Sunday, May 21, 2017

The Sikh Kirpan and Italy: Religious freedom or a threat to security?

Photo: jasleen_kaur @ Flickr
The Italian Supreme Court has recently ruled against a Sikh migrant carrying a ceremonial knife in public. News of this are travelling all around the world, raising serious questions about respect, freedom of religion and the relationship between law and religion.
According to the Italian media, the specific case concerns a Sikh man’s appeal against a court’s decision that ordered him to pay a £1,700 fine because he left his house armed with a 20 centimetre-long knife.
The specific knife is a religious symbol of Sikhism and is called the Kirpan. Guru Gobind Singh, the 10th Sikh Guru/spiritual master of the religion, gave a religious commandment in 1699 ordering Sikhs to wear five articles of faith at all times: the Kirpan,Kesh (uncut hair), Kangha (a wooden comb for the hair), Kara (an iron bracelet) and Kachera (100 per cent cotton tie-able undergarment).
Despite, the defendant’s religious arguments, the court ruled that he, as an immigrant, must ensure that his beliefs are legally compatible with those of his host country: “Multi-ethnic society is a necessity, public safety is an asset to be protected.”
On 24 October 2006, Denmark was the first country in the world to ban the wearing of the Kirpan. In Belgium in 2009, it was declared that carrying a Kirpan was regarded as “carrying a freely obtainable weapon without any legal reason”, overturning a €550 fine.
On the other hard, in 1994, it was held in the US that Sikh students in public schools have the right to wear the Kirpan. It is also allowed in most public places in Canada, including the federal parliamentary building and school premises as long as it is sealed and secured on the person.
In England, possession of the Kirpan without valid reason in a public place is illegal. However, the defendant could invoke the defence of carrying it for “religious reasons”. It should be highlighted that while all kinds of weapons were prohibited at the London 2012 Summer Olympics, the Kirpan was allowed.
with thanks : MANCUNION : LINK : for detailed report

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