Dropped at 8:22 PM on Friday, May 22, 2015
According to almost every media source, this man went against his religion in order to to the right thing.
Headline after headline, even article contents and quotes told the story:
Sikh man breaks religious rules, removes his turban to help an injured boy (AOL and Huffington Post)
"A 22-year-old Sikh man in New Zealand has been hailed as a hero after putting his religious beliefs aside..." (The Telegraph)
Hero Sikh man breaks strict religious rules (The Daily Mail)
Religion put aside to help boy (New Zealand Herald)
Harman Singh was garnering worldwide praise for going against his faith. Or so the story was being told.
Only, he didn't go against his faith. In fact, he acted it out.
Sikh religion, and in particular the wearing of its identifiable clothing, is a sign of a commitment to "serve ALL even those who want to cheat you, or hurt you". (link) That's what the turban symbolises, according to Sikh teachings.
The narrative being preached is offensive to Sikhs everywhere. It implies that Harman had had to go against his religion in order to act with compassion. One comment that was quoted in a mainstream article sums up the zeitgeist: "Humanity before religion. Nice one buddy."(link)
Now, that would be understandable if Sikh leaders all over the world had condemned Mr Singh's actions. If they had issued statements saying that according to Sikh ethics he should have "let the boy bleed". Did they? Um, not quite.
"Sikh leaders praise the actions of Harman Singh, 22..." (link)An appropriate headline might be something more like, "Hero Sikh man lives out Sikh faith by..."
Common wisdom seems to now be that religions have no room within them for different ethics appropriate to different contexts. All they have are inflexible rules. It's only us, modern secular society that has the enlightened capability of a reasonable ethical system. That's why we're so right to reject religion, particularly in our public policy and ethical decision making. And so the only possible explanation for Harman Singh's actions are that he must have gone against his religion.
If the reporting of this incident is anything to go by, this kind of foolish ignorance is not a rare aberration. It's the media's presupposition.