Sikh boy withdrawn from school because he can’t carry "holy" dagger

NSS Newsline - 16 october 2009
Thursday 22 October 2009
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A 14 year old Sikh boy has been withdrawn from Compton School in Barnet, North London amid claims of religious discrimination after the school refused to permit him to carry a ceremonial kirpan dagger. When he arrived for school, he was asked whether he was carrying the 5in kirpan. When he said yes, the school turned him away saying that the dagger represented a health and safety risk.

Now Sikh activists are accusing the school of religious discrimination, saying that the kirpan is one of five "articles of faith" that "must" be carried at all times. The school governors have said they have tried to find a compromise, suggesting that he could wear a 2in version of the dagger, welded into a sheath. But that was rejected as the family who said that would be a "replica" and not a "holy" object. The boy has been carrying the dagger for two years, but it was only last month that he was told it was not allowed.

The headmaster of the school said that the boy’s place at the school was being held open should he feel able to wear the compromise version of the kirpan. But, of course, there can never be compromise in these cases. The religious activists who bring them will give no quarter. Mejindarpal Kaur, director of community group United Sikhs, said: "The Compton School’s decision is a blow to religious freedom in Barnet – schools throughout the UK have accommodated Sikh students who wear a kirpan." The boy is now being privately educated.

The Department for Children, Schools and Families said it was up to schools to make their own policy on the carrying of the kirpan and that, if challenged, it would be up to the courts to decide.

Terry Sanderson, President of the National Secular Society, said: "This is yet another example of religious activists trying to carve out special privileges for themselves by claiming discrimination where there is none. No other pupil in the school is permitted to walk around with a dagger, so why should this boy be made a special case? He may have no intention of misusing the dagger, but who is to say that someone else might not take it from him? The presence of knives in schools is a menace. Imagine the furore if someone was injured by this knife. The school would be sued mercilessly if it was known that it had deliberately allowed such a dangerous object into the classroom or school yard."

See also: California seeks to legalise carrying of kirpan Kirpan permitted in Olympic venues


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