Malaysian Sikhs miffed at being referred to as Bengalis

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Ipoh (Malaysia), Apr.14 : Sikhs residing in Malaysia have taken strong exception to being referred to as Bengalis.

With a minister -- Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin - referring to them as Bengalis on the occasion of the festival of Vasakhi at a Pas function here, there is a view arising in the community that at least the head of the state government should know the difference between Sikhs and Bengalis.

Some Sikhs immediately left the function as they felt it was an affront to the community, the New Strait Times reported.

Nizar later admitted he had made a mistake in referring to Sikhs as Bengalis by sending an SMS to the paper.

Sikhs are Punjabis who share few, if any, similarities with Bengalis who are mostly Hindu. The two communities are separated by over 1,500 km in India.

In Malaysia, Sikhs have been mistakenly referred to as Bengalis for decades.

"Sikhs are the ones who celebrate Vasakhi, not Bengalis. "Can't he (Nizar) get that fact right? I am terribly disappointed with him," said Narender Singh, 38.

Harbhajan Singh, 32, said Malaysians, especially political leaders, should know the difference between Bengalis and Sikhs.

Dheer Singh, the chairman of the United Perak Sikhs Organisation, a consultative umbrella body representing nine Sikh-based voluntary organisations in the state, said: "Today we can learn about anything and everything from the Internet. There are many websites on the Sikh religion and the Sikh people. I feel sad that even though Sikhs have been in this country for close to 150 years, Malaysians still think we are Bengalis."

He said Vasakhi, a religious festival dating back to 1699 and celebrated on April 14, was observed by the Sikhs.

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