Sikh community world over face apprehension from locals over their appearance and US is replete with examples of raligious hatred and even shootings. This time, Singapore Sikh youth have decided not to take cudgels against their critic but to win her over.
Singapore's social media influencer Sheena Phua, an Instagram beauty and travel content influencer with 76,000 followers, on Sept. 21, posted a message as to how she's got annoyed by two men wearing turbans.
Posting the image of two men wearing white turbans in front of her at the Singapore Grand Prix, she captioned it:"Dang! Two huge obstructions decided to pop out of nowhere." Soon her post went viral, triggering uneasiness among the Sikh community.
Instead of trolling her on social media, the Young Sikh Association (YSA) of Singapore has decided to do it differently. They humbly invited her to visit the Sikh Gurudwara and spend a few hours with them to understand their faith and traditions.
YSA president Sarabjeet Singh admitted that they initially felt uncomfortable but later decided to use it as an opportunity to reach out and engage the critics. He said, "We did not want an apology. Would an apology alone have done anything to improve awareness and understanding?"
Ms Phua, 29, apologised for her remarks a week later and clarified that the word "obstructions" was meant to obstruction her vision as both men wearing turbans were taller than her, but it was taken out of context.
"I did some reflection and agreed with people that although the video was not outrightly racist, it was insensitive and had caused a lot of distress to the Sikh community." She also added that she will take up YSA's offer to visit Gurudwara and learn more about Sikhs.
Her visit to the Central Sikh Temple in Towner Road enabled her not only understand how "peaceful the Sikh religion is" but also participate in community work at the temple. she was shown the Guru Granth Sahib, the principal scripture of Sikhism.
Phua was given a session on Sikh traditions, culture and their community service at Gurudwara. She also participated in sewa or service helping them make chapati.
Formed in 2003, the YSA enables young Sikh Singaporeans to enhance mutual understanding among people of different ethnic groups. Its president Sarabjeet thanked Phua for demonstrating humility, kindness, curiosity and sincerity, which is "more important to us."
"All of us have walked away as better people," he said.
In her message on Instagram after the sewa at the Gurudwara, Sheena Phua wrote:" My faith in humanity has been restored. Truth be told, it has been a rough week for me after what transpired. Amidst the many hate dms I received, it was really touching to receive a kind message from the Youth Sikh Association @ysa.sg, who reached out to me and invited me down to share my experiences and learn about their culture."
She went on to explain about YSA as a secular nonprofit organization with members consisting of youths from the Sikh community. "They welcome anyone to join. Their activites are not restricted to the Sikh community, and they organize cultural/charitable events for various groups in Singapore. They act as a platform for Sikh youths to gather and promote their culture to everyone!" Here's what she wrote on Instagram in detail about her visit to Gurudwara: