Library hopes to shut the book on discrimination

N.B. resident donates books and DVDs about Sikh religion


JENNIFER AMATO Rajinder Singh Gadhok (l) has donated a collection of books and DVDs about the Sikh religion to library director Cheryl McBride for the North Brunswick Public Library. County residents are welcome to borrow the materials. JENNIFER AMATO Rajinder Singh Gadhok (l) has donated a collection of books and DVDs about the Sikh religion to library director Cheryl McBride for the North Brunswick Public Library. County residents are welcome to borrow the materials. NORTH BRUNSWICK – To dispel any misunderstandings about the Sikh religion and to try to prevent further harassment of the religious followers, township resident Rajinder Singh Gadhok has donated a collection of educational materials to the North Brunswick Public Library.

The 10 books and two DVDs, from the Sikh Coalition in New York, will teach about the history, culture, beliefs, human rights and the Diaspora of the Sikh people.

“The object of donating the books and tapes is to acquaint local people about my religion,” Gadhok said.

Gadhok was born in Pakistan, raised in India and studied in England. He came to the United States in 1969, living in New York and Missouri until 1973, when he moved to New Jersey.

In North Brunswick since 2002, he said he has seen the effects a post-Sept. 11 world has had on members of his religion. He said the basis of the misunderstanding is that Muslim men grow beards and wear turbans, as do Sikhs, so the general population believesmanymembers of Sikhs and Muslims are terrorists.

“Because of Sept. 11, a lot of our people were misidentified as Muslims and went through hatred by non-Sikhs in this country, so it became very important to educate the local community so they can acquaint themselves with Sikhs and non-Islam,” he said. He noted recent instances were a man’s turban was burned and a young woman’s hair was cut in New York, which are two symbols of the Middle Eastern religions.

“I hope a lot of non-Sikh Americans will look at these books and acquaint themselves with Sikh history and culture, so we do not have any mishaps as we have had recently in New York or other parts of the country,” he said.

There are currently 25 million people worldwide who follow Sikhism, making it the fifth-largest world religion. It teaches that all human beings are equal and can realize the divine within them through devotion to God, truthful living and service to humanity, according to the Sikh Coalition.

Gadhok said his religion is completely separate from Islam. He said Guru Nanak, who was born in 1469, founded Sikhism. Nanak was the first guru of the Sikhs and came from Punjab, the Land of the Five Rivers.

He said Sikhism started as the savior of the Hindu religion, because the Moghul rulers wanted to forcibly convert Hindus into Islam; many Sikh gurus sacrificed their lives to denounce Islamic acceptance.

“It is very disheartening to go through these books, what the gurus had to give up not to accept the Islamic religion,” he said, “but we have nothing against Islam.”

Gadhok said Sikhism is

based on there being only one God, and everyone being the children of that one God, although that God has no form. He said that God does not hate, and there is no difference between people. He said Nanak wished to unite everyone despite class, religion, etc.

“People are people, we’re all the same. Some people are good, some people are bad, but we should not assume any one community is not good,” the retired medical scientist said.

Gadhok said that about 2 percent of the population in India is Sikh, and that the majority resides in Punjab. He said that Sikhs can now be found living around the world.

“We appeared different so people looked at me in a strange manner, not only in this country but in England and Europe,” he said of his experiences before 2001. “But today there are more Sikhs so people are more familiar in the United States. The East and West Coast recognize (us) but the middle of the country is ignorant.”

The certified translator for the New Jersey judicial system said he hopes that this donation will reduce some of that ignorance.

Cheryl McBride, the director of the library, said that the library does not have anything as “unique” as this collection, as single books are usually donated instead of a formal collection. She said once the books are processed, given a Dewey decimal number and book plated, they will be on display on the end panels of the shelving units. There will also be a poster made by the Sikh Coalition accompanying the books.

“This is a place to come to learn to open your mind and to learn about your neighbors,” McBride said of the library. “We are honored and thrilled that Mr. Gadhok has donated these and we will take care of them.”

Almost every library card from Middlesex County is accepted at the North Brunswick library, so residents from around the area can rent the materials. If a certain library card is not accepted, McBride said an interlibrary loan can be arranged.

For more information, call the North Brunswick library at 732-246-3545.