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Progressive Socialist Politics and Religion: A Sikh Perspective

Amrit Singh

Following the disastrous loss of 2019, there has been much debate about religious voters and whether the messaging from the ALP disregarded their views. Many have asked, does the ALP need to change its progressive political stance in order to draw votes from a religious voting bloc?

While newer culturally and linguistically diverse migrants, both skilled and refugee, have not been shy in supporting the ALP, do these same people feel reluctant to vote for the ALP because of its perceived lack of commitment to the language or action of the religious faithful?

As a practising member of the Sikh faith, I believe that the answer to the above is simply that a progressive agenda speaks to communities of faith, but we must put that directly to these communities.

An agenda of freedom to practice one’s own faith, without an impediment of someone of another faith imposing their views on you. An agenda of equality. An agenda of solidarity with each other, and improving the lives of one another.

These are values understood in religious communities. These pillars hold a greater value than, for instance, the willingness to look the other way when it comes to discrimination, which has long been cloaked in religious terms.

My strongly held religious beliefs, and the values that I express as a progressive member of the ALP are complementary.

Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism and the first of the ten Sikh Gurus, was born at a time where South East Asian society was riddled with social problems, feudal economic relations and a religion-based caste system.

Guru Nanak offered dignity to the lower hierarchy of society, by emphasising that everyone is equal- men, women, rich and poor- showing that actions were much more important than dogma and labels.

Emphasising that a good life is lived within and as a part of the community, Guru Nanak brought equality, good actions, honesty and hard work to the core of his value system.

These values, are and should always be at the forefront of Labor values. These are values that are embedded in religions beyond Sikhism, and embedded in most mainstream religions. It would be a folly to move away from our values, which are so aligned with many religious values.

Timeless teachings from Guru Nanak remain a source of inspiration for millions of people around the world, who bring these teachings into their own lives as social activists, by serving humanity and treating everyone equally. In recent times of disaster, Australian society has witnessed this firsthand, through the Sikh practice of Langar, where the community has provided free vegetarian food to all those in need in the recent bushfire season and during the peak of COVID-19 lockdowns.

Over time and through the teachings of history, it has become quite evident that not only the Sikh faith, but all faiths that strive on the values of equality, good actions and honesty are unable to do so in what is often an unfair and inhumane capitalist society.

Instead of focusing our attention on changing the values we stand for, we should look to consolidate and articulate what it is that we stand for. As a party that is proud of multiculturalism and celebrates its contributions to shaping this great country, we should look towards truly representing the Australian population within the chambers of our parliaments- well, at least on our side.

Amrit Singh is Secretary of the Pakenham ALP branch and La Trobe Federal Electorate Assembly.


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