Right of Reply: Indarjit Singh

The editor of the `Sikh Messenger' paper responds to Yasmin Alibhai- Brown's article, in which she criticised the opening of Europe's first state-funded Sikh school
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The Independent Culture
IT IS muddled or perhaps prejudiced thinking by Yasmin Alibhai- Brown when she writes that her heart sank over the opening on Tuesday of a voluntary-aided Sikh school in Hayes, Middlesex. She goes on to talk of her own exhausting battle to get her children into a Church of England school - because of its good educational record and "because as a Muslim I want my children to learn about Christianity so that in the end they could learn that there is but one God".

What is wrong with a Sikh school where children also learn, in the opening line of Sikh scriptures, "there is but one God"?

I wonder if Ms Alibhai-Brown is aware of how Sikhism views other religions? At a time of bitter conflict between Hinduism and Islam, Guru Nanak, in his very first sermon, declared that God was not interested in labels - such as Hindu or Muslim - but in the way we conduct ourselves.

Sikhism teaches that our different religions are like paths up a mountain. We can start from different points, but still reach the same goal. Nor are the paths mutually exclusive. They frequently merge to give us a heightened understanding of not only our own faith, but that of others.

Is this such a bad thing for our children to be taught in schools? Is it really a bad thing to be taught that no one religion has a monopoly on truth, and that all religions should be respected?

Religious schools would be a bad thing if they taught exclusivity or the denigration of other beliefs - doing this by using language where the view is implicit in words such as "heathen" and "infidel". But such concepts are alien to Sikh beliefs, which teach only respect for others; schools clearly ensure the respectful and sensitive teaching of other faiths.

If our children are taught to live true to their beliefs, they will also be true and responsible members of society.