Sikhs called Bengalis ‘a trivial matter’: Malaysian Indian leader

April 15th, 2008 - 4:12 pm ICT by admin  

Kuala Lumpur, April 15 (IANS) A senior Malaysian Indian leader has urged the country’s Sikh community not to get annoyed at being called Bengalis, calling it “a trivial matter”. Opposition lawmaker Karpal Singh, who has roots in Punjab, has sought to play down Sunday’s gaffe by Perak state’s Mentri Besar (chief executive) Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin, who he said, had referred to Sikhs as Bengalis “in ignorance”.

Urging the Sikh community “not to get upset”, Karpal Singh said although Sikhs and Bengalis were different, it was a very “trivial” matter.

“In Malaysia, both are commonly referred to as the same, so there is no need to be offended. After all, a rose would smell as sweet by any other name,” he said after attending Baisakhi prayers at a gurudwara Monday.

Some Sikhs in the audience walked out after Jamaluddin greeted the Tamils on the New Year and then the Sikhs, calling them Bengalis, a common misnomer in Malaysia.

Karpal Singh, who heads the opposition Democratic Action party (DAP), was elected to parliament in last month’s general elections where he sits alongside his son, Govind Singh Deo.

While he has sought to take a lenient view, some in the Sikh community of an estimated 100,000 do not agree.

Khalsa Dharmic Jatha Gurudwara vice-president Baljit Singh said: “That very utterance has made the Sikhs a laughing stock of other communities. How can we expect society to know the difference between the two communities when the leaders themselves cannot?” he said, adding that Jamaluddin owed Sikhs an apology.

Jamaluddin, who made the reference at a function in Ipoh, later admitted his mistake.

In Malaysia, Sikhs have been mistakenly referred to as Bengalis for decades, The Star newspaper said.

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