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UK Sikhs want guidelines on kirpan

Wednesday, 21 November 2007 - 2:20am IST
British Sikhs are allowed by law to wear a kirpan, but thanks to the tighter security arrangements after 9/11 and 7/7, they are often denied entry into public places.

They want the govt to clearly explain where they can wear one, and where not


LONDON: British Sikhs are allowed by law to wear a kirpan, but thanks to the tighter security arrangements after 9/11 and 7/7, they are often denied entry into public places by security guards.

Fed up with the harassment they are now demanding that the government give clear guidelines about exactly where they are allowed to wear a kirpan and where they are not.

“Under the Offensive Weapons Act, a kirpan is exempt because it is an article of faith but security personnel deny us entry to public places because we are carrying it,” said Jagtar Singh, vice chair of Sikh Federation UK.

Sikh men and women wear the small sword with a three-to-four-inch blade in a sling across the body. “The blade is fairly blunt. How many times has a Sikh attacked someone with it?” asked Singh.

While Sikhs have won the right to wear a kirpan in Britain’s tolerant, multicultural society, lately the Sikh Federation has been receiving dozens of complaints from Sikhs who are prevented from visiting tourist places, government offices or anywhere they are subjected to a body search because they are wearing it.

In fact three Sikh men were recently stopped from giving their driving test because their kirpan was visible, worn over their clothes.

A crisis meeting was held at the Houses of Parliament between ministers, the All Party Parliamentary Group of UK Sikhs and several other British Sikh groups but so far no guideline has been forthcoming.

“In January 2005, we asked the government for a clear code on carrying a kirpan so there are no inconsistencies. The government says they are working on a code of practice but they are taking too long. The wheels of government are turning slowly,” said Singh.

A spokeswoman for the Department for Communities and Local Government confirmed they were working on it.

“We intend to disseminate best practice guidance across government departments. We will also be convening a meeting between the Association of Chief Police Officers and Sikh community representatives to discuss the issue,” she said.




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