According to custom, members of the Sikh religion wear the “five Ks,” which, according to Wikipedia, are the following:
- Kesh: Uncut hair, usually tied and wrapped in a Dastar [JAC: A form of turban].
- Kanga: A wooden comb, usually worn under a Dastar
- Katchera: Cotton undergarments, historically appropriate in battle due to increased mobility when compared to a dhoti. Worn by both sexes, the katchera is a symbol of chastity. [JAC: Sikh's like Mormons, have magic underwear]
- Kara: An iron bracelet, a weapon and a symbol of eternity
- Kirpan: An iron dagger in different sizes. In the UK Sikhs can wear a small dagger, but in the Punjab they might wear a traditional curved sword from one to three feet in length.
I have seen kirpans (and three of the other four K’s) in India, and kirpans can be formidable weapons. Here’s a typical one:
Now, according to KING5 (the NBC news channel in western Washington State, a Sikh student at Aubern’s (Washington) Guildo Rey Elementary School (such schools teach children from ages 6-12) is to be allowed to carry a kirpan with him to school, despite the fact that the school has a zero-tolerance policy for weapons.
It is not a toy knife, but a real one. As KING reports, one school worker says this is unconscionable, and I agree:
One school volunteer named Shelby, who asked her last name not be used, said respecting religion goes too far if it compromises student safety.
“There’s no way I’d go back until the knife was gone,” she said.
Shelby does not volunteer at Gildo Rey.
“They can’t take that thing into the airport. TSA would be all over it. Why is a school any different?” she asked.
Indeed, and this is being toted by a small child. True, other Sikhs have carried knives in public schools before, and there’s yet been no stabbing, but zero tolerance is zero tolerance, and that should hold for all, regardless of faith. When public safety clashes with religious freedom, the former should win.
But listen to the school superintendent try to weasel out of this one:
“The knife can’t come out. It can’t be shown around. It needs to be underneath their clothing,” said Auburn Assistant Superintendent of Schools Ryan Foster. “That allows them to express their religion without jeopardizing anyone’s feeling of safety. If there are any problems, we will take it to the family, but we don’t expect any.”
Well, at least one person’s feeling of safety has been jeopardized! And the instruction that the knife must be concealed is bogus, as they wouldn’t allow a secular student to carry a hidden knife. And what if there was a religion that mandated the carrying of guns? Would that be okay too among 6-12 year-olds, so long as the gun was kept hidden and couldn’t be “shown around”?
Once again religion gets unwarranted privileges. Sikhs get to carry weapons in schools; members of other faiths can’t. The school district should enforce its regulation for everyone.
This isn’t the first time Sikh sentiments have clashed with public safety. In Davis California, a Sikh student was outraged after he was refused a bus ride because he wouldn’t remove his kirpan. Here’s his knife, a pretty scary dagger:
A similar incident happened when a theater denied entry to an armed Sikh in Yuba City, California.
What makes this especially galling to nonbelievers (besides the failure of the government to treat people equitably) is that this dagger is being carried in the name of false beliefs. Regardless, even if, as some Sikhs maintain, “we are a peace-loving people,” those daggers can be taken and used by other people, too.
There should be no compromise of public safety to propitiate religious sentiments. If Sikh’s must carry a kirpan in school, let it be a tiny symbolic kirpan made of wood, like the one I bought in the Sikh temple in New Delhi some years ago. I don’t think anybody specifies that the kirpan has to be a Crocodile Dundee-type sticker!