The ban on kirpans in schools in Quebec is apparently, not justified says the Supreme Court of Canada. The ruling was unanimous. Under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, all Canadians are guaranteed freedom of religion (unless you are up against a gay). Since the kirpan is an integral part of the Sikh religion, Sikh students should be allowed to carry them around.
Or so the court says.
Now, a kirpan is apparently a knife. I have to be frank; beyond that, I don't really know much about a kirpan. I don't really know much about Sikhism. So I looked it up.
The kirpan... is certain the most visible symbol of Sikh masculinity, and the very potency of the kirpan appears to signify to an outsider the martial qualities of the Sikh...the kirpan is "a sword ritually constrained and thus made into the mark of every citizen's honour, not only of the soldier's vocation." A sword that is "ritually constrained" is a sword that is bound to do only the work of justice, to be drawn on behalf of the oppressed and the weak, to be offered only in defense. The sword can be employed only when all other avenues have been explored and exhausted, and indeed failure to do so at that time would be tantamount to complicity in acts of evil and oppression...the sword, becoming a characteristic mark of the Sikhs, was to render them intrepid. The Khalsa Sikh male was to become the exemplar of a believer who would no longer lead a life of anonymity, fearful of persecution, and so he would be on the path of self-recognition and self-reliance... The attachment to the sword, or the kirpan, must be perceived as an attachment to an 'object' that becomes an inalienable part of oneself, constitutive of a life of affirmation, honor, and self-respect; and to forgo the kirpan, at least on the orthodox view, is to relinquish one's identity as a Sikh observant of the faith...
How to respond.
It is unfortunate that the Sikh religion has tied honour, self-respect, affirmation and othodoxy to an item such as a dagger. Why not integrate it with the individual and leave the object behind? What is it about carrying a kirpan that makes a Sikh male more honourable and why don't women carry them? Are they less deserving or less capable of honour?
These questions are obviously asked by someone who doesn't know anything about Sikhism. I don't think my inexperience takes away from the questions though. Why do the leaders of your religion not find a way to handle the issue through some means other than saying "We must be allowed to carry our daggers?"

Edit 03/03/06 10:26am : It would appear that Sikh women are in every way equal to men. My comment on women not carrying kirpan's is erroneous.


David Wozney said...

Can Christians wear swords in sheaths?

Jesus said unto the apostles: "...he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one". (Luke 22:36)

Jesus instructed Peter: "...Put up thy sword into the sheath...". (John 18:11)

Jesus said: "...thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it". (Matthew 16:18)

VW said...

As it turns out, Sikh women do in fact carry the kirpan:


Gill's daughter Gulroop attends Grade 10 at the school. She says she's never had a problem wearing a kirpan in the Lower Mainland.

"I've never heard of any case where people are offended or worried," she said.

I've read the entire judgement, online. The reason it became an issue was because the provincial education authority wasn't happy with the way the local school board settled the matter, and the authority essentially overstepped its bounds.

Jesse Gritter Online said...

Hi Ruth!

I actually just wrote a long response about kirpans here and then deleted it afterward because I realized that I disagreed with what I was saying.

But now I know for sure what I want to say.

Taking daggers to school should be illegal.


x2para said...

If these idiot judges really beleived in their judgement then they would have allowed the weapons in court. This country, thanks to socialists and their extreme court, is becoming a bad joke.

Jim said...

A Moslem commentator has said that, if religion trumps public safety, then religion also trumps trivial Canadian rules like dress codes so that the Supreme Court decision implicitly permits the hijab in schools.

Me, I wonder if teachers have to stand at the school door to check whether assault rifles are loaded as schools aren't entitled to ban guns entirely.

Ruth said...

Are Muslim girls not already permitted to wear hijab in schools? It's been a long time since I have been to highschool, so I don't know. I know they do in universities, but that is a different thing.
You make a good point though. If kirpans are allowed, then there is no reason to forbid hijab. Mind you, Islam does not force a woman to cover herself from head to toe. That is a recent (ie: since Mohammed's death) addition to the religion.

I agree that daggers should not be allowed into schools. Since our society permits freedom of religion, how can we properly adress this issue? To me, it seems that the Sikh leaders should be taking the initiative here.

Bacon Eating Atheist Jew said...

What I find amazing is that a Sikh can't go on a plane with a dagger, but a kid can bring one to school.
Canada has become a victim of it's own immigration policies. Too fast too soon.

Ruth said...

I disagree that immigration is the problem.

Omar Soliman said...


Nice website.

Unfortunately, I have to say that your comments and justifications for these opinions are weak and unfounded. Further, the lack of respect and knowledge that you display for the Islamic and Sikh traditions is very insulting.

If you prefer to go on and live in this politically incorrect utopia world, then, as far as I'm concerned, you do not differ at all from the socialist utopia envisioned by our fellow Canadians on the left.

There is a conservative dissent on the Supreme Court of Canada--they are not all small-l liberals. The reason this passed unanimously was because the theoretical underpinnings of both liberal and (especially) conservative philosophy involve an uncompromising belief in religious freedoms.

It is unclear whether you hold contempt for all religions, or whether you hold contempt for Sikhism in particular. I say "contempt" because of the very brusque manner by which you choose to question an element of another person's faith. Sure, it may contradict some of your own philosophies of man and his relation to God, honour, power, and so on. But, surely, as a conservative, you must be willing to respect tradition--universally. This is what should differentiate us from liberals--our implicit reverence for all the institutions of our ancestors, be they Anglo-Saxon traditions or not.

Would you agree?

Ruth said...

I do not disrespect Sikhism at all. Go back and read what I have written: I clearly say I don't know much about it.
As for Islam, I do know about it as I have read quite a bit on it. Do I respect it? To be frank, I have trouble with the way Islam treats women. That doesn't mean people can't be Muslims though.

Christians have their faith questioned all the time. I have many times had to explain a part of my beliefs that others don't understand. Why should I not question other religions? If I don't know about it, then I should ask. If you feel insulted then that is your problem and not mine. You would get further with me if you explained the part of your religion that I don't understand rather than accusing me of insulting you (which I haven't done).

Should all traditions be respected? Not necessarily. Some traditions, religious or otherwise, can be bad. Take for exmple burning wives along with their husbands. I pick this one because it was mentioned several times in the websites that I linked to. Clearly this was a bad tradition that carried on for many years.
And yet who spoke out against it?

Omar Soliman said...

"To be frank, I have trouble with the way Islam treats women."

This is yet another example of how your opinions are weak and unfounded. I can only hope that the following should serve as a lesson in semantics: you are confusing Islam and Muslim, in the same way that you confuse Sikh and Sikhism.

Irshad Manji is victim to the same error in her book, "The Trouble With Islam." Let's be clear here, there is nothing wrong with Islam, but there may be something wrong with Muslims. The word Islam means "submission". Muslim, on the other hand, means "to submit" or "the act of submitting" (to one God). I encourage you to have a look at the Koran: you will find that the anti-thesis of Islam is actually ignorance. Islamic commandments are written with the qualifier: "for those who understand."

When you say "I have trouble with the way Islam treats women", you are, at best, vilifying this faith in particular, or, at worst, vilifying the institution of faith altogether. We should be cognizant that all major faiths are universal and ever-lasting: this is why they have survived the centuries.

You should be critical of the people (Muslims), not the institution (Islam). Some cultures in the Middle East today (not all of them) are conducive to what can be perceived as a backward reaction to modernity.

As an informed political blogger, tour task should not be to criticize elements of x or y faith, but to criticize the non-adherence of members of these faiths to their established form of practice.

Take the example of a practicing Sikh who goes around slashing people's throats. The appropriate response would be to criticize this person's non-adherence to the guidelines established by the religious practice. The wrong response would be to question the practice altogether.

Just dig a little deeper; past the orientalist dogma, past the inter-faith revenge polemics, and you will find that all faiths expound upon a semblance of civility that you and I would be very comfortable with.

- Omar Soliman

P.S. I'm sorry that your daughter is sick. I hope she gets better. :)

Ruth said...

You didn't answer my closing question. The answer is the Sikhs.

I feel I should point out that what you are writing here doesn't have anything to do with the post. I'll address part of it anyway. Saying that I have a problem with the way Islam treats women is not vilifying the religion. I do have a problem with it. Women do not have the same rights as men.

I want to think some more about what you have said. I may write a post on it later.

Omar Soliman said...

Sounds good. I look forward to discussing these ideas.

You must be worried about your baby--I know my brother's wife gets very concerned over these things.

This may help:

I also recommend "The Baby Book: Everything You Need to Know About Your Baby from Birth to Age Two"


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