When I had first heard about the plight of Gurbaj Singh Multani, the Orthodox Sikh high school student who was challenging the schools decision to ban his Kirpan, I immediately jumped to the conclusion that a knife is a knife is a knife and, although I had never commented on it, I was pretty much against the carrying of any sort of weapon in a school environment.
But I am not that closed minded that I would be the unreasonable type, not willing to investigate this a bit further.
First some facts.
- A Kirpan is a knife which Orthodox Sikhs are obligated to wear at all times. This article displays the photo of one, but I will note that Kirpan’s come in various sizes and appearances. One thing I found consistent was the artistic effort put into these religious items is incredibly detailed and as much, if not more, for visual appearance, than for utility.
- The restriction by an educational institution on these items is not limited to this case. A similar situation occurred in the United Kingdom.
- Knives are not allowed in school. Just as guns and swords and longbows are not allowed in school. The thinking behind this is to protect our children from harm. i.e. a safety concern.
But in my research I came across some things that made me rethink my view. The following excerpt being one of them.
The scholar Jit Singh Uberoi has persuasively argued that the kirpan should be viewed as being constrained by thekara or steel bangle, and it follows, as he says, that the kirpan is “a sword ritually constrained and thus made into the mark of every citizen’s honour, not only of the soldier’s vocation.” A sword that is “ritually constrained” is a sword that is bound to do only the work of justice, to be drawn on behalf of the oppressed and the weak, to be offered only in defense. The sword can be employed only when all other avenues have been explored and exhausted, and indeed failure to do so at that time would be tantamount to complicity in acts of evil and oppression.
When the kirpan is sewn into its’ sheath and blunted as those arguing for this allowance in our school system state, I do think that I might be changing my one-sided view.
This is not due to the recent Supreme Court ruling in favour, but in light of several hours of reading and research I did (because of recent ruling).
I haven’t abandoned my feeling that school is not a place for a weapon, but I do want to give religion the benefit of the doubt and hope that Orthodox Sikh parents teach their children very early the meaning of a kirpan.
I, myself, wear a cross (for lack of a better word) religiously. I can’t remember the last time it was not within a few feet (or in the case of swimming in an ocean) a few dozen yards from me. I do know that if someone told me I could not wear it in school I would have been offended. But on the same token, I was required to remove it from my neck for the safety of other athletes when I played high school basketball.
If I sound like I am being wishy washy, it’s because I am. As the title mentions, I will probably wrestle in my own mind with this one for a long time. I welcome your comments and points of view on this subject.