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Sikhs reach out in kindness to influencer who described 2 Sikh men as ‘obstructions’ at Grand Prix

A group of Sikhs invited Sheena Phua to an informal tour of a gurdwara for her to learn about their culture and traditions

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Singapore—In multi-faith, multi-cultural Singapore, a little kindness can go a long way and can prove that we all have a lot to learn from each other.

Social media influencer Sheena Phua had made a comment on Instagram during the Singapore Grand Prix that earned her a lot of flak, with many calling her remarks racist. Ms Phua, who writes about beauty and travel on her platforms, had posted a video on Instagram Story of two men in white turbans in front of her at the Singapore Grand Prix.

She wrote, “Dang! Two huge obstructions decided to pop out of nowhere.”

Although she explained that her comment merely referred to the size of the two men, netizens were quick to call her out on Twitter and on Instagram itself. Even people such as rapper Subhas Nair, fresh from a race-related controversy of his own, tagged certain brands that Ms Phua is associated with such as Charles and Keith, Changi Recommends, and Yotel Singapore, wondering if they “endorse this?”

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Ms Phua apologized “for the upset the video has caused”, and explained that because of the men’s height, her new was blocked, and she said that she had not intended for her comments to be a “racist or derogatory remark toward” the Sikh “community and culture”.

She added, “I have made it a point never to insult or belittle any race or religion in any of my postings before, and never had the intention of doing so.”

Many, however, were unappeased by her apology.

However, in an unexpected turn, a group of Sikhs invited the social media influencer to an informal tour of a gurdwara for her to learn about their culture and traditions.

View this post on Instagram

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. YSA is a secular nonprofit organization with members consisting of youths from the Sikh community, but 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! Yesterday, I headed down to the Central Sikh Gurdwara at Towner Road and met with Shaun, Diana and Ram from YSA. Some of their family members and friends came along as well. From the moment I first stepped into the temple, I had never felt more welcome. The YSA received us with open arms and we had a delightful exchange on our cultures over a meal (Langgar), as well as did some service (Sewa) in the form of food preparation. It was amazing to see how commumal the Sikhs were and apparently anyone is welcome into their temples anytime! We even got to take a look at the Sikhs holy scripture, the Guru Granth Sahib. Never once did I feel intimidated or awkward with YSA, and I realized that they really uphold the values of promoting harmony and strengthening ties. To top it all off, the Cha was amazing! This visit to the Gurdwara with the YSA was sobering and taught me so much about Sikh culture that I did not know before. It was a wholesome, genuine experience and let me feel the warmth of the Sikh community. I learnt that when going through a rough patch, hitting back is not always the way to go and that empathy will shine through in the end. One just needs to stay strong and positive, which the Sikhs term Charndikala. Will definitely be back and hope to work with YSA in the future! You guys should really check them out as they are open to working on almost anything, and will be more than glad to show you around 🙂 Charndikala!

A post shared by Sheena Phua (@sheenaphua) on

Ms Phua wrote on Instagram, “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. YSA is a secular nonprofit organization with members consisting of youths from the Sikh community, but they welcome anyone to join. Their activities 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!

From the moment I first stepped into the temple, I had never felt more welcome. The YSA received us with open arms and we had a delightful exchange on our cultures over a meal (Langgar), as well as did some service (Sewa) in the form of food preparation…

Never once did I feel intimidated or awkward with YSA, and I realized that they really uphold the values of promoting harmony and strengthening ties. 

This visit to the Gurdwara with the YSA was sobering and taught me so much about Sikh culture that I did not know before. It was a wholesome, genuine experience and let me feel the warmth of the Sikh community.

I learnt that when going through a rough patch, hitting back is not always the way to go and that empathy will shine through in the end. One just needs to stay strong and positive, which the Sikhs term Charndikala. Will definitely be back and hope to work with YSA in the future! You guys should really check them out as they are open to working on almost anything, and will be more than glad to show you around 🙂 Charndikala!”

The Straits Times (ST) quotes the president of the Young Sikh Association (YSA), Sarabjeet Singh as saying, “Some responses to Sheena’s original post felt like a case of cyberbullying. (Although) there were some among us who were also a little uncomfortable with her initial post, we recognised it as an opportunity for us to reach out and engage.

We still feel that we did not want an apology. Would an apology alone have done anything to improve awareness and understanding?”

Of Ms Phua, he said, “She demonstrated humility, kindness, curiosity and sincerity, and that is more important to us.”

Mr Sarabjeet also expressed the hope that “all of us have walked away as better people”./ TISG

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