US university reviews rules over Sikh student's rights
January 16, 2006

A Detroit university is reviewing its public safety norms after a judge ruled in favour of a Sikh student arrested for carrying the kirpan, a short dagger, as enjoined by his religion.

Sikh student Sukhpreet Singh Garcha, 23, was arrested on the campus of Wayne State University on August 14 last year for carrying a 10-inch kirpan on his hip.

He was charged with violating Detroit's knife ordinance, which prohibits carrying knives with blades longer than three inches.

Detroit 36th District Court Judge Rudy Serra ruled last month that the knife ordinance was intended to apply to people carrying "a knife as a weapon or for some unlawful purpose".

As Garcha was carrying the kirpan for religious reasons, the ordinance did not apply, the judge said, The Detroit News reported.

"There is no question that forbidding him from wearing the kirpan imposes a burden," the judge said. "It would be similar to an ordinance that made it illegal to wear a cross or a Star of David."

Following the ruling, Wayne State Public Safety Director Anthony Holt was quoted as saying that campus officers will not arrest Garcha or other Sikh students who carry a kirpan.

Garcha said carrying the knife was necessary under Sikhism. The smaller knife was worn in case the other had to be removed.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the religious group United Sikhs protested Garcha's arrest, saying the kirpan isn't a weapon but an ornamental article of faith that baptized Sikhs must wear at all times.

The university's attorneys are reviewing possible changes to campus weapons policies to "ensure that everyone can practise religion freely and feel safe on the campus," Alexandra Matish, assistant general counsel for the college, was quoted as saying.

Hindustan Times India.

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