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Sikh ceremonial knife (kirpan) at school prompts much reaction

Burnham, May 27, 2005

CONTROLS on pupils bringing ceremonial knives into our schools are virtually nonexistant, a survey conducted by the Slough Express has found.

Of the 12 schools contacted by this newspaper only one gave a clear policy on the wearing of 'kirpans', the Sikh ceremonial knife, by pupils.

The quiz of heads and deputy heads followed our report of how a Burnham Grammar pupil will be allowed to wear the knife as long as the blade is under two inches long.

Burnham Grammar is now introducing a system for all Sikh parents to declare if their child wears the symbol in the classroom.

NRI, Dr Inderjit Singh, of the Network of Sikh organisations - who upholds the right to wear the kirpan in schools - told the Express, staff must know who is wearing them.

But this week, head-teachers and deputy heads said it had 'never been an issue', with only one - Burnham Upper School - having a system of declaration in place.

Concerned parents have contacted the Express all week with views - one said she would no longer consider Burnham Grammar as an option for her daughter in light of the decision.

But many Sikhs contacted us to tell how important the kirpan is to their religious beliefs and how the responsibility of wearing one was not borne lightly.

A spokesman for Slough Borough Council told the Express uniform policies were a matter for the individual schools.

Here are just some of your comments:

John Gould, 36, a paint sprayer from Britwell and father of Slough and Eton pupil Steve, 14 "I think it is disgusing, especially when there is a girl who can't wear a crucifix which is part of her religion.

"Some people might class me as being racist, but I am not very happy with them having it. It just takes one child being bullied and it may be pulled as a last resort and potentially stab someone."

Sukhvinder Sanghera, 47, a father of three from Baylis who works as a security officer in Uxbridge: "The kirpan is one of the five important items of a practising Sikh, symbolising defence of the downtrodden.

"A baptised Sikh understands repsonsibilities and acts sensibly.

"I can understand the need for teachers to know who is wearing kirpans so they are aware of misuse or them being snatched by someone else.

"It is not really a sword. I can't see it doing damage when compared to items in geometry class. I am surprised a crucifix cannot be worn by a practising Christian."

The mother of a Burnham Grammar sixth form student, who did not wish to be named: "I cannot belive that this boy is being allowed to wear a knife to school.

"With the level of violence in schools, can anyone be trusted regardless of their religion.

"He is only a boy. I shall be writing to the school.

"We are not in India or Pakistan. When in Rome."

Tavandeep Singh Sandhu, 17, lives in Slough and goes to a Sikh school in Hayes. The blade of his kirpan is 'more than three inches' long

"The word kirpan comes from 'kirpa' meaning 'mercy' and 'An' meaning 'honour'.

"It's purpose is to defend the honour of those who cannot defend themselves against oppressors.

"There have never been any cases of kirpans being snatched from someone."


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