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Let Sikh pupils wear ceremonial daggers, judge says

Discussion in 'Sikh Sikhi Sikhism' started by spnadmin, Feb 9, 2010.

  1. spnadmin

    spnadmin United States
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    Let Sikh pupils wear ceremonial daggers, judge says

    Let Sikh pupils wear ceremonial daggers, judge says | World news | guardian.co.uk

    Britain's first Asian judge Sir Mota Singh says Sikhs should not be banned from wearing kirpans to school or work

    Britain's first Asian judge has called for Sikhs to be allowed to wear their ceremonial daggers to school.

    The comments by Sir Mota Singh QC, come after a number of cases of Sikhs being banned from wearing the daggers – known as kirpans – and other religious artefacts in schools or workplaces.

    "Not allowing someone who is baptised to wear a kirpan is not right," Singh told the BBC Asian Network.

    "I see no objection to a young Sikh girl or boy, who's been baptised, being allowed to wear their kirpan if that's what they want to do."

    In October last year a Sikh police officer won a discrimination case against Greater Manchester police after being told to remove his turban for riot training.

    In the same month a 14-year-old Sikh boy was banned from wearing his Kirpan – which under Sikhism is one of five "articles of faith" which must be carried at all times – to his school in Barnet, London.

    In 2006, schoolgirl Sarika Watkins-Singh won a high court judgment allowing her to wear the kara, a slim steel bracelet which she argued was central to her faith, to her school in south Wales. She had previously been excluded for breaking a "no jewellery" rule after refusing to remove the bangle.

    "The girl not allowed to wear the kara is a petty thing for the administrators to have done and it doesn't do them any good," Singh said.

    "It is the right of every young girl and boy to be educated at the school of their choice. For him or her to be refused admission on that sort of ground, as far as I'm concerned, is quite wrong."

    Singh, who was awarded a knighthood in the 2010 New Year honours list, said he wore a kirpan.

    "I've always worn it for the last 35 to 40 years, even when I was sitting in court or visiting public buildings, including Buckingham Palace."

    In addition to the kara and kirpan, the other articles of faith are kesh (uncut hair), kanga (a wooden comb used for keeping hair in place under the turban) and kachera (specially designed cotton underwear).

    The kirpan, which can range in length but is commonly 7.5cm (3in) long, is carried in a sheath and strapped to the body, usually under clothing.
     

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  3. Randip Singh

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    People may be surprised about my view on this, but I don't think kids should carry Kirpans in schools.

    There have been high profile stabbings in the UK, and my fear is that eaither a Kirpan will be used by someone wearing it (unlikely), or it is taken off someone and used (more likely).:(

    I go back to when Sikhs were first baptised, the original Panj Pyarey were responsible grown men, not kids.
     
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  4. Lee

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    I agree with this Randip ji,

    I posted my comments on the BBC's 'Have your say' page about this yesterday and mentioned much the same thing.
     
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  5. spnadmin

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    It may be a cultural difference -- however, I take a different view Lee ji and Randip ji.

    I believe the core principle should be decided first -- resolved the kirpan can be carried/worn in public places. The the conditional elements should be decided next: what age threshold, how should it be carried, where may it not be carried (e.g., airports perhaps), and why these conditions are necessary.

    The underlying principle is the right to wear symbols of religious identity and faith? The second question is shall children have the right to wear symbols of their religious identity and faith?

    When the courts do not sort out the difference between the two, then the decision they make will extend to all symbols of religious identity and faith -- kirpan, etc. as we see has happened in France.

    If the first principle is not upheld initially, and the whys and what not's decided afterward, then the first principle gets bogged down with context. In the end it gets lost and all the exceptions take over and seem more important than the core value itself. The main question is side-stepped. The controversy becomes muddled. And after that no one really gets to the core issue: Why do Sikhs carry kirpan in the first place? Lame excuses prevail and religious identity is nicked and chipped one more time.
     
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  6. spnadmin

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  7. Lee

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    I can certianly see why people here in the Uk have been inflamed by this news story. However as Narayanjot ji touches upon we are in fact garented by law permission to wear the Kirpan.

    I think as I have mentioned before that there are no Sikh children. How can one claim membership of any faith, dharma or religon without first a belife in the existance of a creator God and secondly certian knowledge of the dogma that ther are proscribing to?

    So should children have the right to wear articles of their faith? If they of their own mind understand all that I have said above then yes, certianly. If a child is religous merely because she has been brought up in a religous house hold, then I say wait until they have made their own mins up. Our Rehat states that anybody taking Amrit should not be too young anyway.

    I have read the link you provided, and I think that when it comes to religoin there are many pitfalls. Now I am a religous man and so I am biased, but as there is nothing comparable to the idea of a creative God, and there is nothing comparable to the scope of religious faith to rule the way a person is, then yes it is important that the religous be accorded certian privilages that perhaps the unreligous do not get.

    That on the surface sounds unfair, let me asure you that it is not. There are laws here in the UK which govern the carring of a knife, I could not carry a blade out on the streets it is unlawfull for me to do so, unless....

    I was a Baptised Sikh, or I was a butcher or a chef.

    Execptions to law are not uncommon, nor is it unfair that such exceptions be made. We are not all alike, and the chef stopped by a police man on his way to work, searched and found in posetion of a long and sharp chefs blade will be told to go on his way rather than be arrested.
     
  8. spnadmin

    spnadmin United States
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    Lee ji

    Most of what you are saying pertains to religious validity of the kirpan for some and/or not others.

    I am addressing the question of prior restraint. Exceptions to the law under the English tradition (though it may have been compromised over the years) are made when there is a socially compelling reason to prohibit a practice, and when there is sufficient evidence to make a case that there is a socially compelling reason.

    So my point is -- it is bad law to base judgments on the argument "that something might happen." Is there evidence? -- not anecdotal evidence, as in a kid might take a kirpan away from a Sikh child and hurt someone, it happened in Scotland, I heard it from my sister-in-law, and it was reported in the newspaper. How many times has a child injured another with a kirpan? How many times has another child done harm with a kirpan stolen from another child? How many police reports are there of these events?

    The justices are considering this question - the right to carry a symbol of religious identity - as a legal question that has implications for the entire polity of Great Britain. A decision rendered based on contextual details relevant to Sikhs alone. They are not in a position to decide whether this or that child is or is not really a Sikh. Or whether a Sikh must be baptized to be a Sikh. Or whether children in general can be Sikhs.

    That is the kind of argument that is distracting from basic ideals of law in the English/US/Canadian system of justice. Those questions fall outside of constitutional review and common law, given the theory of "rights" that are relevant. In France, Italy, even India, a different theory of rights prevails.
     
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  9. Lee

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    Narayanjot ji,

    Ahhhh I see. What I don't see though is this. If it is bad law to make law based upom the fear of what may happen, then isn't it equaly as bad to make law based on 'well this hasn't happend yet'?

    Isn't it rather a moot point any way as Sikhs have the right to carry the Kirpan already protected by UK law, and the European court of human rights.

    Are you claiming that our law makers are considering makeing changes to this?

    The problem as I see it, is that carrying a knife around over a certian lenght is not lawfull here, so any execptions made must be seen to conform with good sense. It makes no sense to deny a chef the right to carry his tools to work, and thus this exception is easy to understand and would barely kick up a pong let alone a stink amongst the population of the UK.

    This largley secular nation finds it hard to reconcie a knife as an article of religous faith, and so bad feelings arise with news stories like this. So I think it better to educate about what the Kirpan is and what it means to Khasla, to ensure that children are perhaps not permited Amrit untill old enough to choose Sikhi. This idea that there are no religous children, but children of religous parents is prevalant over here and I think that this is the correct track to take to enable bad feelings about this to diminish.
     
  10. Randip Singh

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    Interesting issue.

    Let me throw something into the mix.

    I used to take my Kara off when playing Rugby because I didn't want to hurt my teamates or opposition players.

    Can an analogy be drawn from this?

    Does safety and welfare of individuals overide the right to wear Religious symbols?

    I think if it my own health and safety, then I should be allowed to choose, for example, I can legal commit suicide in the UK, but when others health and safety is being compromised, then I have to question my actions.

    Surely the Sikh priciple of Sarbat Da Bhalla applies here?
     
  11. Ghostface Killah

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    I think the issue should be do the kids wearing the kirpan have any knowledge of its significance etc... I have never heard of a case were the kirpan was used in a violent act. But i have come across where the presence of the Kirpan was enough to keep gangs of bullys or racists of these youngsters and teens.

    Once i was with an amritdhari friend of mine walking in the evening and a group of white youths were gathered im guessing they had been drinking. So basically they began to shout some racist abuse the usual " taliban, ****" stuff. Now the group had started to walk towards us shouting abuse, so i was thinking we were gonna get our heads kicked in. But when they seen friends kirpan though it was covered it was pointing out from the bottom of his jacket. and when they seen the kirpan they stopped we carried on walking, they just stood there and shouted a few more abuses.

    All in all now if he never had a kirpan the story could have been alot more tragic. 15 guys vs 2? you can do the math
     
  12. spnadmin

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    Ghostface Killah ji

    I have to admit I am a little baffled by the latter part of your response, though I agree with the first. Will try to weave the reactions of Lee ji and Randip Singh ji together with yours.

    The matter of the right to " carry a kirpan" is not quite the same thing as "the right to bear arms." How to explain?

    When one dons a kirpan one is not gearing up for battle with potential muggers or murderers; nor is one necessarily on the hunt for evil-doers in the streets of town. As far as I know Sikhs are not stockpiling kirpan according to a doomsday scenario. Therefore society has no compelling reason to suspect that harm will be done if anyone, including young children, carry the kirpan. There is as far as I know very little reported evidence that anyone, including children, have used the kirpan as a weapon.

    So, what is the legal principle that would guide a court to "restrain" a religious practice because "it might lead to violence and injury?"

    English law -- which is the inspiration for US and Canadian law -- gives individuals credit for having sufficient intelligence to make decisions about how to live their lives without undue interference from the government (Magna Carta). Conversely, the Napoleonic Code which guides much of Europe and some parts of Africa and the Middle East makes a different assumption: People need to be protected from themselves and their own stupidity. Which theory of rights do your prefer?

    In the Anglo-American framework -- when it can be shown that there is a "compelling reason" to limit a freedom in some way, then that is accomplished through due process and courts of law. In the Napoleonic framework freedoms are granted, and thus freedoms can be taken away, and the reasons can be manifold and even contradictory. But they are typically based on the need to protect the public being a greater concern than the need to protect a freedom. When government gives, government can take away. Consider the mischief that comes from that according to the rule of political whims and electoral politics instead of rule of law.

    I do not have any problem with an individual deciding to limit his inalienable personal freedoms by removing his kara, his kirpan, his kanga (though things could get sloppy), his kesh, or his kechera (one does have to bathe) according to his/her own judgment. I do have a problem when the government decides I am not clever enough to figure things out on my own.

    As for children -- children learn by example, not by denying them the opportunities to weigh and judge and reason (of course with adult teaching and guidance).

    Enjoyable!
     
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    #11 spnadmin, Feb 10, 2010
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  13. Randip Singh

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    Don't get me wrong Narayanjot ji, I actually agree with your atand point and distinction between the codes of law and the right to wear religious symbols.

    However, I have been trying to get my head round the concept of Sarbat Da Bhalla, in this instance a Sikh carries a Kirpan for Sarbat da Bhalla. It is there to protect the week and those that cannot defend themselves.

    The my thought goes to the fact Sarbat Da Balla (Good for all) could be interpreted as for the greater good it may be better not to carry a Kirpan.

    The need to defend others is outweighed by the need of general safety?
     
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  14. Tejwant Singh

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    Allow me to add my two cent worth.

    First and foremost Khandei di pahul should not be the end to justify the means but the means that lead to it. By this I mean that young kids should be taught how to live like Sikhs as good/honest students, sons, daughters, brothers and sisters.

    The Panj Piyaras chosen by Guru Gobind Singh ji were not minors but adults who could take the responsibilities by understanding that five Kakaars were not mere symbols of the Khalsa Panth but daily reminders of truthful living started by Guru Nanak which also included to defend the oppressed and the suppressed. But that can only happen if we are taught how to be truthful from the very young age in order to create the foundation of truthful living.

    I know some cases first hand where the kids who had taken Khandei di Pahul were caught cheating in their tests at schools and a couple of them forged their parents' signatures when they were asked by their teachers to get letters from their parents. They were high school kids.

    Now a days, Khandei di Pahul has become more a kind symbology when young kids are coerced or actively influenced/nudged by their elders to take the pahul rather than teaching them the meaningful path towards Sikhi way of life first. It is like not teaching social skills to the kids and asking them to interact with the world in a mature fashion.

    So, in my point of view, Sikhs should be encouraged to take khandei de pahul after they pass high school and provided they have been taught by their parents and/or through Gurdwara classes how to become good, truthful and responsible citizens as kids first.

    Once they are instilled with this concept then carrying the Kirpan and other Kakaars would not be mere symbols but also the real tools to teach others the depth and breath of this wonderful concept rather than some articles of faith which is a misnomer as a starter.

    Tejwant Singh
     
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  15. BhagatSingh

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    Wah! Couldn't have said it better myself! :happy:
     
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  16. spnadmin

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    Randip ji

    "The need to defend others is outweighed by the need of general safety?"

    This is the classic question of establishing a "community standard" in order to determine whether/what the constraints should be enforced regarding the kirpan. It does not address the question of a fundamental right.

    If the judges make a decision based on upholding a "religious principle" then they will not overstep the bounds of their own duties and responsibilities. Their job is to interpret and uphold the law, not make law.

    Sarbat da Bhalla (good for all) is a Sikh concept that has universal meaning and importance. It may not be the same however as the notion of "the greater good. " To determine the greater good would be the court's next step. The greater good is decided by weighing the cost to the individual versus the cost to society, i.e., what trade-offs can be made without throwing a basic right over-board. The determination requires evidence of clear and present danger.

    You as an individual can decide that Sarbat da Bhalla means you won't wear a kirpan if you think someone else might be injured. But courts have to decide whether Sarbat da Balla has a broader legal application to everyone in the UK, beyond one individual and beyond adherents to any one group. In other words --exactly how does Sarbat da Bhalla get applied in this case? Does it correlate somehow with a community standard for limiting any danger from the kirpan?

    The high court in Britain needs/and probably would consider whether there is any danger to society and under what circumstance such a danger exists and base its decision on that --again in a way that does not compromise a fundamental right, and in a way that takes evidence of any real danger into consideration.
     
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  17. spnadmin

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    P/S I came across a secularist blog yesterday that is following arguments for and against "kirpan" very closely. Amazing, or maybe not, that the extreme secularist internet community believes that restrictions on kirpan generalize to unjust restrictions on even those who are not Sikhs.

    P/S Tejwant ji
    I know of adults who have taken khanda di pahul who believe they can operate outside of the framework of the Sikh Rehat Marayada when it suits them to excommunicate individuals for upholding basic tenets of the Sikh faith.
     
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  18. Tejwant Singh

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    Narayanjot ji,

    Guru Fateh.

    Thanks for catching my subliminal message when I mentioned kids doing naughty things while having the full baana.:)


    Regards

    Tejwant Singh
     
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  19. Randip Singh

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    hehe...yes they can be
    S
    o
    P
    athetic
    Nowadays :}{}{}:
     
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  20. Randip Singh

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    I see.

    There is an element definitely of some people wanting to impose their will on a minority group or people who have held these views (maybe jealousy, hatred etc) using this opportunity.

    It is like people who hate Blair calling him a liar (even before Iraq), and no matter what he says or does they will always call him a liar. Iraq gave them an opportunity to tarnish him a liar, when in reality it if a difference of opinion.

    In this instance I can see those who have always held an opinion on knives, religious symbols etc are going to town and being overboard to impose their view. The reality is they should learn to accept that people have different opinions.
     
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  21. spnadmin

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    Randip ji

    Words more true were never spoken -- If only people would stop imposing their views -- when will it begin? :wah:
     

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