Meet the Sikh Man Who Wants to Arm His Turbaned Brothers
Sikhs are a misunderstood religious group in the US. Sikh men—who traditionally sport beards and turbans—are sometimes mistaken for fundamentalist Muslim hellbent on America’s distruction. Which, they are not. In the month after 9/11, over 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 Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, last year was another disturbing example of the cultural confusion that the 700-year-old South Asian 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’s Professor, Prabhjot Singh, supposedly because his turban and beard signaled to the marauding teens that he was a terrorist. Prof. Singh’s attackers allegedly yelled “Get Osama,” before they left Singh 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 a religious requirement that some Sikh men follow.
The kirpan is a ceremonial dagger that some Sikh men carry as a symbol of the martial history of the religion and the duty of manhood. Carrying the kirpan is one of the five articles of faith of Sikhism, as established in the 17th century by Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth leader of the religion. While advocates at the Sikh Coalition push for better education about their religion and non-violent, 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.