How should we treat the apostates (Patits)?
The weak followers of any religion are likely to renounce their faith in fear or temptation, so it is, necessary to accept only those adherents who have a firm and sincere belief in the basic tenets of their religion.
It has been observed that some Sikhs become apostate – Patits – on account of mixing with bad company, when they go to foreign countries. Some people have told me that they shaved because otherwise they could not get employment. This is not always true, because some Keshdhari Sikhs are able to get decent jobs. It all depends on the qualifications of the individual Sikh. Some Sikhs may have shaved because they mixed with foreign girls and wanted to appear more acceptable to them, like so many things, a reflection of their human weakness.
Much depends on the strength and vitality of the individual’s faith. Recently, a Sikh bus-conductor in England won the right to wear a turban on duty. Another Sikh who was not admitted to a recreation club received an apology from the management. If the Sikhs in the West maintain their form and symbols, the turban and the beard will become respected. Recently the Sikhs in Britain won the right of riding motorcycles with turbans instead of helmets. Similarly Sikhs with turbans have been allowed to join the U.S. Navy.
The reclamation of apostates should be given the greatest encouragement in any program of spiritual uplift. The apostates have to be persuaded to realize their shortcomings and weaknesses and convinced of the value of repentance and the turning over of a new leaf.
According to the Rehatnama, the Khalsa must maintain his tradition and individuality:
“So long as the Khalsa remains distinct,
His glory and lustre will grow,
Once he adopts Brahmanical ways
It will not be possible to trust him.”
Many apostates, in their heart of hearts, realize that they have wronged themselves and their community, but do not have the moral courage to admit to their weakness. The only approach to Patits is to re-educate them and offer assistance in their return to the Sikh fold. Give understanding and sympathy, they may well react favourably to an approach by responsible Sikhs.