Under Attack: Self-Defense for Sikhs, Christians, Jews & Muslims



First Aurora, Colorado shocked the nation and now a shooting at the Sikh Temple in Wisconsin is creating an international furor over U.S. gun laws. An active shooter in suburban Milwaukee murdered six people and three others were critically wounded, including Oak Creek Police Officer Lt. Brian Murphy.

Lt. Brian Murphy ran to the scene of the shooting at the Sikh temple and was helping a victim when the gunman shot him. Another police officer engaged the killer and stopped further loss of life by ending the life of Wade Michael Page.

Page played in white supremacist heavy metal bands with names such as Definite Hate and End Apathy. The Southern Poverty Law Center described Page as a “frustrated neo-Nazi”.

Sikhism is a 500 year old religious faith known for tolerance and regard for the sanctity of life. The world’s fifth-largest religion with about 27 million adherents, the Seattle Times reports 80,000 to 500,000 Sikhs live in the U.S.-possibly 25,000 in Washington, mostly living in nearby Renton and Kent with other concentrations in Seattle, Bellevue, Marysville, Bellingham and Spokane.

Although Sikhs are peace loving people, the universal symbol of Sikhism is the khanda, a double edged sword symbolizing the ability of truth to cut through the duality of illusion. Like the symbol of the cross in Christianity, the khanda is depicted on a flag which is seen flying outside every Sikh Gurdwara or temple.

Traditionally Sikh men in and around the Punjabi considered it a religious duty to own and wear elaborately adorned ceremonial kirpans, traditional curved daggers. The founder of the Sikh faith, Gobind Singh, commanded male followers to carry the kirpan during the centuries long struggle against the Islamic Moguls that ruled many areas of the Indian subcontinent in the past.

I went to a Sikh wedding and did not see any cutlery except for butter knives. I have discussed the Sikh’s martial history with Sikhs and the daggers are either a lost tradition or an aspect of their culture which the Punjabi people don’t wish to discuss. The duty to wear the ornately jeweled traditional kirpan may be a thing of the past for American Sikhs possibly because many of the Punjabi families have lived in the United States for several generations.

It would be no wonder if Sikhs did not want to discuss all their beliefs. There have been many documented instances of ignorant Americans attacking them in misguided attempts to avenge the attacks on the World Trade Center. The New York-based Sikh Coalition has reported more than 700 hate crimes in the U.S. since Sept. 11, 2001. Ironically, many folks confuse Sikhs with followers of Islam because the men wear turbans and beards.

Authorities are not sure what Page’s motive was but, with so many people in and around South King County that practice the Sikh religion, I am planning to reach out and provide classes on the laws of armed defense to any local gurdwara- or mosque, synagogue or church- that wishes to work with us to provide such legal training for their people at little or no cost.

One pastor in Kent asked me to provide a one-hour legal segment for a Personal Protection in the Home class. This is normally a two-day NRA class; the NRA requires that an attorney or officer of the law provide the legal segment which is part of each class. So many people signed up for the class that I taught my one-hour portion three times in one week and attended one of the three classes through the entire day, including an intensive live-fire event.

Many local churches are quietly encouraging a few volunteers to be armed at church because of all the mass shootings that have occurred in churches nationwide. Seattle has already experienced a shooting at the Jewish Federation that resulted in mass fatalities and casualties.

The President of the Sikh temple near Milwaukee, Satwant Singh Kaleka, 65, had to grab a butter knife in the temple to defend his flock. He stabbed the lone gunman before being shot twice. FBI agents reportedly told Satwant’s son that Satwant was a hero because he died giving some women in the gurdwara time to take cover.

The ability of the Islamic community to defend its members will also be critical, especially if there is ever another major attack like 9/11 or atrocities against children in a school in which Middle Eastern terrorists are involved. Certain terrorist groups are aiming to target schools in hopes that some Americans will retaliate against Muslims, thus radicalizing American Muslims who tend to be moderate. With so many hate groups out there, however, it is difficult to predict who will attack next or what the weapons may be. We have seen box cutters, airliners, fertilizer and all kinds of improvised weapons of mass destruction deployed by many different groups within the United States and abroad.

The FBI is leading the investigation into the Sikh shooting because it is now viewed as domestic terrorism or a hate crime. But even if taxpayers could afford to station an FBI agent or uniformed officer at every church and school in the nation, it would be important to have at least a few specially trained men and women that are prepared to react with deadly force as volunteers.

A woman that volunteered to protect a church in Colorado stopped a man that had already killed four other people, including two sisters right outside the church. She took aim and fired while many others, including armed security, froze when they saw the killer coming into the church armed with a rifle and pistol. Uniformed officers are often the first people shot by someone twisted enough to carry out such an atrocity.

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