schools should work with the Sikh community to allow male students to carry a kirpanWhat exactly the Kirpan, a ‘small, curved ornamental steel dagger’ according to the Committee, is has been the subject, among other things, of fierce debate at Larvatus Prodeo.
Some argue it is little more than a trinket, others that is it a sharp dangerous knife.
The Department of Education and Early Childhood Development seems to suggest (p.58) it is the later:
In a recent media interview, a spokesperson from the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development suggested that the kirpan could be replaced with a small replica or pendant.This was rejected by Sikh Interfaith Council of Victoria:
To suggest the using of a replica or any form of material is to belittle the religion. A replica or pendant is not acceptable. The kirpan cannot be of any material other than steel.Experience in Canada indicates the kirpan is dangerous. Justice Campbell in Ontario Human Rights Commission and Harbhajan Singh Pandori v. Peel Board of Education:
There have been, in the Metropolitan Toronto area, three reported incidents of violent kirpan use. One involved a plea of guilty to attempted murder after a stabbing with a kirpan. In one street fight, a man was stabbed in the back with a kirpan. In one case, a kirpan was drawn for defensive purposes.While the evidence seems to indicate the kirpan is dangerous, it is useful to consider both scenarios: 1. the kirpan is a dangerous dagger or 2. the kirpan is a harmless ornament, similar to a Christian cross neckless.
1. The Kirpan is a dangerous weapon
Schools have ‘no weapons’ policies for a reason: to reduce the risk of students harming other students and teachers. There is no reason to increase the risk by allowing religiously significant weapons into schools.
2. The Kirpan is harmless
If the Kirpan a harmless ornament there is no reason to prevent children attending public school with one. We don’t prevent children from wearing Christian crosses or Jewish yarmulkes.
The second scenario seems unlikely. If the Kirpan is harmless then why is an exemption from public schools’ “no weapons” policy needed?