OTTAWA, ONTARIO–( April 13, 2010) – The World Sikh Organization of Canada (WSO) is concerned about the perpetuation of incorrect and misleading information about the kirpan.
1) Fiction: The kirpan is a dangerous weapon
Fact: The kirpan is not a weapon. The word itself means mercy or grace. It is neither designed nor permitted to be used in anger or as a weapon. Doing so represents a serious transgression for a Sikh and may result in penalty or sanction. The kirpan is an essential article of faith worn by thousands of initiated Sikhs across Canada. It represents spiritual power and speaks of morality and justice. The kirpan is worn by initiated Sikhs at all times day and night.
2) Fiction: The kirpan is a knife
Fact: The kirpan is not a knife. It is one of five articles of faith for an initiated Sikh. It represents the obligation of the Sikh to stand against injustice.
3) Fiction: It’s ok for practicing Sikhs to wear miniature or symbolic kirpans.
Fact: The kirpan is more than a religious adornment. It is mandated to be always worn and is part of an initiated Sikhs’ identity. It cannot be compared with a cross which a Christian might choose to wear. Although there is no fixed size for kirpans, most range between 6 and 9 inches in length. A symbolic representation of a kirpan is not acceptable to most Sikhs. Sikh tenets require the wearing of an actual kirpan and not a replica of one.
4) Fiction: The kirpan poses a safety risk to Canadians
Fact: The kirpan poses no safety risk to Canadians. The kirpan is always sheathed and secured into a fabric holster and worn across the torso. Because it is usually worn underneath the clothing it is not easily accessible to either the wearer or a third party. In the over 100 year history of Sikhs in Canada, there have been very few incidents of the kirpan being misused. This shows the incredible restraint and spiritual significance of the kirpan to Sikhs. Calling for a prohibition on the kirpan based on a single isolated incident is unreasonable.
5) Fiction: The kirpan is only worn by men
Fact: Sikhism is an egalitarian religion that gives equal rights and responsibilities to both men and women. All Sikh articles of faith are worn equally by both genders, and both initiated Sikh women and men wear the kirpan. Not wearing the kirpan at any time, day or night, constitutes a grievous transgression for a practicing Sikh.
6) Fiction: Asking that the kirpan be altered in order to make it safer is a reasonable requirement.
Fact: The kirpan does not pose a safety risk. Presuming that the kirpan is inherently unsafe and that the intention of a Sikh who wears the kirpan cannot be trusted, reverses the onus or burden of proof. The right to be considered innocent until proven guilty is a fundamental right for all Canadians. Asking for the kirpan to be altered in some way shifts that burden in the case of a Sikh, and presumes that a Sikh is guilty until proven innocent.
7) Fiction: The wearing of the kirpan is an anachronistic religious practice that needs to be banned.
Fact: Protection of freedom of religion is a fundamental right that is enshrined in our Constitution. It is a value we hold dear as Canadians. Just because we don’t understand the religious practices of a group does not give us the right to prohibit or restrict them. The kirpan has a very deep spiritual meaning for the Sikhs. The message of the kirpan is consistent with all of our values as Canadians and is as relevant today as it was when the kirpan was first introduced. The right of thousands o