|UNITED SIKHS Intervenes and Assists in Preventing the
State of Maryland from Criminalizing the Kirpan:
Office of the State's Attorney Dropped Case Originally Charged as a Dangerous Concealed Weapon
On January 10, 2011, Harpreet Singh was visiting a 7/11 to purchase
anti-freeze. That morning, along with his flowing beard, he was wearing
a white kurta and a white dastaar. Based on the police's probable cause
report, it seemed that an officer saw Mr. Singh entering the 7/11 and
followed him into the convenience store. Noticing the handle of
Harpreet's kirpan under his jacket, the officer immediately called for
back-up, took Harpreet outside, and questioned him about the kirpan.
Even after Harpreet provided an explanation that the kirpan was an
article of faith and how it reminds a Sikh of their obligation to
uphold the basic dignity of all human beings, Harpreet was arrested and
his kirpan forcibly seized from his person.
- On Jan. 10, 2011,
Harpreet Singh was arrested for wearing a kirpan (one of five articles
of faith) after an officer saw it under his jacket at a 7/11.
- UNITED SIKHS joined
the case in an advisory capacity and submitted a letter to the Office
of the State's Attorney to dismiss charges.
- UNITED SIKHS
would like to thank Michael Cerri, attorney for Harpreet Singh, for
taking on this challenge and Assistant State's Attorney Jared Green for
protecting and safeguarding the sanctity of the kirpan by dropping the
charge against Mr. Singh.
receiving communications from Harpreet Singh and his attorney, Michael
Cerri, UNITED SIKHS felt "compelled to voice our concern on behalf of
the Sikh community because the kirpan was incorrectly being equated
with a dangerous weapon instead of being recognized as an article of
faith and an inextricable part of the Sikh identity," said Senior Staff
Attorney Hansdeep Singh.
UNITED SIKHS drafted a letter to Assistant State's Attorney Jared Green
pointing out that since 9/11, at least 22 kirpan cases have been
dismissed nation wide indicating that many courts have found that the
prosecution of a Sikh for wearing his/ her article of faith would
result in injustice. Fortunately, through the efforts of Mr. Cerri and
the assistance of the UNITED SIKHS legal team (ICHRA), Mr. Singh's case
was promptly dropped. It is also important to recognize that
prosecutors have broad jurisdiction in making the decision to pursue or
drop criminal cases and we are grateful for the measured approach taken
by Mr. Green in this instance.
After having his kirpan returned to him, Harpreet Singh's resolve
remained firm and unshaken and he discussed the importance of his
article of faith. "The kirpan symbolizes the highest ideals for the
benefit of humanity . . . as a Sikh it is our duty to protect the
rights of others [so that we may live in a] world without hatred,
injustice, and oppression."
- Jan. 10: Harpreet Singh arrested at 7/11 for
wearing his kirpan. Shortly afterwards, Defense Attorney Michael Cerri
takes on the case to argue that the kirpan is an article of faith and
as such falls outside the bounds of Maryland's weapons policies
- Feb. 2: UNITED SIKHS is contacted to act in an
Advisory Capacity and provide expertise on what the kirpan means for an
adherent Sikh as well as instances of kirpan cases dropped or dismissed
- Feb. 15: Relationship between client, attorney, and UNITED SIKHS is formalized
- Feb. 28: Mr. Cerri meets with Assistant State's Attorney, Jared Green
- Mar. 1: UNITED SIKHS sends letter to Assistant State's Attorney, Jared Green
- Mar. 7: Case against Harpreet Singh is dropped
Since we started the Protect Our Identity campaign in August 2010,
UNITED SIKHS has successfully defended the practice of carrying the
kirpan in three different venues:
- Freshman student in California told to leave his kirpan at home if he wanted to attend the University
- Gurvinder Singh from Texas who was initially
barred entry to a testing center. UNITED SIKHS is working to create a
broader kirpan policy that would protect the rights of all Sikh
- Harpreet Singh from Maryland who was arrested at a 7/11 and had his kirpan seized by police
Fighting for religious accommodation is a daunting task because of
varying State laws, but UNITED SIKHS will continue, state by state, to
promote and protect our articles of faith.
We encourage the Sikh community to vigorously practice their faith and
members of the Sikh community should not hesitate to report issues in
your respective areas that burden your ability to practice your faith.
Call 1-888-243-1690 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
For UNITED SIKHS to continue its efforts in protecting our identity
(both domestically and internationally), we need the assistance of the
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