A Collaboration with the University of Pittsburgh

UK judge criticizes banning of Sikh ceremonial dagger in public places

[JURIST] Sir Mota Singh QC, Britain’s first Asian judge, said in an interview with BBC's Asian Network Monday that Sikhs [JURIST news archive] should be permitted to wear their ceremonial daggers [BBC report] to school and other public places. Sikhism requires that Sikh males wear the ceremonial dagger, known as a kirpan [Sikh Coalition backgrounder], at all times, but they are forbidden to use it as a weapon. Sir Mota, who is now retired, made his comments following several recent high-profile cases in which Sikhs have been asked to remove their kirpans, turbans, and other religious garb in the workplace or school. In October, a British employment tribunal awarded a Sikh policeman £10,000 for indirect racial and religious discrimination and harassment [Guardian report] after he was ordered to remove his turban during riot training. Also last year, a boy was forced to leave [Telegraph report] the Compton School in Barnet, north London for wearing a kirpan. His family has not yet brought a discrimination claim against the school. In 2008, the British High Court ruled in favor [Daily Mail report] of 14-year-old Sarika Singh after she was disciplined by her school for wearing a steel bangle, a symbol of Sikh faith called a Kara, breaking the school's "no jewelry" rule.

Sir Mota's comments come in the context of years of international tension over the wearing of religious dress [JURIST news archive]. In 2007, the US Transportation Security Administration (TSA) [official website] revised security procedures relating to headwear, after Sikhs criticized [JURIST reports] the potential for religious profiling. In 2006, the Supreme Court of Canada [official website] overturned [JURIST report] a Quebec school board's ban on carrying Sikh ceremonial daggers at school, ruling that it infringed students' religious freedom under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms [text]. The French Conseil d'Etat [official website] held [JURIST report] in 2006 that Sikhs have to remove their turbans to be photographed for driver's licenses as a matter of public security.

About Paper Chase

Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

© Copyright JURIST Legal News and Research Services, Inc., 2013.