with Ghomeshi after the fact.” However, what many people do not realize is that with the stigma and shame surrounding sexual violence, many victims may attempt to remove that shame they are feeling by reaching out to the abuser. Some victims attempt to reconcile with their abuser in order to disassociate themselves from the abuse they endured.

A combination of rape culture and the crown’s inability to meet the burden of proof failed society yesterday. Perhaps Judge Horkin’s should have kept his personal opinions to himself and left his closing statement to the rule of law. There is debate whether the prosecution was unable to meet the burden of proof, and the fact is victim testimony may not always be as ‘reliable’ as we want because when there is abuse involved things do not appear as clear cut. Jian Ghomeshi does not deny being violent with these women. He simply argues it was consensual – they signed up for it and therefore he is not guilty. Author Anne Kingston perfectly sums up the case when she wrote “Jian Ghomeshi’s behaviour was an open secret, going back to his university days. Not that anyone took action. In fact, the CBC made him a star.” Jian Ghomeshi has had complaints against him by women for years, yet due to his charisma and looks these were always over looked. A woman named Karen Eady told Maclean’s author Kingston, she attended York University at the same time of Ghomeshi, and recalls being in a residence advisers meeting where women had reported to have had a ‘bad date’ with Ghomeshi. These bad dates alleged abuse ranging from hitting to choking. The violence involved in these bad dates are also similar to the present case and to the many women who also made complaints while working with Ghomeshi at CBC. Over the years, the women that have made formal complaints against Ghomeshi, have all received similar responses such as “just work around him” or “we know he can be hard to be around, but just ignore him” and some complaints were just flat out ignored.

What actually happened we will never truly know and only the parties involved know the truth. However, given the sheer number of women that have come forward over the years, it is very clear that as a society we continue to perpetuate rape culture and victim blaming.

Nevertheless, it is imperative that we start focusing on instilling confidence in our children, both boys and girls. This will allow for girls to grow up into confident women and have the ability to trust herself enough to remove herself from harmful situations and most importantly to not be ashamed of herself. We need to provide our boys with confidence, so that they will never feel the need to take away from someone else to lift themselves up. We as a society also need to take more pertinent action when any person makes an allegation of abuse – we need to focus on the victim. Our current system stands to put victims of sexual violence on trial opposed to perpetrators. All victims should be made to feel like survivors and have the right to overcome abuse with dignity and without the attachment of shame.

“Guilt is one side of a nasty triangle; the other two are shame and stigma. This grim coalition combines to inculpate women themselves of the crimes committed against them.” – Germaine Greer

Sunny Mangat

Twitter @mangat_sunny

 

An open letter to Donald Trump

Dear Donald Trump,

I have been quite entertained with your #Trump2016 campaign over the past year, and to be honest I never really took you that seriously as a presidential candidate in the first place. However, last night in regards to your Muslim immigration prevention statement you absolutely crossed the line.

To make this letter short and sweet, I will not engage in explaining to you why your remarks and behavior are unacceptable because ‘it is impossible to defeat an ignorant man by argument.’ – William McAdoo

However, a couple of years ago you announced the development of the Trump Tower in Vancouver, Canada. My self and many others have been eagerly waiting for this tower, because Vancouver really could use a new hot spot.

What you may not know is Vancouver, Canada is a uniquely beautiful place, not only because of our stunning landscape but because of the people of Vancouver. We are a city that is diverse and we embrace all people of all backgrounds, regardless of religion or culture. We have fought hard over the years to maintain unity and the sanctity of our community relationships, and to bridge gaps between communities. The immigrants of this country have worked hard to build this city and country up. In fact, recently in our elections we spoke loud and clear when we voted in our new Prime Minister Justin Trudeau – that we will not tolerate any sort of discrimination, whether it is gender, religious, racial, or class. In the words of our new Prime Minister #BecauseIts2015

So to put this very simple and straightforward – I refuse to line the pockets of a bigot.

I am hoping and calling to all Vancouverites to formally boycott your tower affiliation and your organization. Whether, the Trump tower be in name only, it will stand as one of the tallest towers in Vancouver. Sadly, your voice is being projected around the world, not because of your intelligence or your charisma but because of your money. Thus, the only way to end your antics and to save the world and in particular Vancouver B.C., from your misogynistic, bigoted and racist remarks is – to stop filling your pockets and affiliating your name with Vancouver projects.

Sincerely

A disturbed Vancouverite

Twitter @mangat_sunny

We weep but never fear – Paris

Recently the new Canadian Liberal government had announced the plan of resettling 25,000 Syrian refugees. On Saturday, the Prime Minister’s office vowed that despite the attacks on Friday night in Paris, the government still has full intentions in keeping its promise of resettling Syrian refugees. In addition, the Prime Minister’s office reassured Canadians that the refugees coming into Canada will be selected in a safe and responsible method to deal with any potential security threats.

Friday nights attack on Paris has everyone on edge, and this has created a backlash against many of the soon to be Syrian refugees coming into Canada. Many of the concerns regarding the Syrian refugees that have been ‘heightened’ surround issues of security and financials. However, we as a community and citizens of Canada must not fall into the trap of fear mongering nor give into these terrorists. This is our country and we should not dictate our beliefs and morality on the grounds of fear.

In the wise words of Nelson Mandela “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”

We must remind of ourselves, what happened in Paris is an everyday situation for these Syrian refugees and many others around the world. Just last week alone, ISIS attacked many parts around the world, including Paris. In Lebanon, Beirut 43 Shia Muslims were killed in an ISIS attack. On Wednesday, a nine year old Persian-speaking Shia girl was beheaded by ISIS militants in Kabul, Afghanistan.

There are many people around the world who have the same fears as the West had on Friday night. The Syrian refugees are trying to survive, and if we close our borders to them we lose humanity, and we lose to ISIS. More specifically, accepting Syrian refugees does not mean increased expectancy of potential terrorists attacks. If we compare France and Germany’s Syrian refugee policies, we will see there is no correlation to Syrian refugees with in-country terrorism. France has a fairly closed door policy to Syrian refugees, with an acceptance of approximately 500 Syrian refugees. On the other hand, Germany has had a very open door policy, with an intake of approximately 200,000 Syrian refugees and has had no attacks. Accepting these refugees is not the issue. This is a political power play by all those in the game, and Canada is not in that game.

I understand that it is difficult to not be in fear, as I had three friends who were in Paris on Friday (all of whom are fine), the Paris attacks were a reminder of 9-11 and hit a little too close to home for many Westerners. I’m currently living in London U.K. and since Friday there has been heightened security. I noticed as I was walking around the busy Waterloo tube station lots of MI5 and police presence, which definitely added to my fear. One cannot help be suspicious of everyone around them, and feel at unease. In fact I was even debating if I wanted to take the tube at all. But then I realized I would be giving into ISIS and there is no way I was willing to live in fear. So I put on my trainers and hustled to the station. Since Friday I also have had a few conversations with different people, regarding the Paris attacks, including a gentleman from Syria (my uber taxi driver) last night. I hesitantly brought up Paris, and he said he was glad I brought it up. As a British citizen from Syria, he said every ounce of him despised ISIS and wished he could do something to “wipe them out.” In addition, he stated that the despicable behavior of ISIS was affecting his life in the U.K. He had come to the U.K. when he was 13 years old, he was an engineer by trade and that being a Muslim presently was not easy. He was afraid that after the attacks in Paris many Muslims will now be ostracized even more so than before. Our conversation carried on to the lack of integration of some minorities in the U.K. Which he argued stemmed partially from the lack of “acceptance.” He gave the Syrian refugees as an example and asked “what can we do?” and “Where should we go?” By the end of the forty minute taxi ride, I thanked him for the conversation and the drive home. As I stepped out of the taxi I turned to him and said “All you can do is keeping talking, don’t seclude yourself. Let the people know that you too are scared. They will come around.”

My point is ISIS makes up an extremely small fraction of the Islamic population; we need to not paint all followers of Islam with the same brush. We need to believe in humanity, and above all else we need to unify as one global community. We need to set aside religious beliefs, and come together as humans of one race. ISIS is not an Islamic religious organization as they claim, they are political terrorist and they do not have the right to dictate our morality.

Sunny Mangat

Twitter @mangat_sunny