A Sikh man was handcuffed at the University of North Carolina Charlotte for wearing a kirpan, a mandatory article of faith Sikhs must wear at all times.
The young man was reportedly minding his own business in the student union building when campus police approached him after receiving a 911 call alleging that someone was on campus with a knife.
Sikhs are required to wear a kirpan, a ceremonial dagger that (in modern times) is typically blunt or sewn into its sheath entirely.
After trying to remove the kirpan from the student’s person, campus police detained and handcuffed the man for resisting.
Video of the incident, which took place in late September, is going viral on Twitter and Tiktok, and has been viewed millions of times.
The school is already backpedaling to apologize, considering the kirpan is a mandatory article of faith and as such is legally protected. But the incident upset Sikhs across the country, who say it’s not only a gross violation of the young man’s religious freedom, but also a sign of ignorance of Sikh culture and traditions in America.
“A grotesque breach of religious freedom” and “highly irregular” is how the California Sikh Youth Alliance described the incident, which was uploaded by the young man to his Twitter account.
The following day, University of North Carolina Charlotte Chancellor Sharon Gaber issued an apology.
“State law and University policy prohibit the possession of a knife or other edged instruments on campus,” she wrote. “But we will use this as a learning opportunity by engaging in constructive dialogue with Sikh students and employees.”
The incident opened a dialogue on social media on the kirpan and its role within the Sikh faith.
The kirpan is a curved dagger carried by Sikhs, and it is one of the five articles of faith that are mandatory for Sikhs to wear at all times.
The kirpan symbolizes the Sikh’s commitment to defending those in peril. Traditionally it was a full-length sword, but most modern Sikhs wear it as a small, unsharpened dagger in courtesy of modern society’s morals.
Harsimran Kaur, senior counsel for the Sikh Coalition, explains that the kirpan is symbolic of the Sikh commitment to protecting the helpless. “You’re wearing it to commit yourself to that value. It’s not just about physically defending someone. It’s literal and metaphorical; you stand up and speak out about injustice when you see it.”
Outside of high security areas like airports, the right to wear a kirpan is protected by religious freedom laws. Still, violations happen.
In 2010, a Sacramento nursing home prohibited an employee from wearing the kirpan, even after she explained the item’s significance. And in 2015, a teen in New York City was arrested and charged with Criminal Possession of a Weapon. The charges were ultimately dismissed.
Sikh advocates say that misunderstandings are becoming less frequent as American society gains a broader understanding of Sikh values and traditions. As Kaur explains, misunderstandings were far more frequent in the decade following 9/11.
But some question whether ignorance is an acceptable excuse for what happened.
After all, critics point out, there are some 30 million Sikhs on the planet – making it the fifth largest religion in the world. Shouldn’t campus security have a basic understanding of such a widely-practiced faith?
The school said in its apology statement that “our diversity makes us a better, richer, more successful community.” But critics ask: shouldn’t celebrating diversity include a basic education on articles of faith of the world’s major religions?
One Twitter user added: "I must admit I was unaware of kirpan, the significance, or that it has legal exemptions. But then again, I am not a campus police officer on a multicultural campus. Seems like the people we pay to enforce laws, should be well educated in our laws."
What is your reaction?
Sad that a place of education and learning the police were not taught about ceremonial daggers. I know at other colleges, universities and places of work they are trained in diversity and other customs and ceremonial daggers is something they are taught.
Yep, it’s important to learn about the various idiosyncrasies of the religiously delusional. (Insert several sarcasm emoji here] No, it’s not. What’s important is for the student to demonstrate that the ‘knife’ isn’t real and explain how his ‘beliefs’ mandate he carry a toy knife. Then the officer says that’s okay.
Not many non-Sikhs would know about that object and its meaning.
Well, yeah. And given the trigger-happy of the police forces in the US, especially as concerns its interactions with non-white ‘detainees’, I would advise those with that particular brand of delusional beliefs to either consider not carrying a plastic knife only slightly less than a plastic gun or, at the very least, try to put on their ‘happy/cooperative face’ when confronted by lawvenforcement.
How about the risk of infiltration of potential terrorists?
Jesus H. Christ on a pair of rusty crutches! Georgie, terrorists are apparently smarter than you. If you wanted to rob a bank, you’d have to repeat to yourself ALL THE WAY TO THE BANK…
“Go into the bank THEN pull out the gun and yell ‘This is a robbery. Go into the bank THEN pull out the gun and yell ‘This is a robbery.”
And there would still be a chance you’d get out of the car and yell your rehearsed phrase and start waving your gun around anyway anyway.
The number of deaths by domestic terrorists, blowing up federal buildings, walking into churches and schools and opening fire, far outnumber the number of deaths by foreign terrorists.
Dr. Zerpersande, I was simply making a point that the security was doing their job. Period.
Well, then SAY that, don’t bring up some right-wing nonsense.
Just guessing but a officer with control issues decided to exercise his ‘power’ and approached the student in an overly aggressive manner. That’s what most campus cops do. My opinion is that most of them are there because they couldn’t get jobs as real cops. Barney Fife types.
The student likely didn’t ‘respect’ the cop and as is wont these days, got belligerent.
Cue the cuffs.
I’m done with this particular comment. I hate the way this site is designed. It’s done to three words per line.This is evidence of non-intelligent design.
You mean all those terrorists that wreak havoc with a blunted ceremonial toys? I'm certain it is an epidemic. Maybe we should make them wear a turban or something so that we know who they are. Wait. What?
How about the fact that, in the USA, we're already infiltrated by Terrorists. They're wearing MAGA hats, giving a Nazi-esqe salute at rallies, waving a Q flag around, and are committing mass-murders?
Really! read a book one day .
Somebody should have taught TSA that it was radical Islamic terrorists and not kind old women that they should be molesting at airports.
Agreed, Douglas. Like most, I was not aware of the Kirpan but I've only known one Sikh and I didn't know him well enough to ask questions like that. However, how does campus security not inform their staff about this? On a college campus, you are likely to come across people from all faiths. If one of them is required to carry what looks like a deadly weapon for religious purposes is the type of thing I would expect them to know.
Which raises another question... If his Kirpan was not out in the open, who called campus police?
It appears to me that the situation is being blown completely out of proportion. The officer was ignorant but did not disrespect the individual and detained him until things were sorted out. The school issued an apology the very next day. All could have been forgiven and the individuals could have carried on without further adeu. However, it seems some people decided to be overly offended instead.
I had no idea about the Kirpan or any other Sikh traditions. I see them occasionally with their head coverings and believe they are peace loving but there ends my knowledge. I do not expect all officers public or private to know of all religions or their practices. There are simply too many. Treating everyone with respect is what is needed here. It seems as if this was handled well.
Yes U.S. university and college police officers should be aware of EVERY cultural and religious norm and practice from around the world.
And the officers definitely should have known about this as the Sikhs are the 5th largest religion IN THE WORLD.
But here we are talking about the US where there is only about 700k of them where they make up 0.3% of the total US population scattered across the country, sometimes concentrated in certain population centers, of which I do not think that area of North Carolina is one.
So yes, the officer should have been aware of the relatively obscure (in the US) religious practices of a Sikhs.
But why stop there? What if somebody has a practice that is different or unusual to local norms and they belong to the 6th largest religion? Shouldn't the officers be required to know about them as well? What about the practices of people up to the 10th or 20th largest religions by global measurement?
No harm was done to this young man. He cooperated with officers that were there on a weapons call and left unscathed once everything was straightened out.
The university apologized for the misunderstanding and the officers were educated. No need for the victimization machine to go into high gear over the matter.
Sorry the whole country isn't aware of the religious practices of 0.3% of the population, but don't feel too bad. They're probably not aware of the religious practices of those that make up a full 1% either.
The point is that 1. some idjit called 911, because he is a young man WITH A TURBAN. Racial profiling. 2. some idjit pullofficers tried to pull off his ceremonial "dagger" without using their ability to LISTEN and COMMUNICATE, other than through AGGRESSION. Thankfully they only handcuffed this poor student. It makes me disgusted that this is the country in which we live.
Those you call 'idjit' are concerned citizens aware of the potential and very real danger of terrorism.
He was not wearing a turban/ he was wearing a patka.
I know this having dated an Indian girl years ago where one of her brothers was following tradition and the other two and she were not. And while their parents had encourage them to do so when they were younger, they were perfectly willing to let them follow their own path as they were in America and chose a different way.
Anyway, I disagree with your assessment, but I also disagree with the officers approach. It is not the way I would have done it
The whole country is not aware of all religious practices, agreed. But would it be unreasonable for law enforcement to be aware of any religion that requires a weapon to be on the person? It can't be many. On a college campus, officers are likely to come across many people of many faiths. Since a weapon is almost guaranteed to change the tone of an encounter, I would think any peace officer would want to know when a legitimate weapon-like object may be present. It could keep most situations like this from escalating.
Fortunately, it did not turn violent and I would imagine this is something that particular officer will not forget.
Well, my point is, I'm a little tired of everyone being sooo outrageously offended by the least little slight. To me the department having had a on it face as a result of the incident and having issued an apology and acknowledging that if the learning experience was sufficient.
Personally I disagree with the officer's approach. It's not the way I would have done it. Indeed, having been faced with similar situations, I was able to deal with them with more circumspection.
And that's fine as far as it goes, but I don't believe in absolute cultural relativism. Otherwise we should be perfectly fine in this country with Afghan men taking young boys as lovers
I'm not surprised that provencial police in a backward place like NC were unaware of the religious significance of the item. How our government addresses reasonable accommodation of religious practice does seem inconsistent.
Clay, there are backward people in every state. This whole nation is full of stupid people, for crying out loud!!! And G.O.D. only put them here to test my patience & tolerance of others! But they're talking about a university police department. That's a place where people go to become more educated, and I would imagine the cops in such places wouldn't too stupid iether (ordinarily, in most ways). However, to err is human, and since Sikhs aren't running around all over the place I can see how anyone could once make a mistake.
Carl Bernard Elfstrom, they were acting responsibly.
A knife is a knife, Lt. Dan. I'm not a smart man. But I know what a knife is. With all the mass killings in this country, schools, places where many collude, should be designated high threat zones like airports. And these american sikhs should be aware of it. But then again you have bread and butter americans showing up at the grocery store with ak47s. WTF
It is called the 2nd Amendment.
On the admissions' application, was religious preference asked for? Maybe Special Needs or Considerations?
Perhaps if done in a non-threating way (I jest here), this information could be used to look up the basic tenets of that particular religion. Then the appropriate education could begin for all staff members.
Before I deployed for Desert Storm, all of us medics were indoctrinated in the local customs. All the Red Cross insignias (or any Cross symbols - like on Ambulances, Tents, Uniforms and Choppers) were replaced with a Red Crescent in order to respect the local customs. We also spent time learning about cultural taboos so we would not disrespect their religious practices.
If the U.S. Army can think of doing that, I feel confident that a major university campus could easily do the same. I just wonder why they did not?
Hmmm ... another one of those things that make you go ... Hmmm.
What if my religion required that I carry an AK47 or that I have on my person a kilo of Marijuana at all times. The Church of Jesus Christ of Later Day Saints allowed and encorage polegamy but the law trumped their belief. I am all for religious tollearance but also the rule of law. If one wants fo live here than adherance to the law is a price one pays.
Had you read the entire article you would have 'learned' that these most of these'daggers' are unsharpened and sewn into the sheath, as was the case here; "...wear it as a small, unsharpened dagger in courtesy of modern society’s morals."
But...I can easily understand the dangers these things represent, for instance, absolutely no carrying those handheld crucifixes, they could be used to poke, stab or hit a person. Same with those rosaries, someone could use them to choke another person like a garrote, or swing them around and take out an eye. Dangers abound everywhere from those religits.
Canadian Yankee, you are being disingenuous. Of course. I agree with Rev. JJ. Anyone who has ever worked with or spent time with or attended Sikh meals would know the incredible kindness and generosity of the Sikhs.
A gentleman with whom I worked when I lived in Illinois is a Sihk. He was one the very few with whom I would socialize outside work.
While our understanding of the Holy was different, we respected each other's basic decency and intelligence, had a lot of wide ranging conversations over a meal.
Doesn't everyone carry atleast that much marijuana on them, Canadian Yankee? We don't want to run out of smoke, especially in places where it's almost legal! And what if we suddenly decide to throw a party. You better carry a bong with you too. Better safe than sorry.
CanadianYankee, I doubt a religion with those requirements would be recognized by the government. Well, maybe the gun one. As for the Mormon thing, I am no expert but the government only stopped LEGAL polygamous marriages. In other words, there are no tax or death benefits but nothing is stopping them from performing a religious marriage with the exception that it is not registered with the governing body (that is done via LDS) and any inheritance benefits must be done through a will. So the government didn't trump their belief, only their tax benefits from doing so
I have known some Wiccan's, of Pagan practices, carry an Athame with them, but irrespective of the religion, or faith, it is still a weapon, capable of killing, or harming someone, especially if they are got into the wrongs hands during a fight.
Ceremonial swords, are also weapons, so would it be acceptable to carry one around while shopping?
Is there any such things as a ceremonial Gun? Possibly there is, but it is still a weapon. So...if it looks like a weapon, it possibly is a weapon.
Our fists, hands, feet, and foreheads can be used as weapons, if used incorrectly, so we have laws to control us using them inappropriately when having fits of rage, and if we do, they can't take them off us. but we can be handcuffed 🤷🏼
Lionheart, when did you know of an athame to not have a full blade? Ofcourse, you could gouge an eye out with it, but it wouldn't be a good choice for cutting or slicing meat. It would be as bad as fighting in battle with a pewter. Ofcourse, they also make good letter openers, so I can see how someone might carry one with them, if they have a post office box, or get their mail from a mail room. I always keep mine at home, with my other altar tools, but I do carry a fairly large, sharp, folded pocket knife in my pocket, which also contains a saw place. Ofcourse, that's legal, and nobody ever questions a gentleman carrying a pocket knife. It's a traditional thing to do. However, anyone wearing any kind of blade on a cord around his neck in this nation, could only be seeking attention, and that truly is sick, and maybe even paranoid.
My very religious Muslim landlord won't come in my apartment anymore, ever since I put those two beautiful stone sculptures (from Design Toscano) of naked women (front & back sides) on my wall, on each side of my man cave sign. I suppose he's scared of the temptation to look at them. Some are more religious than others. Different strokes for different folks.
I would be seeing beautiful female bodies, Carl, if I visited. I wonder what it is that your Landlord sees 🤔
No, women wear them too. Every Sikh from baptism or initiation...Google it!
Aqilah Jackson, Sikhs aren't Christian or Jews, so I doubt they do baptism.
How can it be a weapon when it's unsharpened we were taught this on a security course.You cannot legally take the knife off someone if it's a shiek
Do only men wear them?
It is interesting how various religious convictions have to be manifest.
Actually, a women in Sacramento, CA was stopped from wearing her kirpan at work, even after she explained it's meaning. It's in the article.
Yes only men.
It seems like they ought to be able to wear their kersons under their shirts, and do so when in public places. I never wear amulets and talismans on cords outside of my shirts, even though I'm not in the broom closet. I look spooky enough without doing so, and the Galveston Chamber Of Commerce appreciates me not going out of my way to scare away tourists. However, since I'm under doctors orders to walk with a cane I suppose I could get away with carrying a Wiccan staff, especially since I carry a cane in my right hand, since I wear a stainless steel horned skull ring on my left middle finger, that nobody seems to care about, but would act as good as brass knuckles, if ever needed.
Another good alternative might be a sword cane, which are very easily concealed. Just walk with a slight limp, and maybe also speak with an impediment.Nobody will ever question why you're carrying a cane. Trust me on that. I've been walking and talking like that for going on 33 years, ever since my last motorcycle wreck. And if you spend a lot of time watching Duncan Mc Cloud of the clan Mc Cloud you'll learn how to use a sword as other than a kerson or athame, just in case you ever have to.
I have seen peace loving old women totally molested from TSA at airports having nothing on them at all other than a beautiful and kind smile. All of this because of a radical loving Islamic religion.
Presently much more concerned about those radical loving cristan religion extremists, you know, the ones pushing for the end times; the cristan nationalists, ooaf keepers. They present as great a threat to this country as the radical loving islamic religion does. Perhaps even more so since they're already here
I agree. Since 9/11 more people have died because of far-right Christian extremist terrorists than any Islamic extremist terrorists. If only we'd take a look in the mirror instead of demonizing minority groups.
They aren't scary but I agree that our current government sure is!
so then cristan nationalist...you'd revolt against sharia law but vote for biblical rule...ammirite?
no I would not.
Richard, why didn't you try to stop those molestations of old women in the airport? You must be a sniveling, little, loud-mouth! Were you scared of them molesting you too. I can tell you're a terrific candidate for a good sodomizing. I bet you even have a high-pitched voice.
I didn't vote for the President's Clinton, Bush and Obama that allowed this if that is what you are implying.
Carl Bernard Elfstrom, your comment is simply disgusting. Shame on you! Respectfully...
A dagger is a knife which is a weapon…Schools have a no weapon policy…Shouldn’t matter if it is ceremonial or not ….still a weapon that can be used to stab or kill someone…again preferential treatment of one group over another…So one group is allowed to bring a ceremonial weapon to school and another group is not allowed to have a Bible in school. One group is allowed to teach their religion in school while another group is not. All these preferential treatments based on religion, skin color, gender, and sexual orientation for one group while infringing on the rights of another when will anyone learn just to treat others as they want to be treated as human beings not make preferential treatment based on religion, sexual orientation, gender, and skin color.
Here in the USA if you attempt to hold up a bank, or to rob anyone or even pulled a toy gun on anyone you are committing a crime punishable by the same laws you would be charged with as if you had used a real gun, regardless of your religion. If their is a no knife rule on campus it should also be regaurdless of religion.
I doubt this person was wearing breeches, as they are required to. It's time some religions looked to the future, not hold on to every one of their archaic traditions.
Fake news, fake outrage (i.e., done for the habitual Pavlovian attention reward, like with dogs and everything else that responds to attention reward).
Why don’t they carry around a card signed by the Dean giving them the authority to carry this dagger so if approached, they can pull out the card giving them authorization to carry. It would solve everything and any misunderstandings….but again a knife is a weapon whether dull or not, sewn into its sleeve or not…
Why should someone need "written permission" to follow their religious faith?
In the USA we already have such a letter " written permission to carry a weapon." It's called the second amendmet to the constitution of the United States. So no you don't need one.
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The Bible says we must follow man’s law as well as the Bible so I wonder if Sikh religion says the same. The question may be what do you do if Man’s Law conflicts with Religion Law?
This, historically, was not an issue, as religions tended to remain in the same geographical areas, where secular and religious law tended to work in tandem. If you live in a secular country, you should follow those laws, then you won't come into conflict with democratic legislation.
A lot of places ban "weapons" regardless if they're real, fake, prop, ceremonial, play, decorative, cultural, etc., etc., etc. (kind of like a lot of stores, especially toy stores, who no longer sell realistic-looking weapons --- especially guns, pistols, and rifles). Those places also usually have signage up to that effect. I'm glad an apology was issued. However, both parties need to be responsible and not place the onus just on one or the other. If it's functional, a weapon is still a weapon and can be deadly no matter what label is applied to it. I'd rather be safe and apologize later than going to a hospital or a cemetery in the wake of an "event." In today's "nu" normal and world, I'd rather be safe than sorry.
Ignorance of any Legal aspect when one is Law Enforcement is inexcusable.
There is no religious requirement to carry the kirpan visibly... or for it to be blunted.
1 Samuel 16:7
Actually Campus Police are real police. In most Jurisdictions they not only have to the same training at a police officer on the streets but additional training. Your ignorance is astounding.
This is America. We dont do ceremonial daggers here. The Sikh and his dagger can ride their magic carpet back to the land of od where that kind of stuff still goes on. He wouldn't be allowed to wear his dagger in a federal courthouse or any other federal building so he cant wear his dagger to class either!! GROW UP KIDS!! in the real actual modern first world, not everything's ok. You dont bring knives to school. Or swords or daggers or kuni or throwing stars or any other sharp stabbing instrument no matter who you are or what god you pray to or what you wear on your head. You foreign borns need to assimilate to western life and leave that other behind. Or are you only here to use my country and spit all over OUR WAY of doing things which is what it seems ALL OF YOU foreign borns do? Hmm? We didnt come to your country. You invaded ours, and the lot of you are successfully making America as awful as where you came from WHICH was inevitable and predictable! So,either adhere to OUR RULES or go back where they do what you do but stop trying to make America where you came from, it sucked remember? THAT IS why your here isn't it? Because where your from was so horrible?! because if that isn't why you've invaded my country you need to GO. NOW. Not that we wanted you here under any circumstances btw. WE know why your all here and that's to use America for all you can get that's it. You dont care what you do to America, how awful you've made it for everyone, just what you can get out of us. Well, we dont like that and weve done. something about it.
What a fascinating topic for discussion. May all concerned in this issue, take time to view it from the other side of the coin. I am quite certain that even those who practice one of the world's religions, probably know very little about our brothers and sisters in a neighboring faith. Unless of course, one cannot convert to Zoroastrianism, if I am not mistaken you need to be born into the Persian faith. That reminds me, with faith and substance being questioned, may I recommend an extraordinary text "The Birth of Jesus, the real journey of the Magi.'..One God, many paths!!