image caption: Gurmukh Singh OBE

KIRPAN Debate in the Lords

 * Passage of the Offensive Weapons Bill through the House of Lords was an opportunity to explain the Miri-Piri significance of the Kirpan.

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  • Kirpan is a Sikh article of faith. Kirpans are also presented to Sikhs and non-Sikhs.

  • The Kirpan is worn by Amritdhari Sikhs at all times and carried or displayed during ceremonial occasions and religious processions.

  • A related need is for official guidance about Sikh Articles of Faith (see link below for EHRC guidance)

After watching a few minutes of the debate on amendment 70 of the Offensive Weapons Bill on 30 January 2019 in the Grand Committee of the House of Lords, one can only express disbelief and disappointment. British Sikhs rely very much on the few Sikh MPs and Lords in the Parliament to lead on issues such as seeking exemption for the wearing or carrying of Kirpan in the Offensive Weapons Bill. Instead, the opportunity was wasted by repeated interruptions to push the name of one organisation to the exclusion of others as the sole Sikh representative. All this while other Peers sat listening in bewildered amusement. 

It was not clear, as asserted in the Lords debate, by what logic the All-Party Parliamentary Group for British Sikhs and a national Sikh organisation providing briefing support can be exactly the same thing and that everyone knows it. The All Party Parliamentary Group is chaired by MP Preet Kaur Gill, the first Sikh woman to be elected to the Parliament. The Group includes experienced politicians from all parties who take up Sikh issues and concerns. Sikh Lords should be proud of and support their Sikh sister in the Commons, leading this Parliamentary Group. To quote a leading Sikh activist on Facebook: We should all understand that all Sikh organisations are doing as best as they can, according to their ability, to represent Sikhs on different issues. Issues should take precedence over our personal biases towards one another. 

About the Kirpan it was said: This symbol is often very well hidden when worn it is there as a symbol and nothing more than a symbol. Is the Kirpan just a symbol? Can we write off Sikhi tradition, proud Sikh heritage and thousands of sacrifices by treating the Kirpan as a mere symbol hidden under the clothes? That shows very poor understanding of the great Miri-Piri (temporal-spiritual) significance of the Kirpan. It also shows shoddy briefing.

We need many more Sikhs in politics who understand Sikh ideology and qaumi Miri-Piri tradition. Otherwise, as someone quoted Plato: One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.

The main thrust of the legislation should be to prevent the carrying and possession of offensive weapons including knives but with least interference in the responsible law-abiding religio-cultural lifestyle of a significant UK community, the Sikhs. Law enforcement officers should have official guidelines about Sikh Kakaars to be able to use own judgement according to circumstances.

Note: Such guidance was prepared by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission some years ago but was not issued as official guidelines: see Sikh Missionary Society UK link (use copy paste): https://www.sikhmissionarysociety.org/sms/smspublications/sikh_articles_of_faith_guidance_final.pdf

 

Gurmukh Singh OBE