When Sikhtalk first appeared on my radar screen I wasn’t overly enthralled. What were my thoughts on anonymous virtual volunteers dedicated to answering “questions that you’ve been waiting to ask someone, questions that nobody seems to have an answer for, not even your parents?” I would say they were similar to how Fareed Zakaria described a certain vice-presidential candidate: feisty and charismatic yet (quite possibly) utterly unqualified and ill-prepared.
Tina Fey-like smiles and winks can sometimes help prevent outright feelings of negativity. Although questions bubbled in my head, the site’s simplicity in design left a strong impression. With streamlined graphics, a bright and colorful background reminiscent of Autumn, and a Facebook logo in the corner, I couldn’t help but dig through the site a little more and read the given rationale behind its anonymity and disclaimers. It appears the site has no correlation to the percentage of Palin supporters among conservatives and liberals combined as it has now become a leading resource for thoughtful and probing web-friendly Sikhs of all ages.
I decided I’d plug a question into the box and see what sort of response I would receive (or not receive) in return. The Sikhtalk Crew promptly responded within 4 days of my entry.
Sikhpulse: If you had the opportunity to promote Sikhtalk on a blog, how would you describe it?
Sikhtalk Crew: Sikhtalk serves as a resource for young Sikhs to learn about Sikhism as well as its applications in the real world.
SP: Why are there no sample Q and A’s provided on the site?
ST: We’ve worked on a sample Q and A before, but decided that each person has a unique story behind his/her question. We feel that they should voice their ideas and thoughts in their own way. This allows our crew members to respond to questions in a personalized and appropriate manner.
SP: Can you assure that the questions are answered by those who are open-minded and varied in their opinions? What sort of variety comprises those who answer questions? What resources do you use to answer questions in addition to the Guru Granth Sahib– are any professors or educators approached?
ST: Our crew consists of a varied group of individuals pursuing Sikh academics who strive to provide an open-minded response. In all of our work, the Guru Granth Sahib represents the foundation of our thought processes. Our unique interpretations of the Guru’s teachings create rich discussions regarding question topics. In certain instances, when we significantly differ on issues, we even send multiple responses within one email. Our goal is not to send a “correct” response, but a response that encourages individuals to make an educated decision for themselves.
SP: What is the most common sort of question asked?
ST: We do not share typical questions, but we do get a range of them from all of our users. They include everything from personal life issues to interpretations of a Sikh’s rehit. In all of our responses, we make it clear that we are not trained professionals and do not take the responsibility of one.
SP: Has the Facebook app helped your site gain traffic and notability?
ST: The Facebook group has certainly widened our user base across North America. We are extremely satisfied with this and are not looking to pursue a global audience at this point in time.
What did I learn? That Sarah Palin and Sikhtalk have nothing in common. That we shouldn’t fall for talking points crafted by campaign advisers, simple ideological mantras, and all-hail-the-Maverick appeal. That to make responsible choices and avoid jumping to conclusions means to read through the fine print and delve into the background. I nearly discredited Sikhtalk when I first learned of it based on little to no information. Sarah Palin has the support of many conservatives and women across political lines… for reasons still unknown to me. Dangerous decisions in both instances. Boo Palin. Hooray for Sikhtalk and the Sikhtalk Crew!