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Australia: Sikh students allowed to carry kirpan to schools

Source: PTI
December 06, 2007 11:32 IST
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Sikh students would be allowed to carry kirpans or small daggers to school following a recommendation by a parliamentary committee in Australia's Victoria state, but the move has outraged principals.

The committee has also given the green light for Muslim students to wear hijabs or veils in the state's classrooms following a year-long inquiry into uniforms which was tabled in the Victorian parliament on Wednesday.

The Education and Training Committee recommended that all schools should accommodate clothing or other items that are religiously significant.

It has asked schools to work with the Sikh community to allow male students to carry a kirpan – a small, curved ornamental steel dagger which is one of five articles of faith that Sikhs must carry.

The committee found that there were concerns from principals and teachers about students carrying the kirpan, which is hidden under the school uniform.

Victorian Association of State Secondary School Principals head Brian Burgess said kirpans should not be allowed in schools. "If it was misused, it could hurt kids. And it may not be the students that bring it to school, but others who know about it who may misuse it," he was quoted as saying in The Australian newspaper.

"You are talking about adolescent boys bringing what is potentially a weapon to school. It is not necessarily about the Sikh students, any other students could grab them," Burgess said.

The Sikh Interfaith Council of Victoria did not want to comment on Wednesday, but previously told the committee that only a small number or Sikhs carry the kirpan.

The council rejected suggestions by the Department of Education that students carry a replica or pendant to school.

The inquiry also ruled against making school uniforms mandatory, instead recommending that the decision remain with individual schools.

The committee also called for schools to include hats and address sun protection in their dress codes.

Earlier this year, a multicultural commission's view that Sikh school children have the right to carry the kirpan had sparked off an intense debate in Victoria.

Responding to demands from some Sikh families that their children be allowed to wear the kirpan to school, the Victorian Multicultural Commission's had in June said the students should have the right to do so.

"The dagger is an important article of faith. Some children wear them safely under clothes," commission chairperson George Lekakis said.

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