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Roundtable

He Wants Sikh-Americans to Bear Arms:
The Roundtable Open Forum # 104

BASIM USMANI

 

 

 

Sikhs are a misunderstood religious group in the US.

Sikh men -- who traditionally sport beards and turbans -- are sometimes mistaken for fundamentalist Muslims hell-bent on America's destruction.

Which they, the Sikhs, are not.

In the month after 9/11, more than 300 hate crimes were committed against Sikhs according to the Sikh Coalition, a New York-based community group formed in response to that flurry of misguided reprisal attacks.

The mass shooting at the Gurdwara in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, last year was another disturbing example of the cultural confusion that the 550-year-old world religion causes for some Americans. Although Oak Creek authorities have yet to determine an official motive for the attack, the shooter’s white-supremacist background and alleged claims of an “impending racial war,” left little doubt that he targeted the Sikh community because of their differing cultural heritage.

Just last week, two incidents of mistaken xenophobia were reported: in Manhattan, a mob of 20 teenagers swarmed and beat a Columbia University professor, Sikh-American Prabhjot Singh, supposedly because his turban and beard signalled to the marauding teens that he was a terrorist. Professor Singh’s attackers allegedly yelled, “Get Osama,” before they left him with a broken jaw and several missing teeth.

In Mississippi, a judge ordered a Sikh defendant to “remove the rag on his head” or go to jail. The defendant had gotten arrested for carrying a short knife -- or a kirpan -- which, it turns out, is an article of faith that fully observant Sikhs are required to wear on their person at all times. 

The kirpan is a ceremonial symbol of the martial history of the religion and the duty each Sikh has to serve the weak and the oppressed in society. Carrying the kirpan is one of the five articles of faith of Sikhism, a requirement entrenched in the 17th century by Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth and last living Teacher of the religion. While advocates at the Sikh Coalition push for better education about their religion and cross-cultural outreach as a means to stop the uptick in violence toward Sikhs in the US, at least one American Sikh sees the legacy of the kirpan as a reason to arm up as a more direct method of deterrence.

Gursant Singh has a solution: he wants every Sikh man and woman to have access to and know how to use a firearm. He details it on his YouTube channel and writes about his disenfranchisement with other white Sikhs in his book, Confessions of an American Sikh.

Gursant Singh was born Clark Harris in 1956 to a proud military family in Southern California. In 1981 he became one of thousands of white converts to Sikhism in America. He is a uniquely American mix of red-blooded gun boosterism and the heritage of a religion birthed half a world away. Get this: he sued the State of California because he claimed its ban on assualt weapons and high-capacity magazines interferes with the practice of his religion, claiming that the articles of faith detailing kirpan-carrying extend to the bearing of large firearms.

Gursant doesn’t speak for the majority of Sikhs in America.

The kirpan is regarded by many Sikhs as a potent symbol of duty for Sikhs to serve humanity above self, but few Sikhs connect that tradition to gun ownership.

The following is an interview with Gursant about his outlying beliefs that Sikhs should arm themselves, and how Sikhism might evolve in our pistol-popping, American context.

 

*   *   *   *   *  

Q:   What is the place for guns in Sikhism?

Gursant Singh:   Guru Gobind Singh said we should be armed to protect society against the tyrant and the oppressor. We should be ready to defend ourselves and defend those who can’t defend themselves. To train with firearms is, I think, a great way to increase your self-confidence and individual responsibility. I grew up with firearms so they’re very natural to me. But I hear so many people who say they’re afraid of a gun. [laughs]

It’s not the gun that is the thing to be afraid of. It’s the people who are using them. I think it’s important for our society to have the guns that these criminals have or that these hatemongers have. I feel a lot safer and I feel self-confidence that I can go where I want and I don’t have to fear someone attacking me.

Q:   Are you always strapped then?

A:   I just can’t imagine going out without wearing a handgun in today’s society. You’re just really asking for trouble especially in our situation where there are so many people out there who are ignorant and dangerous. It’s a personal defense weapon, and it's legal to get one. You can defend yourself and your family without too much practice. Take a few classes and get the license.

Q:   What are you currently packing?

A:   For 35 years, I’ve always used a revolver. I was convinced recently the more modern thing is a semiautomatic .45-caliber handgun. It’s definitely more modern and effective. Revolvers are really good; they’re easy to shoot. You don’t have to worry about a safety because the hammer comes back. They convinced me at the gun shop these semiautomatic weapons are very safe now. Which was the major reason I didn’t get one before. The .45 caliber is a much larger bullet, it has a lot more impact and will knock someone down, while the .38 revolver doesn’t have as much impact. With the revolver the cylinder has to turn when you pull the trigger so it’s not as accurate to shoot.

The main thing is you want to be trained with the handgun you use, so in the right situation you can act quickly. These things happen very quickly.

Q:   So you think that the attack on the Columbia professor could have been deterred
?

A:   From what I saw, he [Prabhjot Singh] wasn’t wearing a kirpan, and I think that would’ve been a real deterrent. It’s too bad. I don’t think Sikhs should be victims. I think there are enough teachings in Sikh history, like by Guru Gobind Singh, that we should be able to defend ourselves and defend those who can’t defend themselves. That’s why, in my mind, we wear the kirpan.

Q:   It seems like the Sikh-American community has a different idea.

A:   I think most of the Sikhs coming from India to the USA are interested in making money and aren’t as interested in upholding the Sikh principles as Guru Gobind Singh laid them down. You’ll see political advocacy groups like the Sikh Coalition, and they’ll never talk about firearms or self-defense. They’re more interested in pacifism. I think the stress on education is important, but education is not everything. It’s definitely not going to help you in a one on one confrontation where someone has an agenda. Try using education against someone like [Oak Creek Gurdwara shooter] Michael Page.

Q:   How has the community reacted to your YouTube channel or calls to start a Sikh shooting club
?

A:   I have been kind of surprised by the lack of the interest. I was just talking to my wife about the lack of interest. There are so few so-called observant Sikhs who would like to be defending themselves. I do see that there are a lot of Sikh youths between the ages of 16 and 25 who are getting back to the fundamentals of Guru Gobind Singh and the proficiency with self-defense.

I think there’s no substitute for guns. If you’ve got a mob or a bunch of people who want to attack you, a gun is a good equalizer. I think especially for women. I encourage women to learn how to use a firearm. And I think if all Sikhs had that weapon where they can legally have them, I don’t think people would mess around with them. They would never attack a Sikh if they knew he had a gun. That ‘s my opinion.

Q:   You’re from a military family. Did you ever try to enlist
?

A:   I tried to get in the army in 1982, but I was denied basically for being Sikh and wearing a turban. This was even though I’m from an important family -- my dad was in the Marines for 14 years.

They’ve let three Sikhs in under an exemption they’ve been giving. I think they’re medical doctors. In 1948, President Truman had given an exemption for all Sikhs to join the army but in the 1980, the Moral Majority, they were a kind of right-wing Christian group, they had a lot of pressure on Ronald Reagan. So they changed that exemption.

Q:   How did your ‘white’ Christian parents react to your conversion to Sikhism?

A:   My father didn’t like it at first, and he kicked me out of the house basically. It took a few years to help him understand what Sikhs were about. He had to read a few books and see that it’s not a cult or something.

Q:   But you’ve found a home in Yuba City?

A:   The first Punjabi Sikh farmers came here at the turn of the 20th century. The oldest gurdwara in the entire country is here. So they’ve been Sikh farmers here for many, many generations. If you drive down Yuba City you’ll see gurdwaras on the side of the road, there are many of them in Fresno and Central Valley. My experience is that Sikhs are really good hard-working people. And they really have a good sense of values. I married a Punjabi lady about five years ago. And I’m really enjoying being in the family.

Q:   But you haven’t gotten much of a response regarding gun ownership
?

A:   I’ve talked to maybe six or seven people who have called me on the telephone. I invite anyone to call me on the issue. I’ve gotten likes on Facebook and a lot of responses and views on YouTube, but in terms of people learning about firearms and incorporating it into their lifestyle, it’s very few.


THE ROUNDTABLE OPEN FORUM # 104

What is your response -- thoughts and opinions -- on Gursant’s position on guns and his campaign? Please post your comments herein below.



ALSO, PLEASE CHECK OUT OUR sikhchic.com ONLINE READERS' POLL ON GUNS, CURRENTLY ON OUR HOMEPAGE ...

[Courtesy: Vice. Edited for sikhchic.com]
October 3, 2013
 

Conversation about this article

1: Amar Singh (Washington, D.C., USA), October 03, 2013, 5:59 AM.

The goal should be to disarm ALL citizens, leaving guns in the hands of only those who really need them because of their professions or living situations or for limited sport usage ... but NOT go the opposite way of arming everyone! It's like alcohol abuse. You don't deal with the epidemic of alcoholism by getting everyone to drink and to drink more, but by reducing the current and widespread use and misuse. Sure, the latter course is the more difficult one. But isn't that precisely the reason why we refer to it -- alcoholism or gun control issues -- as a PROBLEM?

2: Kirat Kaur (Ohio, USA), October 03, 2013, 6:09 AM.

The basics of Gursant Singh ji's argument are sound, but I don't agree with the conclusions he derives from them. The kirpan serves us well today as an article of faith and as a constant reminder of our duty. But it doesn't mean that it has to be necessarily extrapolated into a weapon such as a gun for us to live up to the message. Modern weapons such as the proverbial 'pen' and the 'ballot box' are the new weapons of choice. There are many more, but I don't agree that weapons of violence are among them ... unless it is war, justifiable war, that is; a truly righteous war and not one based on spurious info and claims. I strongly feel that we as a community need to continue honing our skills in the current tools of choice, not yesterday's. That is the message I get from wearing my kirpan.

3: G C Singh (USA), October 03, 2013, 8:15 AM.

The first thing the Indian Government and the cunning double faced Hindu establishment did after they got power in 1947 was to disarm Sikhs by reducing their participation in the armed forces and dispersing Sikhs in different units. The headquarters of the Sikh Regiment was deliberately shifted from Meerut to Ramgarh in Bihar so that even this small contingent of Sikhs soldiers becomes ineffective as was clearly demonstrated during Operation Blue Star when rebel Sikh soldiers heading to Amritsar were successfully intercepted and many were killed. If the Sikh nation had followed Guru's clear orders to be always fully armed and prepared against mischief-makers, the Indian Government would not have even day-dreamed of attacking Harmandar Sahib and conducted the genocide of tens of thousands of innocent Sikhs in Punjab, New Delhi and the rest of India.

4: R Singh (Surrey, British Columbia, Canada), October 03, 2013, 8:26 AM.

Sikhs are saint soldiers, and are to defend themselves! Sikhs were a small minority but they created an Empire, with the full support of Punjabi Muslims and Hindus, and gave them equal status within the empire. When the British took control of Punjab, they took control of all the major gurdwaras and left the mosques and mandirs alone.

5: R Singh (Surrey, British Columbia, Canada), October 03, 2013, 8:50 AM.

The threat to the rule of the British came from the minority Sikh community, the British knew that an armed community would not be controlled by the government.

6: Baljit Singh Pelia (Los Angeles, California, U.S.A.), October 03, 2013, 8:56 AM.

Religious symbolism or articles of faith are totally forbidden in Sikhism from the way I understand it. A janeo or tilak or malaa or a thread on the wrist are examples of articles or symbols of distinguishing caste or class. One needs to understand the Guru's wisdom in the fundamentals of requiring these Five K's. A means of self defense is one of the basic rights and requirements. So, to accomplish this a Sikh, especially a Khalsa, must equip himself with a suitable means of neutralizing an aggressor. In the sixteenth century a kirpan was sufficient. Now, if it requires a firearm, then that's what a Sikh needs to keep on his person. We have seen several instances of defenseless Sikh-Americans being massacred since 1984 -- and, of course, in India. Common sense would dictate that a person must equip himself adequately to escape bodily harm in violent situations. Gursant ji understands and practices Guru's hukam instead of questioning it or re-difining it to suit the lifestyle or appearances like many influenced by the brahminic ideology of giving in and giving up that resulted in thousands of years of slavery for Hindus themselves.

7: Harmeet Singh (USA), October 03, 2013, 9:15 AM.

I hear ya, Gursant Singh ji. Just imagine if the Sikhs who got attacked were armed and responded to force with force in defending themselves - it would have sent a message to all those to think twice before attacking innocent Sikhs. Right to bear arms among Sikhs is much a older tradition than the American Bill of Rights. Kirat Kaur's and Amar Singh's analogies are in inappropriate. You can't fight with pen and paper when confronted by hoodlums. To compare guns with alcoholism is fallacious.

8: G C Singh (USA), October 03, 2013, 10:29 AM.

It may be the second amendment (Amendment II) to the United States Constitution that protects the right of the people to keep and bear arms from infringement, but in the constitution of the Sikh nation as envisioned by our founding fathers, the right to bear arms for self defense and protect the weak from tyranny is the FIRST amendment. Gursant Singh is absolutely right because he is following and preaching the core principles of Sikhi.

9: Baldev Singh (Bradford, United Kingdom), October 03, 2013, 10:55 AM.

Completely agree! I show my kirpans and khanday to as many people as possible and the reaction is of awe! And in most interactions with people I actually mention we are meant to live up to the ideal of Saint-Soldiers and there is complete agreement with this and NO contention! So we should always be armed if not with fire-arms, then at least with a kirpan because it works exactly as our Guru has instructed!

10: A J Singh (San Francisco, California, USA), October 03, 2013, 11:55 AM.

There seems to be a huge disconnect here - the Gurus did not want to arm the Sikhs merely for their "physical" self defense - taking up arms was supposed to uphold values and virtues that make us all humans. To simply take to arms in order to protect yourself from bigoted/racist individuals does not find much support in our history. The way to deal with them is through patience and education. Sikhs would be better advised by the following from Guru Gobind's letter, Zafarnamah, to Aurangzeb: "chu kar az hamaa heelt e dar guzshat / halaal ast burdan ba shamsheer dast" - "ALL modes of redressing the wrong having failed, raising of the sword is then pious and just." Surely, the scales of justice haven't broken down here in America to a level where arming Sikhs is absolutely necessary. Education takes a long time, and we should redouble our efforts to ensure that Sikhs are known worldwide for their incorruptible character.

11: Bikram Singh (New Jersey, USA), October 03, 2013, 12:19 PM.

An easy trap to fall into is to cite the Indian experience as an example -- where real oppression and tyranny do exist -- and extrapolate from it in order to find a solution for our challenge in the US. The two societies are vastly different. And as A.J. Singh has so deftly pointed out, the test of "ALL modes of redressing the wrong having failed," has not been met here in America, while it was long surpassed in India.

12: Umeed Kaur (Amritsar, Punjab), October 03, 2013, 12:23 PM.

I agree. It's in India that Sikhs should be arming themselves ... not in the US, for heaven's sake!

13: Gurbux Singh (Chatsworth, California, USA), October 03, 2013, 12:30 PM.

Gurshant Singh is going the right way and following the lifestyle of the Saint-Soldier. Guru Gobind Singh did not want his Singhs/Kaurs to treat the kirpan as a religious symbol but to be prepared to defend yourself and the defenceless. He did not mean that we should sissyfy it and not be armed and ready. Owning guns and being trained to use them is just an extension of being prepared. If we think all guns should be banned and it will be Utopia, it shows that we are living in a delusional state. No one has shown how they can and will have the bad elements turn in their guns. I own guns and enjoy them at the shooting range and if someone were to break into my castle and threaten my loved ones, he/she will be greeted by the reception committee of Ruger, Smith and Wesson. By the way, my princess is also proficient in their use.

14: Chintan Singh (San Jose, California, USA), October 03, 2013, 12:58 PM.

Very interesting topic as well as the comments above. I am on the fence on this matter. Although I see what Gursant Singh is saying, especially because he repeatedly says in the above interview that the arms are meant to be used only in self defense and in the defense of the defenseless. However, I feel that we often very quickly jump to support the cause of arming ourselves and start showing-off our militaristic history. We forget that Guru Gobind Singh Ji didn't introduce the use of kirpan and other weapons for his own defense. In fact his call to arms was for the protection of the oppressed society, the ordinary man who was unable to protect himself and his family from the tyrants. We forget the aspect of total humility and seva of the society in Guru Gobind Singh ji's mind, when he made the call to arms. It took more than 250 years from Guru Nanak to Guru Gobind Singh before the community was formalized and mature enough to carry the 5K's. Do we have the maturity, the humility and the realization that the arms we will carry are supposed to be used only for self defense? Or will we start using them to show-off our strength and in our own, private brawls ... as is already the case in mainstream America?

15: Harmeet Singh (USA), October 03, 2013, 1:34 PM.

I think the edict of the Zafarnama that says to raise arms when all means of justice are failed is an inalienable human right to answer force with force and thus it is justified self-defense. This is equally valid in collective repression, tyranny or in a situation when one faces deadly force from racists and bigots. Why should a Sikh or any human being give up his/her right to self-defense in such a situation?

16: Mankanwal Singh (Plainview, New York, USA), October 03, 2013, 1:41 PM.

This is my personal story, a story of my philosophical evolution. I evolved from favoring gun control and viewing the IInd amendment as a relic of the past which, while relevant in the 18th century, has no place in today's modern society. I evolved to someone who firmly believes in the right of Americans to bear arms. While I look back and trace my evolutionary arc, I trace a parallel arc of my growth in spirituality and Sikhi. Is it a coincidence that these two parallel evolutionary processes happened at the same time in me? May be, may be not. Growing up in India where the government forcefully disarmed its citizens and the national narrative contradicted my religious belief of the right to bear arms, I was swayed by the government's 'secular' agenda, in no small part because of lack of knowledge in my religion's history and philosophy. My thinking started to change when I started volunteering in disaster relief work with UNITED SIKHS. In the aftermath of disaster after disaster, it became very clear to me, as civil society disintegrated in these areas, that looting, rapes, assaults, etc., became the norm. Only those who had weapons and the will to use them were able to defend their life, liberty and property. When push comes to shove, when a society's resources are limited and stretched thin, those limited resources are allocated to places where prominent and influential members of society reside. While we may take great pride in the large number of Sikh doctors / engineers / professionals among us, we are not even a blip on the radar of those who control the resources and dole them out. This not just a commentary of Sikhs in the west, but in India and I would go as far as saying every nation on earth. I also noticed the same pattern when I started reading about the anti-Sikh pogroms in 1984 and the massacres of 1947, in India. Sikhs who were armed even with the most rudimentary of weapons like blunt kirpans, home made sling shots, stones, etc., and used them were able to defend themselves and their families against marauding mobs. Those who waited for the civil administration to protect them or surrendered their arms to the police, were killed in cold blood. There are many on this thread that say its time to fight with the pen, ballot, education ... and I agree with them. However the implication in their argument is if every American knew we're Sikhs and about Sikhi, there would be no hate crimes against us. This is being naive, because there are people who would attack us precisely because we're Sikhs, as happened in India. Can we not fight to defend our life, liberty and property using all means possible including the pen, ballot, education ... and arms at the same time? Why do these options have to be mutually exclusive? In the interest of full disclosure, I would add that I'm a registered Democrat from a very liberal northeast state, do not hunt, not a member of the NRA and abhor their fear-mongering tactics to prevent common sense gun control laws from passing. I don't believe Americans need military grade assault rifles but we should be able to buy arms so that we can protect our family. I'm aware of the high rate of gun murders in America and the recent massacres and assaults. In my view it's not the problem of our 'gun culture' but rather a problem of our 'soldier culture'. Americans are mere soldiers, they're not training to be saints. A soldier without saintly qualities is as incomplete as a saint without soldierly qualities. Which is why our Gurus asked us to be Saint-Soldiers and gave us the Miri-Piri ideal. Brothers and Sisters, we just need to go back to the basics and let Sikhi be our guide.

17: Daljit Kaur (Chicago, Illinois, USA), October 03, 2013, 2:08 PM.

This has been a very intelligent discussion with a fair representation of the different positions we as US citizens hold on this topic. I'm all for gun-control and am not swayed from my position a bit. And yet, I must confess, I've been convinced by you today that we must all be prepared to defend ourselves and those around us who need our help. Accordingly, I have today checked out the internet and signed up for a 5-week course on firearm use at a gun-club nearby. I have promised myself that if I feel I'm ready at the end of the course, I'll buy a simple and basic firearm for my personal protection. But I will not do so until and unless I am totally confident that I can use it safely and with confidence. I should add, however: my views on gun-control haven't changed. I'm still for limiting the widespread proliferation of combat-style guns which have no place in civilian hands.

18: Ari Singh (Burgas, Bulgaria), October 03, 2013, 2:54 PM.

Gursant is a real Sikh. He has got the teaching right. A kirpan is hardly any defence weapon compared to an assailant's gun. And we are not supposed to turn the kirpan into a mere symbol. Carrying a kirpan can get one into trouble and it's wiser to have a gun. If guns were cheaper in the 17th century, then our Guru would have assigned it as one of the requirements for a Sikh. Then, it would be 4Ks and a Bandook. No humour intended. If the enemy attacks you, education is not going to be a big defence! All Sikhs should be armed to avoid another 1947, 1984. Aren't 1047 and 1984 enough lessons for us? It's a privilege to carry a weapon: we are the only group allowed to carry one. We should be proud of this. We should take advantage of this. We are lucky we can protect ourselves and those who need help.

19: A J Singh (San Francisco, California, USA), October 03, 2013, 3:25 PM.

I'd like to clarify on one idea that seems to have swayed a lot of folks here - that Sikhs have a right to self defense in the face of bigotry/racism, etc. I agree. But so do Christians / Jews / Muslims / Hindus, etc. In the US, it is a constitutionally given right to self defense. What is so "Sikh" about it? Yes, Sikhs should be trained for self defense and for defending the weak, but to what end? The means must justify the end. I am sorry to disappoint most commentators here, but dealing with racists and bigots with guns is like being a bigger bully in the room and there is no quality of "Saint-Soldierliness" about it.

20: Baldev Singh (Bradford, United Kingdom), October 03, 2013, 3:45 PM.

Commentator #13 S. Gurbax Singh has really blown me away! This is how every Sikh should think and behave.

21: Jaswinder Singh (Brier, Washington State, USA), October 03, 2013, 5:53 PM.

It's amazing how, owning and handling arms gives you higher level of confidence and self esteem. I suggest every one should own one. Gursant Singh is on the right path. "sastran kay adheen hai raaj / raaj bina nahi dharam chlay hain / dharam bina sab daley maley hain."

22: Sunny Grewal (Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada), October 03, 2013, 8:12 PM.

We should not forget that Guru Gobind Singh Ji did not give the kirpan to the Khalsa with the intention of it being a mere symbol. A symbol wasn't going to stop our people from being massacred by the Mughals and the Afghans. A mere symbol is not what allowed our people to conquer the Mughals and the Afghans. What we call the kirpan today, a small ceremonial dagger, used to be a full fledged sword that each Sikh was required to wear on his person. The British, after conquering and dismantling the Sikh Empire, enacted laws preventing Sikhs from being armed. What we have today, the small knife, is the compromise that was made in order to allow Sikhs to fulfill their religious requirements. One only has to look at the Nihangs who were brutally suppressed by the British because they refused to disarm, in understanding that the kirpan has transformed today to something which it was not originally intended to be.

23: R Singh (Canada), October 04, 2013, 7:54 AM.

It is important to always be prepared for eventualities, be it peace time or times of upheavel, for times can change. The idea is to be prepared. But one has to remember, Sikhs are part of a given society at any given time. There are times of upheaval but most of the time the law and order apparatus is there to take care of things; at those times, taking the law into one's own hands would be foolhardy. We need to wage struggles, but most of the time they are not about wielding arms, but your mind and intellect. We are in a different era of communications and law enforcement, where the kirpan serves as a reminder. We need to balance our approach to our understanding of Sikhi, rather than constraining ourselves to a past era, and not misinterpret our history to make it detrimental to our own welfare. No one can accuse the Guru sahib of not having a strategy for any battle; we need one at all times too.

24: Gurinder Singh (Stockton, California, U.S.A.), October 04, 2013, 9:18 AM.

I am all the way with Gursant Singh. Guru Gobind Singh ji writes: "The sword is solace to the saints; mashing the vicious ones, it is the destroyer of sins; I am under its refuge." And: "Hail, hail to the cause of the world, saviour of the universe, it is my preserver, I hail its victory and I salute the sword." [Bachittar Natak, Dasam Granth]. Guru Gobind Singh gave us the sword to put it to use when confronted by thugs.

25: Taran (London, United Kingdom), October 04, 2013, 11:49 AM.

Although he is a convert to Sikhi and has adopted the Sikh way of life late in his life, he understands Sikh values and ethos much better than most of us who are born into Sikh households. And he is absolutely right when he gives the reason why Guru Gobind Singh gave us the kirpan as one of the five articles of our faith. Times have changed. If Guru Sahib was around today, He would have replaced the kirpan with a gun. He was ever so evolving and far sighted than our so called brahminical jathedars and panthic saadhs.

26: Rup Singh (Canada), October 04, 2013, 5:59 PM.

The word 'kirpan' is from two words, 'kirpa' (mercy) and 'aan' (honour), two qualities necessary for a saint soldier. This concept has been lost on most and they think it's only violent people who keep firearms. A Sikh was never meant to be a pacifist. It is naive to think that if something didn't exist -- alcohol, drugs, etc. - then the problems caused by them would simply go away. For example, drugs are banned by law but people still smuggle them and users buy them. Education, the ballot box and pen only go so far and are not the answer to all problems. If someone attacks you or your loved ones, your home, do we first try to educate the attacker, second, do we phone our MP or MLA, thirdly do we write a complaint letter to our local paper? Or do we do something about it? Point is that certain people will hate others no matter what. For Sikhs, weapons are not about oppression or committing crimes, they are to protect others, for our own and our family's honour and dignity. Kirpan is a reminder of duty, and Sikhs have armed themselves with the best weapons available during the times of war. Let us not forget how the Mughals, Afghans, and the British were eventually made to leave India for good, it wasn't by peace marches and sit-ins. I believe if we listened to our Guru we would not have faced the government pogroms in 1984 and the massacres of the 1980s and 90s, perhaps we would still be living in our own empire. Nowadays there are so many sects, cults that people follow and still call themselves Sikhs. None of the leaders of those sects/cults promote Sikh values based on gurmat. Some don't feel the need for the Five Kakaars, some feel Kesh is not a kakaar but the other four are, some say the Kirpan is not a kakaar. Many of these delve in shameful Hindu practices, hawan, fire worship, so again who are Sikhs and how will they maintain an identity when they don't identify themselves with the teachings of gurbani and Gurus, but rather they believe a human to be their Guru. Those who claim to follow Guru Granth Sahib are further divided that they don't celebrate gurpurabs on the same day.

27: N Singh (Canada), October 04, 2013, 7:50 PM.

Commentator #16 Mankanwal Singh ji: Fantastic post!

28: Navi Singh Deol (Taylor, British Columbia, Canada), October 04, 2013, 7:54 PM.

An armed society is a safe society. People should be able to arm themselves as long as they pass all the legal requirements. If anyone believes that by taking guns from citizens reduces crime, just take a look at Chicago's crime statistics. Taking guns away from people makes robbing and killing easier for criminals.

29: Kirtan Kaur (San Diego, California, USA), October 04, 2013, 10:53 PM.

Too much testosterone-generated talk going on here. Wish more Sikh women would speak up and air their views. Do they agree? Do they feel the same way? I don't. The meaning of the kirpan has never changed. But its functionality as a weapon has. Even if it was a full-sized kirpan today and not the abbreviated version enforced on us by the Brits, it would still be an article of faith today, representing a set of values, and not meant to be used as a weapon any more. Yes, we should be prepared and arm ourselves when necessary. But the circumstances described in the US of today, Lord! We don't need to arm ourselves. That's exactly what's wrong with our American society today. It won't help if Sikh-Americans too become part of the problem. Our mandate as a community is to be part of the solution!

30: Gursant Singh (Yuba City, California, USA), October 05, 2013, 6:09 AM.

Great discussion on why Sikhs, and all law abiding citizens for that matter, should carry handguns for self defense ... or not. I invite anyone interested to know more about self defense to call or write to me with questions and requests for help with individual or group training at your gurdwaras on the use of hand guns and rifles for self-defense and security. Join the Sikh Shooting Team USA. My idea is to start a Sikh shooting team and eventually travel to gurdwaras around the world to teach marksmanship and self-defense to the community. Specifically, air rifles are a good way to start learning riflery and marksmanship. Gurusant@Hotmail.com.

31: Arvi (USA), October 05, 2013, 9:40 AM.

I absolutely agree with A J Singh about this much-talked about subject, about carrying arms to defend oneself. It is not by carrying these lethal toys that a person can defend oneself. On the other hand it has the potential of creating further misinformation about Sikhs. Only education, and that too at a very early stage of schooling, can make the masses truly and correctly knowledgeable about Sikhs and their faith. So please let us think this one out and not start behaving like Indians. Guru Gobind Singh ji would never have picked up the sword, had it not been for the atrocities the Muslim rulers and the Hindu rajas inflicted on the populace at that time. Let's keep in mind that Sikhi is one of the most modern and enlightened faiths of the modern world ...

32: Gurinder Singh (Stockton, California, U.S.A.), October 05, 2013, 10:17 AM.

Circumstances do not always remain the same. One may face a situation when the kirpan may or may not be of help. A good weapon is that which one can use when the need arises. Guru Sahib had written that a Sikh should not appear before him unarmed.

33: Ari Singh (Burgas, Sofia, Bulgaria), October 05, 2013, 10:46 AM.

To be a Sikh is to be a saint-soldier. One cannot be a sodier without being armed. A Sikh is like a policeman. Sikhs have reputation for strength, physical, mental and spiritual. Imagine: a woman is attacked by several men and a Sikh is nearby. If he does not help, he will be embarrassed and ostracized. If he is armed, he is sure to be a dream come true for the victim. Those Sikhs who refuse to be armed cannot claim the history of chivalry and nation-building Sikhs are famous for.

34: Baldev Singh (Bradford, United Kingdom), October 05, 2013, 1:33 PM.

It is a good idea now after 1984 that every gurdwara have on site, Panj Pyarey fully trained in firearm use and have access to a secure 'firearms cabinet' -- all within the boundaries of all local laws, of course -- as an insurance policy if a gurdwara or the Sikhs in the neighbourhood ever come under attack again for political or sectarian reasons, especially in India.

35: N Singh (Canada), October 05, 2013, 5:50 PM.

A quick question to all the commentators here: So why did it take so long to have this discussion? Isn't this exactly what Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale was advocating back in the 1980s? With all due respect to Gursant Singh, it is because he is a white American, and Jarnail Singh was an uneducated villager (or at least that is what the so-called Sikh intelligensia like to think of him). Food for thought.

36: Baldev Singh (Bradford, United Kingdom), October 06, 2013, 3:26 AM.

I was at the top of the Gwalior Fort. After paying my respect at the gurdwara honoring Guru Hargobind Sahib's memory, I decided to go for a walk. It was dark. As I approached one of the giant entrance gates to the fort, I saw a middle-aged Sikh man resting on a 'manji' (cot). He had a rifle with him! When I asked him why he had the rifle, he answered: 'SHAUNK!'

37: Ari Singh (Burgas, Bulgaria), October 06, 2013, 11:33 AM.

I agree with Baldev Singh ji(comment34). We should have Punj Pyarey doing shifts in our gurdwaras which should be legally equipped with weapons. This is easier done than getting all Sikhs to walk around with weapons. We need to prevent another 1947 anf 1984. Our gurdwaras should have gun handling training sessions as well.

38: Gobinder Singh (California, USA), October 06, 2013, 7:32 PM.

I completely agree with Gursant Singh ji's views. All we need to do is to look at recent acts of violence against Sikhs and it's apparent that Sikhs are being targeted. The Sikh Sardars who made history were fighting battles even while being outnumbered. Today, it appears we have shifted our focus away from a very simple requirement of the Sikh Faith: to be a Saint-soldier in all aspects of our lives. Most of the attacks against Sikhs are happening because they are seen as weak and easy targets. Elderly Sikhs on their walks in the neighborhood, a young professor walking alone, Sikhs gathered in a place of worship, are all seen as vulnerable by cowards and miscreants. Imagine, if all of them had armed themselves or carried at least a kirpan to fight back! It's time for Sikhs to start taking care of themselves and their communities.

39: Karan Singh (New Delhi, India), October 07, 2013, 11:56 AM.

Imagine a Sikh-American shooting someone even in self defence, what kind of reaction will come from the majority population? All this sympathy is coming because Sikhs are getting attacked and shot everyday and are perceived as hapless victims. This is the curse of being a minority everywhere.

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