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Monday, 8 February 2010

The judge who missed the point

Fancy taking a dagger into school with you? Onto a plane? Into any other public space? Chances are you’d be stopped if it was found on you, and made to part with it – even be hauled off for possessing an offensive weapon.

That is, of course, unless you subscribe to a particular brand of god bothering.

A judge has said that kids ought to be able to carry their ceremonial dagger, the so-called kirpan, in school. Sikh kids, that is. And the judge’s own religion? Well, Sikh, of course.

He is Sir Mota Singh, who has criticised schools over the issue of weapons – er, sorry, kirpans.

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

Oh, yes? How does he work that out? What is right and not right in a society that doesn’t generally allow weapons to be carried on the person – especially in sensitive areas such as schools and airports? What the hell has baptism got to do with it?

“Last year,” says the BBC story linked to above, “a Sikh police officer, who had been told to remove his turban during riot training, won a discrimination case against Greater Manchester Police.”

Can’t do much harm with a turban, though, can you? You could strangle someone with it, I guess, but you could probably do that with a trouser leg or a belt.

The same story also tells us a schoolboy was also banned from “wearing” his kirpan at the Compton School in Barnet, north London. This fact follows straight on from the turban reference, as if the two were comparable.

They are, but not in the weapons sense. They are comparable in the sense that health and safety trumps religions – or should. If Mr Bloggs or Mr Smith isn’t allowed to wear some sort of towel round his head during such training, Mr Bhachu or Mr Narindra should not be, either.

There was also the case in 2008 of a girl in a Welsh school who insisted on wearing a religious bangle. I’d have no objection to this if it didn’t contravene health-and-safety rules and if the school’s policy were to allow such jewellery. But the school’s policy was not to allow it. You may disagree with that (and the bangle looks unimposing and harmless enough), but, if kids of other religions and none are expected to follow the rules, so should those of the Sikh religion.

Mota Singh is quoted as saying, “I wear my Kirpan and 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. I think these are issues that can be dealt with with a certain amount of sensitivity.”

Yes Sir Mota – sensitivity to public safety, which means not carrying daggers to school.

The Compton School even bent over backwards to accommodate the silly practice, by offering the boy the option of wearing a smaller knife, welded into a metal sheath, rendering it harmless, one assumes, but his obstinate parents refused and withdrew him from the school.

Well, that’s up to them. I wouldn’t want a kid of mine to be going to a school where kids are allowed to carry daggers, thanks very much.

Singh also says there’s been no reported incident of a Sikh using a knife to cause injury. As a judge he ought to know better than to use such an argument. That it hasn’t happened yet doesn’t mean it won’t. And, anyway, if a kid with a dangerous dagger on his belt got into a fight, there’s always the danger that the weapon would be nicked by another kid and used in said fight.
Related links:
Let religionists carry knives into Parliament building, says MEP
Head case

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