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.