Are you aware that efforts are underway to establish a Visiting Professorship in Sikh Studies at the National University of Singapore (NUS)?

The Central Sikh Gurdwara Board (CSGB) has taken up the task to raise funds for the initiative that will promote academic scholarship in Sikh studies both in Singapore and globally.

As part of the project, in April 2022, NUS Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS) and the CSGB signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to formalise the visiting professorship expected to commence in 2023. It is expected to promote academic scholarship in Sikh studies both in Singapore and globally.

What’s the thinking behind this venture? Asia Samachar caught up with CSGB council member Baljit Singh to gather more details of the project. Here are excerpts from his interviews.

How did the idea of setting up of the Visiting Professorship come about?

The idea of setting up the Visiting Professorship came about from the CSGB Councils both present and past who felt that the message of Sikhism and the Sikh Way of Life should be carried beyond gurdwaras to the National University of Singapore that afforded a platform that had a broader reach to locals and foreign students. CSGB felt that it was important that message of one humanity embedded in the Sikh Way of Life be shared more openly with others of different races and religions.

What excites you most about the programme?

What excites me most about the program is the ability to share the message of Sikhism and the Sikh Way of Life with young non Sikhs. By doing so not only will it help non Sikhs to better understand us but also contribute to racial integration and nation building. Importantly as these graduates go into their professional life, they will be better able to understand their Sikh colleagues and in the process appreciate the identity needs of the community and what they stand for .

Any concerns?

The program has been validated from its effectiveness and as such there are no real concerns . If there is any concern, it would be managing the expectation of a Visiting Chair as against a Full Chair. The former is somewhat limited in deliverables and will be primarily catering for undergraduates. It is important that the audience understand that the visiting Chair do not offer Master of PHD level programs. The good news is that there are plans to elevate the Visiting Chair to a Full Chair in due course.

Have you received any reservations or caution from members of the Sikh community as the team works towards establishing this programme? Please elaborate.

The main concern expressed by a few members has been the danger of contentious issues being created by academic research and teaching. It is a valid comment but not really applicable to the Visiting Chair. The Visiting Chair offers no research topics . The deliverables in terms of the electives are based on established and accepted facts related to Sikhsim and the Sikh way of Life. The other mitigating factor is that NUS subscribes to the national philosophy of not being involved in matters that arise negative sentiments form any one racial or religious group.