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Sikh shock as government schools ban religious knives

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The Australian Sikh Association says its members are distraught following a government edict banning religious knives at NSW government schools, which came about after an incident sparked ministers to close a legislative “loophole” allowing students to bring the items to school.

The ban has prompted Sikh charity Turbans4Australia to seek legal advice about whether it could amount to religious discrimination.

Education Minister Sarah Mitchell has banned religious knives at schools.

Education Minister Sarah Mitchell has banned religious knives at schools.CREDIT:DOMINIC LORRIMER

It comes after the Department of Education reviewed its existing knife policy — under which ceremonial dagger known as kirpans were allowed — just a month ago.

On Monday, Education Minister Sarah Mitchell and Attorney-General Mark Speakman said they were urgently reviewing laws relating to children carrying knives for genuine religious reasons.

A day later, on Tuesday, Ms Mitchell said the Department of Education would issue advice to public schools banning students, staff and visitors from carrying knives for religious purposes on school grounds, which would take effect from Wednesday, while a review was under way.

“I have an obligation to students and staff in NSW public schools to ensure their safety,” she said. “Weapons are not permitted at NSW public schools.

“A recent incident made it clear there are discrepancies in the act permitting the carrying of knives for religious purposes on school grounds. This is not necessary in our schools.”

The ban will remain in place while the review takes place, she said, which will “consider options for communities who carry a knife for genuine religious purposes”.

Ms Mitchell said she had spoken to the Sikh community about the decision and would continue working with them.

“We are currently working with community representatives and government agencies to understand how best to support students [and to] meet the needs of their faith while adhering to school safety policies,” she said.

Australian Sikh Association chairman Ravinderjit Singh said he was informed of the government’s ban on Monday evening via a Zoom meeting with Ms Mitchell.

“We were shocked,” he said. “We had been in consultation with our community, trying to hold meetings [with the department] to try and work out what can be the positive outcome.


“We could have come up with solutions. This issue could have been addressed.

“It is not just a kirpan, it is the whole identity and the whole principle of baptism that is linked to the personality of a baptised Sikh. It is an honour to wear it. The kirpan is not a weapon.”

After being informed of the ban, the association held an emergency meeting with about 100 “distraught” community members.

Mr Singh said the association would hold talks with other Sikh groups to determine how best to address the issue.

Amar Singh, the president of Turbans4Australia, said the Sikh community had been discussing the issue with the Department of Education for 10 days since the incident that sparked the ban, and there had been no mention of a ban.


And yet a ban was announced, which he understood was temporary, within 24 hours of the story breaking in the media. “It’s an immature decision by the government,” he said. “[They did] something to please the masses.”

Mr Singh said he was seeking legal advice about whether the ban could be considered religious discrimination.

“The community was willing to discuss alternatives that would allow students to observe their religion, such as daggers that could not be removed from their sheath, or mock daggers. We are proud of our culture, our religion. We don’t want this tarnished image,” he said.

Members of Sydney’s Sikh community on Monday defended their children’s right to bring ceremonial daggers to school, saying a ban would compromise their ability to observe their faith.

They said bullying was behind an incident in which a 14-year-old was accused of stabbing a 16-year-old with a kirpan – which symbolises a Sikh’s duty to defend themselves or aid those in peril – at Glenwood High almost two weeks ago, and that’s the issue the government should be focused on.


The younger boy has been charged with intent to cause grievous bodily harm and will appear in court in July. He remains on bail.

The kirpan is one of five implements baptised Sikhs are required to wear. The others are kesh (uncut hair, respecting God’s creation); kangha (wooden comb, for hygiene); kara (iron bracelet, for good work); and kachera (cotton underpants for good character).

Premier Gladys Berejiklian said on Monday she was “taken aback” to learn students could take knives to school. “Students shouldn’t be allowed to take knives to school under any circumstances and I think it doesn’t pass the commonsense test,” she said.

“Clearly when an incident comes to light that causes community concerns, there are questions about that, concerns that I share,” she said. “We need to have a look at whether that’s still appropriate in a school setting ... to see if any changes to legislation [are] needed.”


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The only viable long term solution would be having our own institutions where we can practice Khalsa Rehit in a free manner. Otherwise, concessions granted today for Kirpans can be revoked tomorrow. A

Deep down it's just an attack on God and has nothing to do with schools.  Sikhs don't really belong in public private school in my opinion. Nobodies kids are safe there and it's an education in b

thing is, anything can be used as a weapon: we don't see ppl banning scissors and pencils in the schools. I wouldn't want to take away kirpan from amritdhari kids as well. If we do that they don't see

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What is stopping other countries looking at this incident and wanting to ban kirpan as well? How can we prevent it from being banned?

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1 hour ago, intrigued said:

What is stopping other countries looking at this incident and wanting to ban kirpan as well? How can we prevent it from being banned?

That's ironic, I was about to post how bullies and school shooters are the only people who should be worried. 

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3 minutes ago, intrigued said:

Our reputation in modern day by the world is so fragile due to the fact we are so recognizable.

honestly I sympathize with some of the regulators in that any domestic terrorist can simply grow a beard and tie a turban

they should also require people claiming to be amritdhari to read panj bania or something like that 

if the sikh is strict about kirpan rehit, should be strict on nitnem as well so it makes sense lol 

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16 minutes ago, intrigued said:

Maybe we should get some written documentation of an exemption or something

by one of the thakts lol 

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2 hours ago, Kaurr said:

The sikh kid stabbed the other kid after multiple incidents of bullying. Then that kid removed the sikh kid's dastar so he got stabbed. The injuries were minor. It would have been better if the kid had not taken the kirpan out and used something else instead.

Better is subjective. 

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