Denmark: kirpan banned

The kirpan is a knife or sword worn by Sikhs, as part of their religious obligations. It might not be used today as a weapon, and according to Sikh tradition it is there to symbolize non-aggression, but in essence it is a weapon and it is there to be used for defensive purposes. In western countries, it brings to the forefront the clash between the freedom of religion as it is understood today, the freedom to do whatever your religion requires, and the between the country's laws and regulations. This problem comes up especially in schools, since Sikh children are also required to carry the kirpan. In Canada, for example, a ban on the kirpan in schools was overturned by the Supreme Court.

In Denmark a court decided recently that a kirpan is not exempt from the Danish arms law.

The article below criticizes the Danish courts and compares the banning of the kirpan to the banning of the niqab. There might be similarities, in the sense that both are required by religious law, but other than that, they are very different. The kirpan is a weapon. It can be big and small, and nothing forces it to be over 7 cm long as Danish law requires.

Freedom of religion was thought up in order to make sure that people could believe whatever they wanted. It is not a coverall for anything people want to do.

Sikhs in Denmark can no longer carry a kirpan in public. The eastern high court has upheld a ruling by a Copenhagen court last year, which convicted Ripudaman Singh, an Indian, for violating Danish arms law that prohibits carrying knives longer than 7cm.

Singh, a 31-year-old scientist visiting the US embassy in Copenhagen in 2004, handed in his kirpan while going through a security check. Instead of allowing him into the embassy, the authorities called police. Singh was arrested and the case went to court.

The court said that though Singh wore the blunt knife as a religious symbol, it violated a ban on carrying knives except for carrying out a trade, hunting, fishing, or other recreational activities.

But the court ruled that Singh would not have to pay the 3,000 kroner fine ordered by the lower court last year.

“Carrying of kirpan is a basic tenet of Sikhism,” said Singh’s father Gurcharan Singh Lamba, who lives in Punjab. The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee viewed the Danish court ruling with concern and said it would take up the issue with the central government.

Source: DNA (English)

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