#religion | Sikh community angry as religious knives banned from NSW schools after stabbing

Students in NSW will be banned from bringing knives to schools on religious grounds after a teenager was stabbed in Sydney’s north-west, leaving the Sikh community angry.

A 14-year-old boy is facing serious charges, with police alleging he stabbed a 16-year-old boy with a “religious knife” at Glenwood High School on May 6.

The blade used in the alleged incident was a kirpan, a type of ceremonial knife carried by the Sikh community as an article of their faith.

NSW Education Minister Sarah Mitchell said the “critical incident” had “raised some very legitimate questions around the legislation”, in particular the Summary Offences Act which allows a person to carry a knife in public, provided they have a “reasonable excuse”.

“That’s why we’ve made a commitment to review that legislation and look at what changes we need to make, just to ensure that the safety of students and staff comes first,” Ms Mitchell said.

“In the interim, we will be putting a ban in our government schools on carrying any form of knife to school, even for genuine religious purposes.”

A 16-year-old student was stabbed at Glenwood High School earlier this month.(

ABC News

)

Ms Mitchell said she distributed advice to school principals indicating that from tomorrow religious knives would no longer be allowed to be brought to school, adding she would work with Attorney-General Mark Speakman to close what she called a “legislative loophole”.

The minister said she also wanted the Sikh community to be part of the conversation and had spoken with community leaders yesterday.

However, some Sikh leaders  the NSW Education Department spoke with were outraged, calling the ban “uncalled for” and criticising the state government for implementing the ban before any community consultation.

President of Turbans 4 Australia, Amar Singh, said Sikhs had been carrying kirpans for over 50 years in Australia without issue.

“[They’re] going to target this religious community based on one event. I mean, there’s glassing and fights in pubs every day across Australia and we haven’t closed all the pubs down,” Mr Singh said.

a woman in glasses at a press conference
Sarah Mitchell says religious knives will be banned from schools from tomorrow.(

AAP: Joel Carrett

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Mr Singh said the kirpan was a sacrosanct item to the Sikh community and symbolised a stand against injustice.

He said it was a religious requirement for baptised Sikhs and many don’t remove the item, even in their sleep.

He said Sikhs gathered in Glenwood yesterday to vocalise their displeasure with the NSW government response to the stabbing.

“There was no consultation with community heads of what we need to do… there was a first meeting [with the education department] which was a ‘we need to work together and so forth’,” Mr Singh said.

“Then a second meeting, where we’re told the minister would be there,  they just announced the ban.”

The possession of kirpans in public places, including schools, has been the subject of legal contention in Europe and other Commonwealth jurisdictions.

The Supreme Court of Canada said banning the religious item violated the country’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms and students there are allowed to carry a kirpan if it is sealed and secured.

In Denmark, however, the High Court did not consider religion to be a valid reason to carry a non-foldable knife longer than 6 centimetres in public, although permits blades to be carried for work-related and recreational purposes.

Mr Singh said the community would be open to compromises, including size limitations on daggers, but it was blindsided by the announcement.

“We should have actually discussed with these communities and come back with a solution rather than saying ‘it’s banned now, let’s work out a solution’, because that is clearly wrong.”


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