A delegation of British Sikhs this week demanded in parliament that they should be permitted to carry their ceremonial dagger, the Kirpan, through security checks at the European Parliament, at Windsor Castle, the London Eye and other places protected by tight security.
The delegation met the All Party Parliamentary Group for UK Sikhs and told them in a briefing document: “The Passport Office, Immigration Offices, Driving Standards Agency offices, some schools, London Eye, Windsor Castle etc. are all operating security policies without conducting a proper evidence-based risk analysis regarding the Sikh Kirpan. Institutions such as the European Parliament and the UN Human Rights Council have also denied practising Sikhs from the UK the right to meet elected representatives in person in Brussels or raise issues about religious freedoms in Geneva. Practising Sikhs are therefore being denied free access to public places in the UK and elsewhere, unless they are prepared to compromise their religious identity.”
The Sikh delegation insisted that the dagger was an essential “article of faith” that all observant Sikhs must carry. The Government had promised to create a code of practice that would offer guidance on this matter, but had so far not come up with it. Since 9/11 the situation had changed dramatically.
Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Society, said: “This is utterly ridiculous. I was stopped and interrogated at an airport in the United States because I had omitted to remove a very small corkscrew from my hand baggage. I had forgotten it was in there and, of course, gave it up instantly it was detected on the x-ray machine. The idea that a large dagger could be permitted on air liners or in places such as parliamentary buildings that are prime targets for terrorists is completely crazy. Don’t these people know that knives were used to hijack the planes that were used in the attack on New York?
Mr Sanderson continued: “Who is to say that once such an item is through security it can’t be stolen and misused or even that its owner might have malign intentions. This is taking the religious symbols argument way too far – and those requesting this exemption are quite obviously looking to create a confrontation in which they can once again portray themselves as victims of discrimination. They may well find that on this occasion it will backfire on them.
“They claim to want equality. If that’s true, then they shouldn’t demand ‘rights’ that are denied to everyone else on the planet.”