The problem with some atheists (+ Sikhs and daggers)


by Sunny
9th February, 2010 at 3:25 pm    

The story of the judge who said he wanted to allow Sikhs to walk around with kirpans has prompted some debate across blogs that I quickly want to weigh in on.

My position, as I’ve said previously when writing on knife crime, is that schools should have the right to make up their own policy. In some cases a kirpan may not be of consequence, in other cases a school may be worried that knife crime is out of control. There may even be cases where Sikhs are running around stabbing people – in which case a school may like to step in and put in a complete ban. I’m in favour of local decisions based on local conditions, simply because there is a danger of some Sikhs abusing the rules that govern usage of the dagger.

Jako from Frank Owen’s Paintbrush says:

Insisting that Sikhs should have the right to walk around with their ceremonial daggers – even in schools – certainly suggests the man is possessed by a religious arrogance of such massive proportions that there isn’t room for any other considerations.

Pity the BBC Asian Network didn’t bother finding an opposing point of view. I’m sure there’s a sensible Sikh out there willing to say that some of the more eccentric teachings of their faith should not be given privilege over the law of the land (and of course basic common sense).

The chances of finding a Sikh saying that the kirpan is “eccentric” are as low as the chances of a Sikh saying that the Gurus were idiots. Not. Going. To. Happen. I’m not particularly religious (I don’t follow Sikhism but I do say I have a Sikh heritage) but I wouldn’t go that far.

But there is a point about religion in the public space, and I think Dave Semple is spot on:

This principle is not at stake in this case. Quite the opposite. Thinking secularists would surely defend the right of anyone to do anything, provided that it was unlikely to result in harm or the coercion of any individual.

When Jako claims that ‘the more eccentic teachings of their faith should not be given privilege over the law of the land” I am at a loss to explain such anti-religious nonsense, a parody, almost, of real secularism. Just because something is a law does not justify it.

If we take the incident of the Sikh girl and her kara from a few years back, where no health and safety issues were at stake, the courts quite rightly ruled that to exclude her for wearing something so connected to her beliefs was discriminatory. So the law is not so uncomplicated as Jako thinks anyway.

Dave’s whole article is very worth reading. But I want to make a wider point here: there is a strain on the left that is militantly anti-religion, and not just pro-secularist. I’ve pointed out in the past that the National Secular Society also makes this mistake of conflating secularism with atheism and represents the latter view that a nuanced former view.

Politically, this means is that many lefties ends up pissing off people, especially Christians, who want to retain their religious identity in public. I don’t think religious people should get special treatment or be absolved of discrimination – but this misunderstanding of secularism really is a political liability.

If the left becomes anti-religion then we’ll never be able to build coalitions on many issues like fighting poverty, sustaining welfare programmes and get near any sort of power.

Update: I agree with Paul Sims on the Humaist blog


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  1. pickles

    Blog post:: The problem with some atheists (+ Sikhs and daggers) http://bit.ly/b9Jquf


  2. Carmen D'Cruz

    RT @pickledpolitics: Blog post:: The problem with some atheists (+ Sikhs and daggers) http://bit.ly/b9Jquf


  3. Carmen D'Cruz

    RT @pickledpolitics: Blog post:: The problem with some atheists (+ Sikhs and daggers) http://bit.ly/b9Jquf #atheism


  4. antonvowl

    RT @pickledpolitics: Blog post:: The problem with some atheists (+ Sikhs and daggers) http://bit.ly/b9Jquf


  5. Leon Green

    RT @pickledpolitics: Blog post:: The problem with some atheists (+ Sikhs and daggers) http://bit.ly/b9Jquf


  6. Quick response to my post coming under the knife… « Frank Owen’s Paintbrush

    [...] over at Pickled Politics also disagrees with me, thinks schools should be allowed to let Sikh kids carry kirpans if they [...]




  1. Mangles — on 9th February, 2010 at 3:57 pm  

    Sunny you really didn’t need to use such a silly example about the Gurus to illustrate the feelings within the Sikh community about the kakaars (5K’s). Insensitive is the word I’d use to describe this example. However I do agree with your thoughts on extreme secularist anti-religious stances which really don’t do anyone any good.

    Rab rakha!

  2. Anton Vowl — on 9th February, 2010 at 4:03 pm  

    Thoughtful article. I would say that I think people can be atheist, and secularist, and be also understanding of how important religion and religious customs can be to others. I know it doesn’t always happen.

  3. Tracy King — on 9th February, 2010 at 4:07 pm  

    I think you could easily find Sikhs who don’t agree that kirpans should be allowed. Apart from anything, only practicing Sikhs wear them and that’s only about 10%.

    The issue is not whether a Sikh would stab anyone, the issue is whether or not the presence of a knife on school property should be tolerated for *any* reason. I really can’t accept special pleading for a knife. Bangle, yes. Clothing, sure. A knife? No.

    Someone else could take the knife. It is not about an individual being allowed an exception to a rule, it’s about applying a sensible rule to all, for the safety of all.

    Which schools can claim that they will never have a knife problem? Society should accommodate individual religious requirements as far as is practical for society as a whole. A knife in a school is not practical. It is the religion which should bend to accommodate the requirements of society in this case, not the reverse.

  4. DavidMWW — on 9th February, 2010 at 4:09 pm  
  5. douglas clark — on 9th February, 2010 at 4:19 pm  

    Sunny,

    On the knife thing, there is a general exception contained in the Criminal Justice Act of 1988:

    The phrase “good reason” in subsection 4 is intended to allow for “common sense” possession of knives, so that it is legal to carry a knife if there is a bona fide reason to do so. Subsection 5 gives some specific examples of bona fide reasons: a knife for use at work (e.g. a chef’s knife), as part of a national costume (e.g. a sgian dubh for the Scottish national costume), or for religious reasons (e.g. a Sikh Kirpan).

    At least, according to Wikipedia:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Knife_Legislation#United_Kingdom

    It is interesting that the restrictions on dress and atrtifacts have already been played out over Highland dress over the years.

  6. Leon — on 9th February, 2010 at 4:59 pm  
  7. Sunny — on 9th February, 2010 at 5:00 pm  

    I think you could easily find Sikhs who don’t agree that kirpans should be allowed.

    You could – and as I said I’m not militantly for them in every case. I’m just saying you won’t find a Sikh who thinks kirpans are “eccentric”.

    A knife in a school is not practical.

    Well, you also assume that Sikhs carry a knife/dagger for the same reasons that other people do. They don’t.

    In India for example – Sikhs have an exemption to bring in knives and swords into banks unlike any other minority. Have not yet heard of a single case where a Sikh has held up a bank with his kirpan.

  8. Splintered Sunrise — on 9th February, 2010 at 5:47 pm  

    Good post, Sunny. There are two things that strike me. One is Dave’s point about how no particular religion should be privileged over any other, or over non-belief, in the public sphere. This is not the same thing as saying the public sphere should be atheist.

    There is a another thing that’s been annoying me this last week or so. British culture has a very deep strain of anti-Catholicism that may be hard to see from the outside, but is very noticeable if like me you’re from the north of Ireland. Now, I’m not exactly a member of the Latin Mass Society and certainly don’t think the Pope is beyond criticism – I often disagree with him myself. But it helps to criticise him for what he’s actually said rather than what everybody knows he’s said… and it helps to watch the tone. I’ve seen lefties at the mere mention of Catholicism go into the sort of vituperation that wouldn’t be out of place in the Orange Order.

    You’re right, there’s a sort of exaggerated polemic that just pisses people off, people you might want to work with later. Not confined to the subject of religion of course, but the confirmed atheist often doesn’t realise how important these things are. And yeah, even if you’re not especially religious the defensive hackles rise.

  9. Kulvinder — on 9th February, 2010 at 5:57 pm  

    …the issue is whether or not the presence of a knife on school property should be tolerated for *any* reason

    What a curious statement; i carried a pen knife from the age of 10 till about 25 when the current knife hysteria came to public attention, since then ive had to make do with one of those crappy keyring knifes that don’t lock and are only about 10mm long. As 10 year olds we never stabbed each other to death because the issue wasn’t the knife; rather the deaths from knifes result from social issues that parliament has found difficult to change, and as a result politicans from all three parties prefer to focus on ‘things they can ban’

    Personally i think sharp pointy objects should be and actually are allowed in schools for a whole variety of reasons, from eating to sharpening pencils.

    I’ve yet to read about murders occurring in art.

    The hyperbole about the threat posed by objects aside, the real issue is probably more to do with parents wanting a say on how schools are run and as result a desire to ban sharp pointy objects (the affect this risk aversion potentially has on children and the juxtaposition with the general view that ‘health and safety has gone mad‘ is for another discussion)

    As such i think its reasonable for every school to decide on its own policy.

  10. douglas clark — on 9th February, 2010 at 5:57 pm  

    Splintered Sunrise,

    Excellent comments. Dave is indeed right about what true secularism is supposed to be about. I have been an atheist since long before it became a way to sell books and I find the militancy now associated with it quite alarming. Everyone ought to be entitled to decide for themselves what they believe or don’t believe, and, as long as they don’t impose it on others, it is largely harmless.

  11. Mangles — on 9th February, 2010 at 6:00 pm  

    “A knife in a school is not practical.”

    All schools already have knives in the canteen, have compasses with very sharp points in the classroom, as well as scissors, and every desk has pointed pencils. When I was in school (be it many years ago) there were many incidents involving all these instruments, including hitting with books, bags and hands, even mallets and chisels (in seconday school).

    How far can you sanitise safety in schools?

    This is the typical knee jerk reaction one would expect from the so called liberal left and what you would expect from the ultra right.

    All the above listed educational apparatus are freely available to every single child from the age of 3 upwards, but low and behold the Sikh child needs to be protected from what will be a small blunt instrument, which is sheathed, secured, and then placed under several layers of clothing.

    Given those real circumstances is it really practical for any thug (Sikh, Muslim, Hindu, Christian, Jedi, brown, black or white!) to use the kirpan to attack the poor innocent young Sikh that everyone wants to protect for his/her own good (by resticting practice of his/her faith) or is it easier for the sharp pencil to be used which is lying on the thugs desk or is on his person?

    How many indidents did other readers actually observe at school involvings what would be perceived to be ‘weapons’ such as dinner knives/forks, scissors etc compared to pencils and compasses? I know in my experience of about 15 years during schooling most of the incidents involved the latter, meaning as in most crimes they are opportunistic rather than planned. Sikh children have been and will continue to be bullied for their long hair/turbans. That is not going to stop whether those that wish to practice their faith fully are allowed to or not.

    Rab rakha!

  12. Jai — on 9th February, 2010 at 6:20 pm  

    I’m sure there’s a sensible Sikh out there willing to say that some of the more eccentric teachings of their faith

    “Eccentric” is a very curious term to use, whether it’s motivated by ignorance or bigotry in this case. There is certainly some religious symbolism attached to the kirpan in terms of Sikh tenets, but on a practical basis the principle is the same as “the right to bear arms” in the United States, including the specific historical and logical reasons that the latter is part of the US Constitution.

    Incidentally, the kirpan is only mandatory for Amritdari Sikhs; it’s recommended for other Sikhs (like the rest of the 5Ks) but, like uncut hair, the kara etc, it’s a right rather than an obligation. Nevertheless, much of the rationale is the same as the legality of carrying firearms in the US, as mentioned above.

  13. Deep Singh — on 9th February, 2010 at 6:59 pm  

    The central issue here is as highlighted above by many of my co-religionists and rests on the matter of intent.

    As an Amritdhari Sikh (one who has undertaken initiation by the Khalsa rites) I have sworn to adorn all the 5Ks, including the Kirpan, at all times, yet like the majority of Amritdharis, including the senior Jathedars (leaders) of the Akal Thakt (the highest temporal authority of the Sikhs), we do understand the need for ‘controlled environments’, such as when onboard a Flight, where everyone is searched and stripped of all sharp items, be they knives, key rings, hairpins, work tools, doctor’s tools, first aid kits, ceremonial kirpans or anything else.

    This is not the case for day to day public life, be it on the street, at work or at school – there is no one disarming students of their keyrings, keychains, sharp pens, tools, cutlery etc etc, likewise, it is common to find people to walk the streets freely whilst having a hockey stick in hand, or carrying work tools or any other item which can clearly be used as a weapon.

    The matter is one of intent, as friends in the Police have recently experienced in Ealing, West London, several street gangs carry CDs which they then snap in half to provide them with edged weapons – the sole purpose behind these individuals carrying the CDs in their pockets or around their necks is for use as a weapon.

    The sole reason for the ‘wearing’ of a kirpan on the other hand is practising one’s religion and as an Amritdhari Sikh, for me it is far from being a ‘cultural’ or ‘eccentric’ matter, it is part and parcel of my person and as statistics have adequately demonstrated, there is minimal evidence of any violence arising from Amritdhari Sikhs using their kirpans.

    Sunny, you are quite right, there is a growing trend amongst to equate Secularism with Atheism, be it on the Left or otherwise, which is exactly why we find the likes of John Gray frequently comparing the rise of perversion in religion (terrorism etc) with the perversion of sexuality (rise of the porn industry to ‘broken Britain’), both have arisen from the suppression (one under Secularism and the other under Victorian Era) of what describes as equally natural human urges (to have faith and to engage in sex).

  14. this machine tolerates fascists — on 9th February, 2010 at 8:03 pm  

    Quite why a few loons should be able to do what they like because they’re too stupid to understand Darwin and evolution beats me. I can’t wear what I want to work, or be exempted from certain circumstances but then again I made the mistake of reading proper books, getting educated and learning to put up with these retarded backwards looking religious fools. No one needs to carry a knife, and certainly not because the man in the sky says so – or some other fucknuttery rubbish

    What a life.

  15. Don — on 9th February, 2010 at 8:09 pm  

    I agree with the general concensus here, …a small blunt instrument, which is sheathed, secured, and then placed under several layers of clothing. is not a problem, has never (AFAIK) been a problem and it is pointless to make it a problem. Someone openly sporting a real knife would be.

    Last time someone (a teacher) got stabbed at my school it was with a pencil through the hand.

    How far can you sanitise safety in schools?

    Don’t get me started.

    I’m both an atheist and a secularist, but I don’t see either of those positions as involving being a pain in the arse to people who are doing no harm. Hell, I’m even polite to JW’s who knock on my door. Succinct, but polite.

    It’s no business of mine how people choose to pray or dress, any more than it is what music they listen to or what plants they put in their garden.

    Of course, if they choose to play Death Metal at full volume at three in the morning, or fill the garden next to mine with Japanese knotweed, then we’d have a problem.

  16. Don — on 9th February, 2010 at 8:18 pm  

    Machine,

    I’m pretty sure Sikhism has no problem with evolution through natural selection.

    And, although I could be wrong, I don’t think the 5 K’s are claimed as divinely commanded.

    Buy one of these. Live by it.

    http://badscience2.spreadshirt.co.uk/i-think-you-ll-find-it-s-a-bit-more-complicated-than-that-A8097896

  17. Shatterface — on 9th February, 2010 at 8:50 pm  

    ‘If the left becomes anti-religion then we’ll never be able to build coalitions on many issues like fighting poverty, sustaining welfare programmes and get near any sort of power.’

    Utter bullshit, obviously, unless the theocracy-apologists want to defend my right as an anarchist to carry a round bomb with a fizzing fuse beneath my cape.

  18. hardeep gill — on 9th February, 2010 at 8:51 pm  

    why weigh in on this issue sunny when as u say ur not a believer of the sikh faith!? this is a highly sensitive issue for sikhs and for those who follow the command of their faith by carrying a kirpan. it doesn’t need people like u muddying the waters and confusing those uninformed about it. and for the record, british law gives sikhs protection to carry their kirpans – criminal justice act 1988.

  19. Rumbold — on 9th February, 2010 at 8:56 pm  

    I agree with Sunny on this. Just let the schools make their own policy . I can’t see the religious justification for it- the kirpan was a sign that Sikhs wouldn’t be cowed by the Mughals and would defend the weak- there is no reason for a 12 year old to wear it to school. And as others have pointed out, only Sikhs who have been baptised have to carry it.

  20. MiriamBinder — on 9th February, 2010 at 8:56 pm  

    @ this machine tolerates fascists # 13 – I would far prefer living next door to a practising Muslim/Jew or Jehova Witness then next door to an intolerant atheist. Heck, I’d even prefer a Satanist … Atheists that bang the drum are worse then proselytising religious types … They not only claim moral superiority but intellectual integrity ;)

  21. Shatterface — on 9th February, 2010 at 9:00 pm  

    Anyyone who carries a weapon because their sky-pixie tells them to is a fucking retard – and a dangerous one at that.

    Fuck your god and his mindless assassins.

  22. Shatterface — on 9th February, 2010 at 9:05 pm  

    ‘ I would far prefer living next door to a practising Muslim/Jew or Jehova Witness then next door to an intolerant atheist. Heck, I’d even prefer a Satanist … Atheists’

    When we start flying airplanes into buildings, shooting doctors who *don’t* perform abortions, stone schoogirls for *not* wearing skirts or throw acid in their faces for *not* attending school you might look less like a fuckwit.

  23. Don — on 9th February, 2010 at 9:09 pm  

    They not only claim moral superiority but intellectual integrity

    Hey, some of us actually have that. A select few.

    Shatterface,

    Not an accomodationist, then?

  24. Rumbold — on 9th February, 2010 at 9:14 pm  

    Shatterface:

    Please don’t use language like ‘retard’. You are more than capable of making your point well.

  25. MiriamBinder — on 9th February, 2010 at 9:31 pm  

    @ Shatterface # 21 – Though I doubt me not that many horrific incidents have been brought about in the name of a deity of choice many acts of selfless courage and unstinting support and sacrifice have also occurred in the name of those self same deities.

    Smug self righteousness on the other hand, is as ugly when it comes in an atheist package. Heck it is almost religious in its fervour …

    @ Don # 22 – I have yet to come across a proselytising atheist who has ;)

  26. Sunny — on 9th February, 2010 at 10:06 pm  

    SplinteredSunrise and Deep Singh – excellent comments.

    Don: I’m pretty sure Sikhism has no problem with evolution through natural selection.

    It doesn’t at all. Though it is amusing for someone who’s claimed to read some proper books spout ignorant shite.

    shatterface: Utter bullshit, obviously, unless the theocracy-apologists want to defend my right as an anarchist

    I was referring to lefties, not you.

  27. KJB — on 9th February, 2010 at 10:53 pm  

    Anyyone who carries a weapon because their sky-pixie tells them to is a fucking retard – and a dangerous one at that.

    Oooh, way to go, you insulted someone using ableist language! How clever of you!

    Grow up, Shatterface.

    I’m somebody who’s actually had a hard time due to my family being deeply religious – and yes, they’re Sikhs – and I am atheist, but people like you are just embarrassing. Did you not read what was written above? Or did it just not register? Only baptised Sikhs carry the kirpan, a large factor in their carrying it is because historically they were a minority living under threat from the ruling class, and no-one has found incidences of the kirpan being ‘dangerous.’

    I get very anti-religion at times (understandable, given some of what I’ve experienced!), but in all honesty, it’s a childish attitude to have as there are a hell of a lot of people out there who will be always be religious no matter what you do. Unbelievers are not going to be the majority any time soon. I mean, even before there was ‘God,’ people worshipped that elemental source of comfort that is fire.

  28. Dalbir — on 9th February, 2010 at 11:27 pm  

    in other cases a school may be worried that knife crime is out of control. There may even be cases where Sikhs are running around stabbing people – in which case a school may like to step in and put in a complete ban. I’m in favour of local decisions based on local conditions, simply because there is a danger of some Sikhs abusing the rules that govern usage of the dagger.

    There you go again Sunny! You know damn well the Sikhs more likely to get involved in violence are ones that look like you and me NOT kirpan carrying Amritdharis. And why are you calling it a dagger? Have some respect dude, you should know better. I hope you realise that your own forefathers were likely to have been bowling around Panjab armed to the teeth not long ago. Face facts, you’re a baby of a militia movement.

    People need to lay off Amritdharis. Even with a kirpan, they are still pretty harmless and generally never ever (from what I’ve seen) keen to pull out the old shaster. Plus have you seen how blunt and useless most of the symbolic kirpans are? A metal pen would be more dangerous…..

    All you’ll do with this is make the usual whinging bastards go on about how Blighty is “going to the dogs”. They don’t need much encouraging…..

  29. Dalbir — on 9th February, 2010 at 11:37 pm  

    I never read the previous posts because I’m lazy………

  30. this machine tolerates fascists — on 9th February, 2010 at 11:46 pm  

    “Sikhs believe that God created the whole universe. Earth while being in the universe is a creation of God and all the life on earth is a creation of God. It does not matter to a Sikh whether earth was created in seven days or it evolved in 4 billion years. If the earth was created then God created the earth and if the earth was evolved then God created the evolution of the earth. In addition, Guru Granth Sahib (The Holy Scripture of Sikhs) states remarkable information about the universe, galaxies, stars, planets and the moons. None of the information written in the scripture contradicts with the scientific facts. Furthermore, nothing in Guru Granth Sahib can be disproved with the help of science. However, scientific facts support the teachings of Guru Granth Sahib” And “When the Creator became manifest, all creatures of the earth assumed various shapes” Doesn’t sound much like natural selection to me. Or even evolution come to that. Mumbo-jumbo.

    So, that’s that then. Science is again beaten by the voice of religious reason. As Don said to me above, it’s a bit more complicated than that.

    http://badscience2.spreadshirt.co.uk/i-think-you-ll-find-it-s-a-bit-more-complicated-than-that-A8097896

  31. Sunny — on 9th February, 2010 at 11:52 pm  

    I’m calling it a ‘dagger’ because we have a wide audience, not just a Sikh audience.

    You know damn well the Sikhs more likely to get involved in violence are ones that look like you and me NOT kirpan carrying Amritdharis.

    Not by some of the Gurdwara rucks I’ve seen. That as a general point, I’m not saying that Amritdhari Sikhs are likely to be violent – just pointing out that sometimes people don’t follow the religion as they should. And a school should be allowed to set local guidelines.

    Doesn’t sound much like natural selection to me. Or even evolution come to that. Mumbo-jumbo.

    I don’t think it helps when you spout about subjects you obviously know very little about. The Guru Granth Sahib isn’t anti-science. It is very pro-science because it’s about people listening to reason and finding out things by themselves.

    It’s also mostly concerned with morality and how people should behave – not about where the world came from. So it doesn’t contradict evolution, the big bang or natural selection.

    Anyway – it’s good to see some people come on and display the kind of attitudes I was warning against – saves me pointing to any.

  32. Shamit — on 10th February, 2010 at 12:13 am  

    I agree with Sunny’s position – however, I would prefer if children were not allowed to bring in weapons to school and the Kripan is a weapon.

    The reason I have a problem with this whole notion about “my faith requires me to do this” argument is – rastafarians may say smoking pot is part of their religion and therefore should be allowed in schools. Who defines what faith is recognised – what happens if joe down the road starts his own faith where carrying a 9mm is required to protect good from evil. I don’t find either appropriate.

    By this I am trying to highlight the problems with some of the arguments I have read here and by no means am I trying to insult the Gurus or equate Sikhism with anything else.

    Religious manifestations are absolutely acceptable in public with a caveat – that it does not endanger the public or goes against the laws of the land.

    *********************************************

    Jai –

    How are you mate?

    Interesting argument about the rationale behind the 2nd Amendment of the US Constitution –

    The second amendment of the US Constitution states the following:

    “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

    Now the Supreme Court, the final arbitration point, even under most Conservative judges have put emphasis on the “a well regulated militia” but and have thrown out challenges to Gun laws such as the Brady Bill etc etc. By doing so, it has repeatedly over the decades, established the US Constitution does not exactly specify that individuals have the right to bear arms or not – and said it is for the legislature to define.

    Lets not give the NRA any more ammunition mate. I like your argument but I think the ceremonial sword or the service fire arm weapon of most armed forces officers around the globe is more in line with the rationale of Sikh teachings. Am I correct? – What do you think

  33. Dalbir — on 10th February, 2010 at 7:55 am  

    Sunny@31

    I was talking more about school going Amritdharis myself in my post – not the readily indignant (usually but not exclusively Singh Sabha) ‘uncle jis’, you mentioned.

    They are a different story and let’s not muddy the water by mixing the two. Besides, those pendus are only ever a danger to each other, at that too only around election time. More of an embarrassment than any real threat.

  34. Dalbir — on 10th February, 2010 at 8:05 am  

    Religious manifestations are absolutely acceptable in public with a caveat – that it does not endanger the public or goes against the laws of the land.

    Well it doesn’t go against the law of the land and there is no pressing problem with Amritdhari Sikh youth running amok with kirpans in the UK, nor is there any sign of this happening anytime soon.

    I think we can all slowly exhale and be pretty much certain that of all the problems the UK is currently experiencing, the ‘armed’ Amritdhari youth ‘issue’ is pretty low on the scale.

    Don’t freak – It’s only a Sikh.

  35. cjcjc — on 10th February, 2010 at 8:09 am  

    Can I carry my light sabre openly now please?

  36. platinum786 — on 10th February, 2010 at 8:44 am  

    How many of those who are horrified at the thought of Sikhs not being allowed to carry a Kirpan, balk at the idea of a women in a Niqab? Don’t bother answering, i don’t want to drag this off topic, I’m just making a point.

    I’ve personally never felt too comfortable with the idea of people carrying Kirpans around, nonetheless as long as they’re cerimonial and not actual sharp blades, I don’t have a problem with it.

    Correct me if i’m wrong though, but surely a Kirpan is carried as a self defence tool from the religious perspective, to defend people, prevent wrongs when you can etc? Does a cerimonial dagger fit that purpose? Is that a debate which occurs in the sikh community?

  37. Jai — on 10th February, 2010 at 10:59 am  

    Platinum786,

    but surely a Kirpan is carried as a self defence tool from the religious perspective, to defend people, prevent wrongs when you can etc?

    Correct.

    Does a cerimonial dagger fit that purpose?

    Obviously not.

    Is that a debate which occurs in the sikh community?

    In some quarters, yes.

    I also remember reading a debate about this on one of the online Sikh discussion forums a few years ago, where it was suggested by a couple of commenters that perhaps one viable solution would be for kirpans to be “licenced weapons” in the same way that guns are currently licenced firearms in the US. This would obviously make the issue more manageable and also ensure that not any Tom, Dick and Harry can run around waving a kirpan. I thought it was a good idea.

  38. Dalbir — on 10th February, 2010 at 11:05 am  

    Originally Singhs carried ‘panj hathiar’ or ’5 weapons’.

    One of these was usually a matchlock or flintlock.

    They’ve already compromised enough to keep the jittery feeling more secure. Please don’t push it too far.

  39. Jai — on 10th February, 2010 at 11:22 am  

    Hi Shamit,

    Good to hear from you mate.

    “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

    As a couple of people including myself have mentioned, this is one of the basic reasons why kirpans are an integral part of the 5Ks for Amritdhari Sikhs. In summary, it’s for the following reasons:

    1. For self-defence.
    2. For defence of others.
    3. For defence against tyrannical governments (or as a pre-emptive measure against the hypothetical possibility of governments potentially behaving tyrannically).

    1 and 2 are obviously more relevant where there is a lack of an effective police authority, although it would also be applicable if you were suddenly attacked by someone or another person was being attacked and you were in the vicinity.

    3 is more in line with the original American rationale; we may currently live in a liberal democracy where human rights are generally protected, but that hasn’t always been the case in numerous parts of the world, including here in the West, and (more to the point) things can sometimes degenerate considerably, sometimes very quickly indeed. For a relatively recent example of the latter, remember 1930s Germany, previously widely regarded as the most cultured and civilised nation in Europe.

    Going further back, one of the first things that the East India Company did upon annexing the territory under Sikh rule was to systematically disarm the entire Sikh population and ban the martial art involved. “Gatka” is actually a modified version of “Shaster Vidya”, the original form,

    I like your argument but I think the ceremonial sword or the service fire arm weapon of most armed forces officers around the globe is more in line with the rationale of Sikh teachings. Am I correct? – What do you think

    Afraid not mate, it’s definitely supposed to be a weapon as opposed to ceremonial. In fact, technically it’s supposed to be a full-length sword, but obviously there have been some compromises on that front.

  40. platinum786 — on 10th February, 2010 at 11:29 am  

    Here is the thing. Today what’s a knife? Surely you need a gun in most societies for the defence purpose? Having said that though, Is there room for flexibity? The fact that the majority of Singhs don’t carry kirpans, or only carry cerimonial ones would suggest that there is? If that is the case then are there those who would argue there is room not to carry it all all whilst still observing the 5 K’s? An arguement they could use to support that, at least in Britain is the presence of a democratic style of government (hence less risk of state tyranny) and the presence of the police force, who are there to protect.

  41. Jai — on 10th February, 2010 at 11:30 am  

    “Gatka” is actually a modified version of “Shaster Vidya”, the original form

    Typo: It’s actually spelt “Shastar Vidya”.

  42. bananabrain — on 10th February, 2010 at 11:43 am  

    it sounds to me like the argument for the kirpan is essentially an argument that sikhs believe they should be allowed to act like a militia, sort of like superheroes in turbans, righting wrongs and fighting injustice, or have i misunderstood?

    i can’t see how this vision could be workable in literal terms in a western democracy. the police and security services are supposed to provide this for the general population. if sikhs are expecting to fulfil this role, they ought to do it by joining the relevant civil arms, or how else are they to be held accountable?

    i think more clarity of religious thinking is required on this, because the interpretative spectrum is very wide indeed. are we envisioning a sort of sikh version of the cst, which has a clear remit and oversight structure, to say nothing of how it works with the police? what happens when everyone else wants their own “protection organisation”, or is it just going to turn into an attack on what we have developed to meet a very real threat? how is this not going to contribute to the general balkanisation of society? shouldn’t we be looking at the *purpose*, not the specific application? surely a strategically placed lawsuit is more effective than an actual literal edged weapon in most cases these days?

    b’shalom

    bananabrain

  43. Jai — on 10th February, 2010 at 11:52 am  

    Surely you need a gun in most societies for the defence purpose?

    Only if guns are widespread. Bladed weapons are “better” in the sense of not requiring ammunition, less risk of causing collateral damage etc.

    Although historically, Sikhs did also carry firearms as Dalbir mentioned. Again, this aspect in the modern-day sense is more applicable to the US and overlaps with the “right to bear arms”.

    However, bear in mind that — similar to Rajputs and swords — Sikhs are not supposed to draw their kirpan unless they’re going to use it. Kirpan-carrying Sikhs will frequently be very reluctant indeed to take the kirpan out of the scabbard even if it’s just to show it to someone, unless it’s part of some kind of Gatka tournament or training session.

    The fact that the majority of Singhs don’t carry kirpans,

    The majority if Sikhs these days don’t carry kirpans, especially as the majority of Sikhs these days aren’t Amritdhari (ie. “baptised”).

    If that is the case then are there those who would argue there is room not to carry it all all whilst still observing the 5 K’s?

    A kirpan is one of the 5Ks.

    An arguement they could use to support that, at least in Britain is the presence of a democratic style of government (hence less risk of state tyranny) and the presence of the police force, who are there to protect.

    Absolutely correct, especially the second part, although (in relation to the first part) remember the European historical events I mentioned earlier.

    In a nutshell, there are equally-valid arguments both for and against the kirpan being “ceremonial” or an actual weapon in the context of the UK in 2010.

  44. Dalbir — on 10th February, 2010 at 12:43 pm  

    it sounds to me like the argument for the kirpan is essentially an argument that sikhs believe they should be allowed to act like a militia, sort of like superheroes in turbans, righting wrongs and fighting injustice, or have i misunderstood?

    Now you’re taking the piss. I’ve never heard a Sikh question a Jews right to wear their whole shabang, curly sideburns and that vest thing with 4 strings etc.

    Besides you can see how this so called ‘militia’ ideology enabled Singhs to bring drama to nazis in WW2 and prevent us getting wiped out at partition.

    The kirpan is a symbol to try and remind us of exactly what can go on without the principles behind it. Sure Sikhs don’t/haven’t always lived up to it but a robust self defence in the face of oppression is still central to Sikh ideals. Kirpan reminds us of that.

    You should be the first person to understand this, given what your own people just experienced not so long ago.

    Who knows what the future holds. And yes, we are a people that heavily use symbology to communicate ideas, whether you like it or not.

  45. Jai — on 10th February, 2010 at 2:31 pm  

    Bananabrain,

    Just to follow on from my earlier comments and Dalbir’s similar remarks in #44, remember what happened in Germany in the 1930s, especially where Jewish people were concerned.

    The rationale behind this aspect of Sikhism — and the mindset it is intended to inculcate — is to prevent that kind of thing from ever happening to oneself or to anyone else (including non-Sikhs), particularly if the state is unable or unwilling to offer sufficient protection and most of all if the state itself is perpetrating these actions.

    Baseless paranoia is obviously not the right path to go down, but simultaneously neither is complacency. Bear in mind that the BNP, EDL and SIOE are the equivalent of Al-Muhajiroun here in the UK and the near-exact counterparts of the Shiv Sena, RSS and Bajrang Dal over in India. One of the British groups involved is also a political party which received nearly a million votes (imagine if Al-Muhajiroun were confirmed as having a similar number of “voting supporters”) despite the fact that its historical & ideological influences, aspirations and role models are widely known and despite the fact that its leaders have been confirmed as being deeply anti-Semitic regardless of their public claims to the contrary as a political strategy. The last point should be of particular concern to you personally.

    So, “it can never happen here” or “not in this day and age” is an optimistic and well-meaning attitude for some people to have, but “never say never”. As long as the nastier aspects of human behaviour are in existence, this is as relevant in the modern age (and will continue to be relevant) as it was during the more tyrannical periods of the Mughal era, during the subsequent political disintegration of 18th century India, or indeed during a series of events in Amritsar in 1919 involving the colonial authorities.

  46. Dalbir — on 10th February, 2010 at 2:58 pm  

    Well said Jai.

  47. Deep Singh — on 10th February, 2010 at 3:31 pm  

    The Machine:

    “these retarded backwards looking religious fools”

    Dr Narinder Singh Kapany, an Amritdhari Sikh, is commonly referred to as the ‘father of modern fibre optics’, without him the very machine you are using to write and view your thoughtless comments on this forum, would not be real possibility.

    Yes, Dr Kapany wears a Kirpan.

    There are several other examples of similar Sikhs who have made, and continue to make, very real contributions to the fields of science, politics, business and the arts, so quite where you get off on your ‘retarded’ and ‘backwards’ comments beats me!

    On the other hand, the question that has been repeated asked here for material evidence of Amritdhari Sikhs abuses their rights to wear a Kirpan has clearly shown that there is not any significant danger posed by what is largely an economically and socially integrated minority in the UK practising their traditions.

    As per knife crime, the recent coverage of the Sikh Gentlemen in East London who was stabbed to death by teenagers who had stolen a lady’s purse (Mr Singh has chased after them to retrive the stolen item) speaks for itself. Mr Singh was an Amritdhari Sikh and even when faced with criminals who attacked him using knives, he did not draw his Kirpan.

  48. Deep Singh — on 10th February, 2010 at 3:50 pm  

    Bananabrain,

    “it sounds to me like the argument for the kirpan is essentially an argument that sikhs believe they should be allowed to act like a militia, sort of like superheroes in turbans, righting wrongs and fighting injustice, or have i misunderstood?”

    With respect, you have indeed misunderstood the Kirpan and why Sikhs wear one.

    Sikhs are no more a militia or a band of superheroes than any other group, although reading the comments of some (typically non-Amritdhari) Sikh youths, I can see why you would get that impression!

    The Kirpan is venerated by Sikhs on par with the scriptural utterances of their Gurus (hence the presence of Kirpans next to the Sri Guru Granth Sahib).

    A symbol has both utility and meaning – a Kirpan a symbol (a knife only has utility, hence the reason we keep seeing Sikhs being particular in their references to the Kirpan and not a dagger of knife).

    The Kirpan is “used” by Sikhs to sanctify their food and as part of their prayers (in particular the ‘Ardas’ or Supplication).

    Symbolically it represents a wide range of attributes from strength, courage to justice and wisdom (for Sikh readers: “Gyan Kharag munn mai chalao”) – as the example provided above of the late Sukhwinder Singh, stabbed to death whilst trying to help an unknown member of the public encapsulates the restraint Amritdharis exercise with respect to their Kirpans whilst fulfilling their duties as Citizens of this Country, which many of us call home.

  49. Don — on 10th February, 2010 at 3:52 pm  

    Very slightly off-topic, it seems that the Court of Appeals has found that pyre cremation falls within current regulations.

    http://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/north-east-news/breaking-news/2010/02/10/funeral-pyre-victory-for-davender-ghai-72703-25805614/

    There are however still issues around design and exact method.

  50. Shatterface — on 10th February, 2010 at 5:49 pm  

    ‘Oooh, way to go, you insulted someone using ableist language! How clever of you!’

    On the same day Sunny publishes an article called ‘Watch Colbert call Palin a f*cking retard’ over at Liberal Conspiracy:

    http://liberalconspiracy.org/2010/02/09/watch-colbert-calls-palin-a-fcking-retard/

    This thread is ridiculous. If you want to make a libertarian argument that *everyone* should be allowed to carry a knife because many already do so and few actually use them then go ahead but the idea that religion bestows benign intent on possession of a weapon by one particular group is pathetic. A ceremonial dagger is still a dagger; it’s not a turban or a bangle. It’s not a pencil or the end of a compass. It’s not a piece of cutlery. It’s not an item with any utility other than as a weapon, or as a symbol of a weapon. And sure, maybe it reminds Sikhs of previous battles against oppression – but so does my grandad’s old service revolver.

    Other commentators have drawn comparison with the American right to bare arms. Quite so. But Sunny has already stated his willingness to use a gun in other circumstances so I’m not willing to accept his asurances that he would be safe in possession of a dagger.

  51. Jai — on 10th February, 2010 at 5:51 pm  

    Well said Jai.

    Thanks Dalbir. Great points by you throughout this thread.

    But Sunny has already stated his willingness to use a gun in other circumstances so I’m not willing to accept his asurances that he would be safe in possession of a dagger.

    Sunny is not an Amritdhari (“baptised”) Sikh, so this subject doesn’t apply to him.

  52. Sunny — on 10th February, 2010 at 5:57 pm  

    On the same day Sunny publishes an article called ‘Watch Colbert call Palin a f*cking retard’ over at Liberal Conspiracy:

    I know you’re dumb, but I thought at least you would understand the irony, given the video was having a go at Sarah Palin for her hypocrisy on the issue.

    Nice try though shatterface, just reinforces why I’ve stopped taking you seriously.

  53. Jai — on 10th February, 2010 at 5:58 pm  

    Deep Singh,

    Excellent comments by you on this thread too.

    Quick semi-off-topic question: During the late autumn I wrote a couple of PP articles on Guru Gobind Singh (http://www.pickledpolitics.com/archives/6688 ) and Guru Hargobind respectively (http://www.pickledpolitics.com/archives/6771). Have you had a chance to read them ? I’m not sure if you were a reader of PP at the time but I thought I should mention them to you anyway, as I’m sure they’d be of great interest to you.

  54. Deep Singh — on 10th February, 2010 at 7:01 pm  

    Platinum786:

    “I’ve personally never felt too comfortable with the idea of people carrying Kirpans around”

    There are plenty of people who are not comfortable with a lot of things, ranging from Burqas and Niqabs, which increasingly come under scrunity as serious security risks through to the simple presence of coloured people or conversely a group of white folks with shaved heads waving the Union Jack (who afterall may simply be football fans and not necessarily a group of EDL or BNP supporters).

    The reality here is that there is little, if any, evidence to suggest that the increasing presence of Sikhs in the UK has in any way correlated with either an observed rise in crime or decline in social cohesion or even economic underperformance.

    Yet, we have several posts here from various people, who having read a sensationalised media report on the Kirpan, suddently wax lyrical linking Sikhs to knife crime (yet evidence contradicts this), making people feel uncomfortable (again, there is no material evidence of Sikh populations in the UK causing social unrest) and being somehow ‘backward’ and ‘retarded’ (when evidence clearly points to the contrary).

    “nonetheless as long as they’re cerimonial and not actual sharp blades, I don’t have a problem with it”

    “Ceremonial” Kirpans do not necessarily equate to blunt butter knife replicas worn about one’s neck and you are quite right that the debate about what constitutes a Kirpan is an ongoing one everytime an incident such as this one is raised in the media and of course, several commentators will see themselves somehow in a positon to dictate to Amritdhari Sikhs how they should practice their religion and conduct their private lives!

  55. Dalbir — on 10th February, 2010 at 7:52 pm  

    Deep

    Don’t get it twisted. It is only a symbol now. It wasn’t originally.

  56. Shatterface — on 10th February, 2010 at 9:59 pm  

    ‘I know you’re dumb, but I thought at least you would understand the irony, given the video was having a go at Sarah Palin for her hypocrisy on the issue.’

    Oh, IRONY. I get it.

    ‘Nice try though shatterface, just reinforces why I’ve stopped taking you seriously.’

    So, once and for all, is ‘retard’ an acceptable insult in your world? Is a bit of consistancy too much to ask?

  57. Shatterface — on 10th February, 2010 at 10:11 pm  

    ‘The reality here is that there is little, if any, evidence to suggest that the increasing presence of Sikhs in the UK has in any way correlated with either an observed rise in crime or decline in social cohesion or even economic underperformance.’

    We’ve seen increasing militancy among all religious groups in this country and Sikhs are no exception. (And by ‘militancy’ I mean violence or threats of violence, not the ‘militancy’ of atheists which amounts to nothing more than being a bit rude.)

    When free speech is threatened by people motivated by superstition and who see themselves answerable only to higher powers it *matters* if they are armed; it *matters* if *purely* symbolic acts like plays, books or cartoons are censored.

  58. Deep Singh — on 11th February, 2010 at 10:44 am  

    Dalbir:

    “Don’t get it twisted. It is only a symbol now. It wasn’t originally”

    As I have mentioned in my original post, a symbol has both utility and significance, thus a Kirpan fulfills both aspects, where a Dagger / Knife etc only has utility, thus a Kirpan is a symbol.

    The Treh Mudrah or what poets later referred to as the Punj Kakkar (a term that has since remained popular with the Sikh masses) are all symbols of a Guru’s Sikh.

    Perhaps you are misunderstanding the use of the term ‘symbol’, which I trust is clarified above, with the notion that Amritdhari Sikhs should only wear a ‘symbolic’ representation of a Kirpan – this is not the case, the Kirpan itself is a symbol.

  59. Deep Singh — on 11th February, 2010 at 10:51 am  

    Shatterface:

    “We’ve seen increasing militancy among all religious groups in this country and Sikhs are no exception. (And by ‘militancy’ I mean violence or threats of violence, not the ‘militancy’ of atheists which amounts to nothing more than being a bit rude.)”

    Again, I will ask for a SIGNIFICANT correlation to be evidenced where a rising population of Amritdhari Sikhs (i.e. those who by obligation wear a Kirpan) has seen in the UK a rise in “violence or threats of violence” where the Kirpan has abused as part of the supposed “violence or threats of violence”.

    As for the assertion that “the ‘militancy’ of atheists which amounts to nothing more than being a bit rude” – this is truly laughable!!!

    The 20th century is replete with example after example of the horrors mankind faced in the name of Atheistic, Scientific and Political ‘progress’.

    I would have hoped for a tad more maturity on part of your argument.

  60. Ali — on 11th February, 2010 at 7:30 pm  

    If it’s all about symbolism then why not just wear a plastic replica instead of an actual sword/dagger?

    And if it isnt just symbolism but instead there is a self defense or ‘protect the defenseless’ angle to it as some have suggested here then why don’t uk baptised Sikhs do exactly that – protect the defenseless here in the UK with their swords?

  61. persephone — on 12th February, 2010 at 10:55 pm  

    The kirpan/talwar/khanda were used as a last resort to fight oppression during times when non violent remedies were not feasible. Real weapons to deal with a physical threat.

    Can it be that, in current times, it is metaphorically replaced by the use of the pen as a more feasible latter day ‘weapon? As in the pen is now mightier than the sword to fight the same issues of intolerance. Like this blog for instance.

    Though when I hear the BNP spouting their oppressive policies it makes me wonder where my family put great great great granddaddies talwar, y’know just in case voluntary repatriation is not as voluntary as one would believe.

  62. Dalbir — on 13th February, 2010 at 1:38 pm  

    Pers

    Be glad we have something to fall back on in the event of the pen not achieving its end.

    I hope it never comes to that but looking at human history it would be extremely naive to totally discount the possibility.

  63. Dan — on 16th February, 2010 at 10:11 pm  

    Since nobody really seems to understand the (or “a”) secularist point of view, I’ll try and explain it.

    And guess what, it’s not about “confusing” atheism and secularism. The National Secular Society distinguishes between its theological opinions and its political aims, and understands the difference. Apparently this is too subtle for some commentators, who also know nothing about the actual history of secularism and its meaning, and how that informs the current stance of the NSS.

    The NSS does sometimes draw attention to the absurdity of religion as another method of undermining the political and moral authority of religion. That’s because its largely an organisation of non-believers. But its an organisation of nonbelievers who want a secular state, not State Atheism.

    On the kirpan question, I’m sure most Sikhs would never use the knife (though some of the comments here indicate that there remains a real self-defence aspect for some – it’s not merely symbolic), but lots of people who might like to carry a knife would never use one anti-socially. The key question for secularists has to be: why should the law apply differently just because of the religious affiliations of the individual? Leaving aside all the fulminations, what is actually the answer to that question?

    We’re told by some Sikhs that they “have to” wear a kirpan. Why? Yes, tradition and all that, I understand. But why do you have to wear it? What happens if you don’t? Given that lots of Sikhs don’t in fact wear the kirpan, and some have said they don’t particularly want to, why are liberals listening most to the would-be religious police who insist they get to decide what constitutes a religious duty, and not to those who say “actually, a little kirpan badge would do”.

    Because, if we’re going to end up with a communalist legal system, let’s be clear what the consequences of that will be for women, for gay people, for dissenters and so forth. Especially if the fundamentalists and strictest religious interpretations are automatically taken as the most authentic.

    It’s easy stuff today, but there are principles at stake here. “One law for all” is not just an empty slogan. It’s something the left and liberals should cherish.

    Take the legal right of Jewish and Muslim people to slaughter without pre-stunning. Nobody else can do this. If an atheist did it, they would be breaking the law. Why? Shouldn’t it either be legal for everyone or illegal for everyone? Why should religious doctrine (and again it seems there are plenty of places where it turns out the “duty” can be compromised after all) override animal welfare? If the argument is that animal welfare is not an issue in ritual slaughter at all really, then fine, let everyone do it. But if it *is* an issue, it’s an issue regardless of your religion.

    Nobody much minds about Sikhs not having to wear motorcycle helmets. There’s not much social risk there. But carrying knives? In school? Seems a bit different. If we don’t draw the line there, where do we draw it?

    It’s tempting to go with the “local conditions” line. I’m tempted by it myself. But look at the hijab examples. A local school agrees with “local community leaders” about what they will and won’t permit in line with uniform rules. Then along comes someone who thinks those local rules are altogether too relaxed (why might they think that, eh?), and you end up in conflict, and meanwhile you’ve shifted the struggle between religious liberalism and religious illiberalism a little more to the illiberal side because now the more extreme rules are more “authentic”. It increases the pressure on more secular types in the community.

    These are serious issues, not reduceable to “militant atheism”. Our society is a multicultural one, and we have a choice about whether we want it to say multicultural or whether it will turn decisively into mulitiple monolithic cultures. For us to live together as one society, we have to negotiate our behaviour in shared space. Secularism is a way of trying to establish and protect equality in that shared space. If you have people insisting that their particular interpretation of religion overrides the interests of everyone else, then you have a recipe for disaster.

    This is important, that’s why people get upset. Some commentators seem altogether too blase about these issues, or else dismiss legitimate concerns as “militant atheism”. But even if you don’t agree with the “militant atheist” tone, what if they’re right about the problem?

    Dan

  64. Dan — on 16th February, 2010 at 10:32 pm  

    I quite liked this article by Sunny, warning of “mindless rituals”:
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/apr/12/religion

    Dan

  65. douglas clark — on 16th February, 2010 at 11:03 pm  

    Don @ 63,

    There was a settled will on this subject away back in 1988 – The Criminal Justice Act made an exception. Sikhs were allowed to carry a kirpan.

    What changed?

  66. a.kaur — on 20th March, 2010 at 2:52 pm  

    Imagine that ‘a ceremonial dagger’ was part of a nun’s habit. I don’t think that a fuss would be made should a nun be seen in public with ‘a ceremonial dagger’, because it takes a special kind of person with good morals to become a nun. So, as a Sikh myself, I know that it is only a special kind of person with good morals that becomes baptised into the Khalsa. Once baptised into the Khalsa, it is compulsory to wear the 5 Ks – the Kirpan being one. People of the general public need to realise that not all Sikhs are baptised -that is a decision made by each individual Sikh. I, for example, am not ready to make that huge commitment as of yet.

  67. Jai — on 20th March, 2010 at 6:25 pm  

    A belated response to some questions by Dan, to reinforce the excellent points made by a.kaur above :

    We’re told by some Sikhs that they “have to” wear a kirpan. Why? Yes, tradition and all that, I understand.

    Not just “tradition”; it’s a part of the “uniform” of baptised (ie. Amritdhari) Sikhs, and constitutes one of the external “5Ks” that they wear. In a manner of speaking, it’s like voluntarily being inducted into an order of knights. The kirpan and the other four “Ks” signify that the Sikh concerned has formally joined this order, with the associated level of self-discipline, full commitment, and code of conduct involved.

    But why do you have to wear it?

    Only Sikhs who have undergone the Amrit baptism ceremony “have” to wear it. It’s also worth re-emphasising at this stage that becoming an Amritdhari Sikh is completely voluntary.

    What happens if you don’t?

    Nothing. As I’ve repeatedly stated earlier on this thread, and as has been reiterated by several other commenters, this only applies to Amritdhari Sikhs.

    Given that lots of Sikhs don’t in fact wear the kirpan,

    Most Sikhs are not Amritdhari, ie. baptised, and therefore this does not apply to them.

    why are liberals listening most to the would-be religious police

    There is no “religious police” in Sikhism.

    who insist they get to decide what constitutes a religious duty,

    This hasn’t been decided by some kind of “Sikh religious police” — it was established directly by Guru Gobind Singh, the last human Sikh Guru, on Vaisakhi in 1699 when he first inducted 5 Sikhs (all volunteers) formally into the Khalsa via the aforementioned Amrit baptism ceremony. He subsequently underwent the same induction ceremony himself, at their hands.

    A Sikh can’t unilaterally declare him/herself to be an Amritdhari Sikh; they first have to undergo the relevant Khalsa induction ceremony at the hands of 5 Amritdhari Sikhs who are already baptised themselves. Again, this precedent was established directly by Guru Gobind Singh, was duplicated thousands of times during his lifetime, and has subsequently constituted the formal process for the last 300 years. As a result, worldwide, wherever there are Amritdhari Sikhs, they are the result of a chain of baptism stretching back directly to Guru Gobind Singh and his actions on Vaisakhi in 1699. Non-existent “religious police” have absolutely nothing to do with it.

  68. Jai — on 20th March, 2010 at 6:27 pm  

    Dalbir,

    Be glad we have something to fall back on in the event of the pen not achieving its end.

    I hope it never comes to that but looking at human history it would be extremely naive to totally discount the possibility.

    Exactly.

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