Word of the Day: Kirpan

(Discussion on this post has been moved to here)

The kirpan is one of five items of faith which are worn at all times by orthodox Sikhs. We’d call it a ceremonial dagger. It’s worn (or carried) as a symbol and the Sikh religion prohibits its use in anger or malice.

Today’s Rupertian reports that the Education and Training Committee of the Victorian Parliament has recommended…

… that schools should work with the Sikh community to allow male students to carry a kirpan – a small, curved ornamental steel dagger carried by all initiated Sikh men.

The Committee also recommends that female Muslim students should be allowed to wear the hijab at school.

Under Victoria’s Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities, it’s unlikely that the committee could have recommended otherwise – one of the rights protected by the Charter is “freedom of thought, conscience, religion and belief”. Since, for some Sikhs, carrying the kirpan is integral to the practice of their religion, a blanket ban on kirpans in schools would be a denial of this freedom.

Brian Burgess, head of the Victorian Association of State Secondary School Principals reckons the committee got it wrong on this issue (so do a couple of bloggers, which is how I picked it up) and it may be that there are one or two school principals, and school councils out there who share Burgess’ fears of what a kirpan armed Sikh student might do in response to one playground taunt too many, or what might happen if the kirpan falls into the hands of another student.

Expect a pointless controversy over this committee recommendation; that’s what happened in Canada when a Sikh student accidentally dropped his kirpan in the playground, in 2001. The result was a dispute that dragged out until March 2006, when Canada’s Supreme Court ruled 8-0 that:

a total ban of the kirpan in schools violates the Charter of Rights because it infringes on the Charter’s guarantees of religious freedom. But it does allow school boards to impose some restrictions on the carrying of kirpans to ensure public safety. (CBC News, March 2, 2006)

In fact, such a solution had been proposed, adopted, and then withdrawn earlier in the Canadian case:

Quebec Superior Court Justice Danielle Grenier rules that because the kirpan is an integral part of his religious beliefs, Gurbaj can wear a real one to school as long as he follows several conditions. The kirpan must be sheathed in a wooden case, wrapped in heavy fabric and worn under his clothes. The belt holding the kirpan must also be sewn into his clothing. The judge calls these conditions a reasonable accommodation of Gurbaj’s religious freedoms and the need for public safety. The school board, backed by Quebec PQ government at the time, appeals. (as above)

You’d think that with such stringent safety precautions, and the Supreme Court ruling that would be the end of the matter. Not for some of Canada’s bureaucrats:

Quebec’s biggest school board is successfully accommodating the religious and cultural differences of its diverse student population — unless a student wants to wear a ceremonial dagger or a face-covering niqab, the head of the board told the Bouchard-Taylor commission Tuesday.

These are simply not allowed, the chair of the Commission Scolaire de Montréal, Diane de Courcy, told the Quebec commission on reasonable accommodation of ethnic and religious minorities, which returned to Montreal Monday for its final hearings. ((CBC News, November 27, 2007)

It would be pleasant to think that we could avoid imitating the Canadians on this issue and following them down the same weary road to obstinate idiocy; but I’m nowhere near that much of an optimist.

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Posted in culture, politics
254 comments on “Word of the Day: Kirpan
  1. philiptravers says:

    Yeah!And are the Sikhs unable to find a creative way that doesn’t interfere with tradition,like a bit of fashion experiment that adds a lock to the opening of the Kirpan and dangle a key.Or make them prefects or monitors,because they are very good at being responsible,and a tradition that isn’t the flick knife might still be useful in emergencies if we keep tracking down the All Northern and Southern American path.Add some fluoride as well so IQ. diminishes and everyone is passively accepting their lot in life!?

  2. silkworm says:

    The problem of interpreting secularism as the freedom to express one’s religious beliefs rather than the containment of religious beliefs leads to such bizarre pronouncements as the right to wear kirpans. The wearing of kirpans in our Western context has to be seen as cultish, and should be discouraged.

  3. pablo says:

    Methinks too much fluoride for you Phil but in light of your scepticism, I’m in broad agreement. If these recommendations apply to public schools in Victoria as I believe they do then I’m with the School Principals Assoc. If Rudd gets the chance or gives Julia her head then a French style declaration of secular state principles should be brought in. No kirpans, no hijabs no religious symbolism full stop.

  4. Mercurius says:

    Silkworm, the urge to control what other people wear in our Western context has to be seen as backward, and should be discouraged.

    Why should anybody feel compelled to dictate what other people can wear, or restrict them from wearing? And why is it so often discussions about the “spiritual” and the “sacred” that ends up obsessing about people’s clothing, or lack thereof?

  5. Klaus K says:

    Why exactly is that, pablo, in defense of some abstract principle? What, in everyday human terms, does it achieve to prevent people from wearing a kirpan or hijab?

  6. Mercurius says:

    In other words, if you believe in liberte, egalite, fraternite, on what basis can you argue for the restriction of other people’s preferred garb?

    Individualism collides with the Enlightenment!

  7. Paulus says:

    Yeah, Mercurius, but surely the real issue is this: if there is a general prohibition on something in society, do you get a special exemption from the rule on account of religion?

    If so, would any religion do? Jehovah’s witnesses? Scientologists? Rajneesh cultists?

    The Danes were recently grappling with this.

    “On October 24, 2006, the Eastern High Court of Denmark upheld the earlier ruling of the Copenhagen City Court by which wearing of Kirpan by a Sikh was declared illegal. By this Denmark has become the first country in the World to pass such a ruling. …

    Danish Weapons Law allows carrying of knives in public places if it is for fishing, hunting, sports or any other purpose recognized as valid. The High Court did not find religion as being a valid reason for carrying kirpan.”
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kirpan

  8. There is a clear distinction between wearing a head scarf (or a necklace with a cross on it) and carrying a dagger.

    The real question is: would we allow the practice without the religious justification?

    Do we allow kids to carry knives at school? Of course not, a no matter what your religion says it is unsafe for children to carry knives. It doesn’t magically become unsafe because your sky fairy demands it.

    Do we allow kids to carry dope at school? Of course not. But if you allow orthodox Sikhs to carry their Kirpans, on what grounds do you oppose Rastafarian children from walking around with weed?

  9. Sorry for parroting your question Paulus. I didn’t see your comment there before I made mine.

    You make the excellent point that these kind of rulings force the state to decide what a ‘real’ religion is. And in doing so they can get themselves in a lot of trouble.

    Obviously the big three are ‘real’ religions and Hinduism and Sikhism also count. But why, besides their number of followers, are they more worthy of legal exceptions than, as you point out, the scientologists or Rajneesh cultists?

  10. Klaus K says:

    If the knife is sheathed and bound in agreed upon ways, why not?

    Let the various groups put forward their proposals, and then they can be discussed. When there is a constituency asking for weed to be carried by children, then address the request on it’s merits.

    Some secularists have a funny way of trying to sway the religious to their way of thinking. Or perhaps that is less important than the loud denunciation and specular banishment of religious symbols?

  11. silkworm says:

    Mercurius, I am not talking about prohibition of religious garb in society generally (your strawman argument), but in schools only. For a start, hijabs should be proscribed in public schools.

    I would like to see hijabs banned in Islamic schools as well, but I don’t see that as practical in a political sense, as there would be too much resistance from the principals of Islamic schools.

    I also fear that the principals of Christian and Jewish schools would side with the principals of Islamic schools in this debate as they would see that, for the sake of consistency in the secular argument, i.e., for social fairness, the containment of religious expression would apply to their schools as well.

    It is in the interests of the Christian, Jewish and Islamic schools to defend each other against their common enemy of secularism.

  12. Mercurius says:

    Paulus asks: if there is a general prohibition on something in society, do you get a special exemption from the rule on account of religion?

    Well, often people do get a special exemption. I’ve travelled in Muslim countries where an infidel like me gets a special exemption on account of religion to eat pork, drink alcohol, dance to music &c. I don’t see what we have to fear from a boy wearing a ceremonial dagger (a.k.a. a trinket).

    And it also works in our society for general obligations. For example, we have compulsory voting on a Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath. Anybody whose religious beliefs are contrary to voting on that day are permitted to vote early by legislation.

    This may annoy your average militant secularist, but it’s commonly known as “respecting difference”.

  13. Klaus K says:

    I would think that respecting difference is the basic condition of promoting secularism effectively. That is the only way that secularism can position itself as a mediator between religious positions, rather than an enemy to all. It is also the best way to lure students from religious backgrounds into secular education.

  14. hannah's dad says:

    Some religions [plural] regard women as ‘unclean’ and inferior.
    In the name of ‘religious’ freedom do we allow that to become an integral part of our society?
    Is regarding women as ‘lesser’ OK, just because a religion says so?
    For example if a person who, because of religious beliefs, considers a woman to be unclean and inferior and yet that person is employed in, lets say, a government mediation and counselling job that inevitably involves men and women, do those beliefs render such a person less competent to deal with disputes between an inferior and superior person than one who does not believe such?
    Justice for whom?

  15. Klaus K says:

    “In the name of ‘religious’ freedom do we allow that to become an integral part of our society?”

    See, this is an example of the exaggerated rhetoric that emerges every time related issues are discussed, and in this case is simply beside the point. Nobody is proposing that the kirpan become mandatory, or even that it be promoted, only that some people be permitted to carry them.

  16. anthony says:

    “But if you allow orthodox Sikhs to carry their Kirpans, on what grounds do you oppose Rastafarian children from walking around with weed?”

    Ummm the fact rastafanarians don’t require that children walk around with weed?

    I’m with Klaus on the exaggerated rhetoric and that this kind of rhetoric is a lack of good faith in the way these things can be resolved rationally,fairly and publicly.

  17. Liam Hogan says:

    Surely the problem would be best solved by the application of blogger’s libertarianism.
    If every child were allowed to conceal knives around their person, an equal market in threat would ensure peace, and they’d be able to organise together to stab to death any unbalanced child who tried to go on a kirpan slicing spree.
    In fact, a free society really should demand that school students carry weapons.

  18. mbahnisch says:

    And take an oath to oppose Fractional Reserve Banking. Voluntarily of course.

  19. hannah's dad says:

    #15 Klaus K
    “and in this case is simply beside the point.”
    Maybe in the case of a knife.
    But my point, which you have ignored, is that there are very real cases where the “freedom” of some, because of their religion, directly results in a lessening of the freedoms of others.
    It may be a cute and amusing example to talk about ceremonial knives and Canadian laws and so on but here in Australia today persons are employed by government bodies to mediate in judicial cases involving men and women and those mediators have a religious belief that women are unclean and inferior.
    Sorry, ignoring a comparatively trivial issue which is part of a much deeper problem is not exxaggerated rhetoric, it’s addressing the heart of the problem.
    Does one persons ‘freedom’ detract from those of others?

  20. It’s not exaggerated rhetoric; it’s the logical conclusion of giving religious exemptions.

    Do we allow Christian literalists to remove their children from biology because evolution contradicts their beliefs? If so do the children fail a subject because of their religion? Surely this is discrimination.

  21. Liam Hogan says:

    AA, take everything to its logical conclusion and everything gets pretty silly. In fact, take things to its logical conclusion, and you have silkworm who wants to ban Islam in Islamic schooling.
    If you’re so contemptuous of other people’s ‘sky-fairy’ beliefs, why does it bother you so much?

  22. Because their sky fairy beliefs are going to have daggers in our schools.

    Because they rubbish science in the name of Biblical literalism.

    Because they oppose birth control and sex education.

    Because they want to deny civil unions to same sex attracted couples.

    I could go on but don’t want to derail the thread. Religious beliefs bother me because they have harmful real-world consequences.

  23. I’m with Klaus K on this one.

    Secularism is not the same thing as atheism. To have the state ban all forms of religious expression would be a kind of atheist theocracy and unfairly pushing a certain ideology onto the citizenry. As an atheist I wouldn’t have a problem with this, but the state sanctioned ideology could just as easily be Islam or Judaism, Christianity etc.

    Therefore we champion the secular state as the means of getting a consensus from a diverse multi-cultural society. You are free to practice your religion as you see fit so far as you do not violate other’s civil liberties.

    I think wearing something that covers your face as a matter of religious practice is pretty silly but people, including school children should enjoy that freedom as I enjoy my freedom not to wear silly things on my head or around my neck.

    If there were widespread reports of people being stabbed with kirpan’s then obviously that would be a considerable problem. Instead we are dealing with the fear of some imagined incident in a context of an Anglo-Christian nation respecting the rights of a minority. If the trinket can be worn safely then that’s the end of the issue.

  24. Mercurius says:

    I’ll have a post up that’s pertinent to this issue on Friday afternoon. We need to decide whether we really believe in an inclusive public education system that keeps people inside the tent. Currently we are allowing separatist schools to flourish, partly because we object to the trinkets their children wish to wear in the playground.

  25. Look, if we are speaking about trinkets here I have no problem. I too would like to make public school as inclusive, within reason, as possible.

    But if we are talking about letting children carry daggers, which any other non-Sikh would be expelled for, then we have a problem.

    That is the question. Can a non-Sikh carry a dagger/trinket like the Kirpan? If he/she can then obviously there is no problem with the dagger/trinket. If they can’t then there is probably a safety issue and no one should be carrying one.

  26. Liam Hogan says:

    Glad to see you’re thinking of the children, AA. Won’t somebody else think of the children?
    First of all, the kirpan is, as others here have pointed out to you, a trinket. It’s as dangerous as a pair of compasses and a lot less dangerous than a steel ruler, both evil instruments of pain of which I remember being a victim when I was in school.
    Second, anti-choice beliefs and homophobia aren’t limited to the religious. Hating fags and uppity women is hardly a function of faith, and there are a great many religious people who believe in both a woman’s right to choose and in marriage equality for gays and lesbians. If they can get a word in edgewise against embattled secularism, some of them might say hello.
    As for science, I rather think it can defend itself.
    Your points against ‘religion’ are matters of politics, not freedom.

  27. mbahnisch says:

    Hating fags and uppity women is hardly a function of faith, and there are a great many religious people who believe in both a woman’s right to choose and in marriage equality for gays and lesbians. If they can get a word in edgewise against embattled secularism, some of them might say hello.

    Hello! 😉

  28. Of course these things are not confined to religious people. But religious people use religious arguments to oppose gay rights and contraception.

    The problem is that when you have religion behind your bigotry it is seen as somehow more acceptable. In the USA for example some pharmacists refuse to provide contraception because of their religious beliefs. If a non-religious person did this he/she would be told to get out of the profession. But because these people are Christian they get away with it.

    But back to the topic, can non-Sikhs wear a Kirpan-like trinket? Or are they too dangerous? If the Muslims, Jews and atheist kids can carry ‘daggers’ then I have no problem with Kirpans in schools.

    (Hello Mark.)

  29. Liam Hogan says:

    The problem is that when you have religion behind your bigotry it is seen as somehow more acceptable.

    That’s the same way I feel about silkworm, AA. He doesn’t like Catholicism or Catholics much, but because he’s a ‘secularist’, he gets to blame the Vatican.
    I’m with you on the pharmacists—in civilised Australia that rubbish doesn’t wash.

    can non-Sikhs wear a Kirpan-like trinket?

    Let’s do the thought experiment properly, and imagine they’re as sharp, savage and pointy as an ROTC bayonet. The question remains not just a matter of safety and fairness, but also whether a restriction that would significantly affect of one group of children carrying them would infringe a minority’s right to participate in a critical part of civil society.
    Non-Sikhs would say, were the knives banned “why would I want one anyway”?
    Sikhs would say “where can my children go to school”?
    That’s the difference.

  30. mbahnisch says:

    Hello, Australian Atheist.

    It probably doesn’t need saying but I agree entirely with Liam’s position. Secularism – as in separation of religion and state – does not and should not imply that religion disappears from view, merely that it doesn’t influence public policy and that its practices are condoned provided they don’t harm others. There doesn’t appear to me to be any argument about harm being made out in all this talk. If some (hypothetical) people take offence just because others have religious convictions, that is not a matter for the state to sort out. It’s their private view. Just as same-sex marriage shouldn’t be prevented because some find it offensive.

  31. Thanks for addressing the question. And I like your thought experiment.

    I’m glad you concur on the pharmacists.

    But I wish you could see that it is exactly the same as the problem with the Kirpan.

    In both cases the people ‘not of the particular faith’ (non-Christians in the first case and non-Sikhs in the second) are harmfully affected (no contraception or daggers at school) by religious beliefs.

    In both cases there are down-sides. The Christian literalist can not work as a pharmacists and the Sikh literalist can not go to public school.

    But in the public sphere when we are dealing with people of different faiths (and no faith) we must stick to arguments that do not rely on religious grounds.

  32. mbahnisch says:

    That argument falls down, AA. In the case of contraceptives being dispensed, there’s direct harm because someone is being deprived of a service whereas in the case of a Kirpan, there’s only a very indirect harm, perhaps, and there only if someone else apprehends danger since it appears clear that the dagger itself wouldn’t do harm.

  33. G’day Mark.

    The harm argument is the only one I’m making. Sorry for not be clear.

    The reason the Sikhs need exemptions is because governments/schools have seen fit to ban daggers/ceremonial daggers from schools. Obviously because they are dangerous. Why else would an exemption be needed?

    I have said that I have no problem if the ‘daggers’ are just trinkets – if they are not dangerous. The test of this, surely, is whether non-Sikh kids can carry them. If they can’t, why not? Is it because they are dangerous?

  34. It seems my lack of confidence in our ability to avoid the Canadian experience with this issue wasn’t misplaced.

  35. mbahnisch says:

    The reason the Sikhs need exemptions is because governments/schools have seen fit to ban daggers/ceremonial daggers from schools. Obviously because they are dangerous.

    That’s not obvious at all, AA.

  36. Well what is the exemption from then? Surely it is from the ‘carrying something dangerous’ rule. Or the ‘no knives at school’ rule. Which is a more specific version of the former rule.

  37. mbahnisch says:

    I, for one, don’t exclude the hypothesis that some of the principals and/or parents who are urging such a policy are acting out of prejudice or fear of difference. You know, the things secularism is supposed to counteract! 😉

  38. Which policy?

    The ‘carrying something dangerous’ rule or the ‘no knives at school’ rule already existed. And it wasn’t introduced to keep out ‘the ethnics’. It was introduced to make schools safer. A long time ago.

  39. mbahnisch says:

    Sure. But I have no doubt that this parliamentary enquiry didn’t suddenly decide to look at the issue of its own accord. Obviously there would have been principals refusing to give exemptions from the policy. And since it appears doubtful that a Kirpan is a dangerous knife anyway, I wonder whether the application of the policy to prevent them isn’t in some instances motivated by prejudice.

  40. hannah's dad says:

    Quoted in the post;
    ‘… to allow male students….”
    Why not female?

  41. Liam Hogan says:

    Exemptions, rules, rationality. As Puzo’s Don Vito might have said, if we are reasonable people, let us reason together and find a solution to our mutual problem.
    The example of fundie pharmacists’ refusal to sell contraceptives is only similar to public schools’ banning of Sikh knives in that they’re examples of toxic people who can’t recognise worldviews other than their own. In the first case, it’s women with control over their own bodies, in the second case, it’s a religious interpretation of an object.
    A parallel example from the pre-multicultural Australia: wine. you may be familiar with the Catholic sacrament of Eucharist, AA, or not, I don’t know. In many cases this involves the ritual serving of alcohol to children, an offence otherwise seriously looked upon by fair-minded enforcers of the law.
    The critical differences between Father Giovanni offering the blood of Christ, though, and Uncle Dodgy offering a can of UDL vodka & lemonade is interpretation, context, and intent.

  42. gummotrotsky says:

    AA,

    Do you actually have anything of interest to say? Or are you content to just create vicarious embarassment among the other atheists who read LP?

  43. mbahnisch says:

    Presumably, hannah’s dad, it’s worn by male Sikhs not female Sikhs.

  44. I see it as happening the other way around.

    Kids want to bring their Kirpans to school. Schools say: no sorry the ‘carrying something dangerous’ rule forbids it. Victorian parliamentary committee alerted to the problem.

    But we come back to whether the knife if dangerous. If it’s not, then there is nothing from the Sikhs kids to be exempt from. And all kids should be allowed to carry similar trinkets. In which case I have no problem.

  45. mbahnisch says:

    I don’t see anything wrong with AA’s comments, Gummo. He/she is enabling those of us who oppose the position being argued to sharpen our arguments. Forgive the bad pun! 🙂

  46. joe2 says:

    This stuff is SO all around the edges.

    Local Sikhs will have had this issue well organised for ages. They have been in Australia almost since almost the year dot. Just after the whitey’s got in and stole.

    Can you just be clear what you are trying to say Gummo?

  47. tigtog says:

    Don’t be obtuse, hannah’s dad @ 8:14pm. Just as no male Muslims are affected by any new rules against the religiously required hijab for orthodox female Muslims, no female Sikhs are affected by any new rules against the religiously required carrying of the kirban.

    ETA: Back in my day at school there was a rule about knives based purely on the length of the blade, and many kids had penknives which they took to school and used to peel apples and carve desks. If the kirpan falls within the traditional length of blade of a penknife, which is my impression, then where’s the harm?

  48. mbahnisch says:

    I don’t think hannah’s dad was being obtuse. I followed the link to the description of the Kirpan and it’s not particularly informative for a range of reasons – and nor is the identical Wikipedia article. I didn’t see anything about its limitation to males, so it seems to me to be a reasonable question to ask.

  49. Liam Hogan says:

    Tigtog, let’s continue my thought experiment from before, and imagine the kirpan is a metre and a half long, made of stainless steel, with a blood channel down the centre and a guarded two-handed pommel.
    Ask yourself now: for what purpose are Sikh students expected to carry it? It’s not for stabbing or slashing, the reason non-Sikhs might carry a heavy, annoying bit of weaponry to school. It’s for religious ritual, probably a pain in the arse for most fifteen-year olds shitty with their parents. My uncle tells the story about carrying a heavy, cumbersome .303 rifle to Cadets, and having to clean and maintain it at home when he’d rather have been doing other things. That was in an era and in a country town saturated with machismo and ammunition, and it still alienated him from guns for life.
    I ask, really, what intrinsic value does a sharp cutting blade have, that a religious group might be victimised as a matter of policy for carrying one?

  50. hannah's dad says:

    “Don’t be obtuse, hannah’s dad @ 8:14pm. Just as no male Muslims are affected by any new rules against the religiously required hijab for orthodox female Muslims, no female Sikhs are affected by any new rules against the religiously required carrying of the kirban.’

    Thanks Mark.
    I wasn’t being obtuse, I was pointing out that the religious belief is being used to justify
    sexism [Encarta dictionary:sexism [séksizəm]
    n
    1. sex discrimination: discrimination against women or men because of their sex]

    And tigtog has kindly provided a second example where sexism is being excused on the grounds of religious belief.
    And I have informed you all that there are persons operating in semi-legal areas today who have considerable power to exert in making fundamental decisions affecting men and women [and children too, lets not forget the children] whose religion teaches them that women are inferior and unclean.
    I find it highly questionable that we can allow discriminatory sexist practices in our society on the grounds that they are part of a religion.
    Its easy to poke fun at the knife/scarf issues here but the real issue is whether or not certain values that our Australian society allegedly espouses [sorry about the jingoism and Howardism] re equality and non-sexism can be negated by an appeal to religious belief.

  51. tigtog says:

    OK, obtuse was too harsh. I agree it’s not as obvious as I thought it was.

    It seems that the last Sikh prophet did pronounce that women were to be regarded as full Khalsa entitled to observe the 5 K’s just as much as men, so presumably some Sikh women do wear the kirpan if they are Amritdhari.

  52. Liam Hogan says:

    Excuse me. I used the word ‘pommel’ when I meant to refer to a ‘hilt’, the handle of a sword. The pommel is of course the bottom end of the hilt, designed for balance and for striking weight.
    All of these terms and violent principles, I expect, are taught with the approval of their reasonable parents, at the presumably secular Fencing For Kids:

    En Garde! Fencing for Kids – Saturdays 9-10:00am for the very young, (junior primary), starting at 9:00 am and lasting for 1 hour, finishing at 10:00 am. The course includes professional quality fencing instruction designed specifically for early childhood development, all the Equipment: Foils, Masks and Plastrons.

    If the kirpan is to be banned, I expect Australian fencing also to decline, and our Olympic medal tally to reduce proportionally.

    Hannah’s Dad, you’ve done not much informing at all. You’ve obviously got a chip on your shoulder about some kind of God-bothering mediator—who exactly do you mean? And why should their claimed religion bind them to all of the beliefs you think it does?

  53. Enemy Combatant says:

    As a laid-back secularist, I find it disturbing that displayers of material appendages signifying religious faith/mystic spirituality are being encouraged by governments to continue displaying them in State schools.
    Religious schools, madrassas and Rasta Junior Highs should be able to set their own dress codes. Their turf, their call.
    The “no paraphernalia” rule works well in French government schools, or at least I havn’t noticed reports of rioting, rolling mellees or wide-spread pandemonium as a result of the French govt’s handling of this sensitive matter.
    What happens when the shy, retiring kirpan-carrying kiddie converts to Ninjaism, then appears in the playground in full Shintaro clobber sporting a samurai sword and an intense demeanour?

    Now there’s a difference that compels respect!

  54. Liam Hogan says:

    I don’t know, EC. Are they ready to totally flip out?

  55. Enemy Combatant says:

    A school playground in Melbourne, an attempted lunch money extortion is in progress……

    student sniggers: “That’s a kirpan?? *swish* NO! THIS, IS A KIRPAN.”

  56. Harsh Gummo at 8:18 pm. Sorry for embarrassing you but I’m arguing from principle in a civilised manner. You must blush easily.

    Thanks Mark at 8:20 pm.

    In this instance there seems to be one fact we are missing: whether the ‘dagger’ is dangerous.

    Therefore we have two scenarios:

    1. The kirban is not dangerous. It is indeed, as has been argued, a trinket. In that case there is no good reason to keep them out of schools. Nor is there any reason why non-Sikh kids can’t carry one. In that case I support the trinkets in schools.
    2. The kirban is dangerous. It is a sharp dangerous knife. Sharp knifes are banned in schools. There is a reason. They are dangerous. And there is no good reason to allow some kids to carry them, and thus endanger all children and teachers in the school, simply because of their literalist interpretation of their Sikhism.

    As far as I can tell, very few are arguing that in the case of 2. kirbans should be allowed in school.

  57. And I have informed you all that there are persons operating in semi-legal areas today who have considerable power to exert in making fundamental decisions affecting men and women [and children too, lets not forget the children] whose religion teaches them that women are inferior and unclean.

    Hannah’s dad: any examples off hand in Australia? Let’s ignore other countries for the moment.

    Personally, I’d be more suspicious of judges of the “She was asking for it because she was wearing…” persuasion. Misogyny often doesn’t need religious justification – just an ability to rationalize oneself into what one wants to believe.

  58. mbahnisch says:

    Before you start celebrating the French government’s policy (which actually rests on what the French call laïcité which is not equivalent to the concept and practice of secularism in the English speaking tradition), EC, I’d suggest you look into it some more.

    And generally, it would be helpful if people who seek to defend secularism so vigorously would go to more trouble to educate themselves as to what it actually does and doesn’t mean and entail.

  59. Liam Hogan says:

    very few are arguing that in the case of 2. kirbans should be allowed in school.

    [Raises hand]
    I am. Danger, as I tried to explain before, is a function of intent and context. In any State high school classroom dedicated to science or design/technology you’ll find dangerous things that’d give the boys from Al Qaeda hardboard-and-nails erections. Even the 30cm steel rulers most high school students have could quite easily do nasty damage.
    I’m sure you’ll allow the presence of potentially deadly instruments in high schools for the purpose of education. Why not for the purpose of religious freedom?

  60. hannah's dad says:

    #55
    Ya know religion is such an emotive issue and to criticise any particular aspect of it leaves one wide open to accusations of racism, bigotry etc as a knee jerk response.
    So I’m reluctant to give details but because the issue is serious and to give some credibility here goes.

    I have met several [repeat ‘several’] family court and family relationship centre counsellors and mediators whose religion, as in some cases they themselves have informed me or demonstated in my presence, informs them that women are second class citizens, whose role in marriage should be that of obedience, that divorce should not be an option for anyone [these are people paid by the Federal govt.to be directly involved in divorce cases] particularly women and in some cases women are ‘unclean’ and cannot be touched etc by the counsellor/mediator [as in shake hands in greeting etc].

    These people have strong legal power with regards to property and child custody issues between men and women and their children.

    I find the situation that such persons, and I refer to ones who hold fundamental/orthodox beliefs strongly, should have power over persons they rank as superior/inferior very strange and an example of where such religious beliefs should be grounds for rendering those persons inelible for the job they perform.
    There is more I could say. For example, there are also implications where views less strongly held but still a part of religious dogma are known to influence the outcomes of cases in these areas of family dispute on an organizational [ I wish I knew how to emphasize words such as ‘organizational’]as well as individual level.
    We have blatant documented cases where religious dogma is resulting in sexist discriminatory treatment.
    I therefore urge strong caution when consifering the cry of “religious freedom’ because such may and does equate to loss of freedom for others.
    The sexism of the dagger is a symbolic case in point.
    I would rather not identify the specific religions [plural].

    Specific enough?

  61. Yes I know you are Liam. You were the ‘few’.

    A knife is much more dangerous than a metal ruler. Metal rulers were banned at my school anyway.

    In home ec, yes there are knives. But it is in a supervised environment.

    Can non-Sikh kids carry a similar dagger Liam? If not, is it because they are dangerous?

  62. Liam Hogan says:

    Presumably if the Sikhs can carry a religious dagger, non-Sikhs would be allowed to also carry a religious dagger. They can ask their own Gods why they would want to.
    I take back my Flandersish mocking about you being concerned overly with The Children, as it’s obviously not danger we’re arguing about, but exceptionalism. The point you don’t seem to concede is that arbitrarily universal rules are themselves a danger in plural societies.
    A fifteen year-old with a kirpan, or a steel ruler, or even a copy of the Anarchist Cookbook, a soldering iron, a Tandy handbook and a grudge, is hardly a danger to society in the same way an uncontrolled ‘secularist’ agency with rules is.

  63. My problem isn’t with exceptionalism per se. My problem is with exceptionalism from rules set up for a reason. So I am still worried about children. (And it was Mrs. Lovejoy I believe.)

    The “arbitrarily universal rule” of ‘no knives at school’ is not arbitrarily. It is there to make the school a safe place. It has a reason.

    You seem to think there is no reason to outlaw knives in schools. If that is you position argue it. I don’t think many people will agree.

    Are the universal rules, commonly called laws, outlawing murder arbitrarily and dangerous?

  64. ‘arbitrarily’ supposed to read ‘arbitrary’. All three times.

  65. Enemy Combatant says:

    [EC, I’d suggest you look into it some more.]

    No worries Mark, your suggestion is my scholarship. I’ll get on it right away. Whatever’s helpful. They say you’re a hard marker but I’m gonna shoot for an HD!

  66. Liam Hogan says:

    (And it was Mrs. Lovejoy I believe.)

    You’re right about the Simpsons. You’re wrong about law.
    Legislation is made in a political environment, and the common law has a political history. Both necessarily encompass religion and tolerance of minority groups’ difference and deviance. All good law allows itself to be subject to interpretation in courts and to the application of jurisprudence.
    I encourage you, as Mark has, to read up on the history of secularism, toleration/emancipation and sectarianism, especially in Australia.

  67. gummotrotsky says:

    Wow, so many people, so little moral high ground. Quite a stampede we’ve got on our hands.

    It’s a while since I’ve seen so many people taking such principled stands in defence of inflated fears based on ignorance. Silkworm doesn’t need to know what the significance of a kirpan is in the Sikh religion – religion’s outmoded, ergo Sikhism’s outmoded and it’s damned silly of Canadian Courts and Victorian politicians to endanger schoolkids by allowing religious whackos to carry knives around their person. Case closed.

    Australian Antitheist adds a little more nuance – why should Sikh kids be allowed to carry knives when other Aussie kids aren’t. One rule for all, he cries! But which rule – the rule enacted by the Victorian Parliament in the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006 or general school based rules about packing some sharps in with the cheese and vegemite sandwiches, the apple, and the Uncle Toby’s mueslu bar? Well obviously the latter – these Sikhs with their “god-fairy story” are obviously irrational, superstitious people, and who knows when they might run amok and go the slash. Things could get real ugly if it happens at the school sports carnival or, god forbid, speech night.

    And hannah’s dad gives us the gender equity argument – it should be banned unless it can be shown that female sikhs are required to carry a kirpan too. Or something like that.

    Hilarious. From here on in I think I’ll just abandon any attempt to foster reasoned debate, so to hell with asking anyone if they can come up with empirical evidence to show that kirpan carrying is a danger to public safety.

    Nah. I’m just going to sit back and watch all you “highly principled people” make utter fools of yourselves trying to pass off your panicked response to the shocking facts disclosed in this post – facts that you could have learnt any time in the past if you’d ever met a Sikh and asked him about his religion – and the “unprincipled” people – the genuine secularists – kick seven shades of bullshit out of your arguments.

  68. gummotrotsky says:

    Incidentally, a well-crafted, sturdy rosary makes an excellent garotte – I think I saw that in a film once. Or maybe it was on Cracker or Wire in the Blood. And if the crucix is big enough, I suppose you could use it as a nun-chukka, Bruce Lee style.

  69. mbahnisch says:

    We have blatant documented cases where religious dogma is resulting in sexist discriminatory treatment.

    That may well be the case, hannah’s dad, but irreligious Aussie blokes don’t seem to need anything but cultural justifications for domestic violence and worse. In many (not all but many) instances the primary cause is being missed because of the justification offered. No one particularly likes to own up to being a violent misogynist, I’d imagine, so they’ll tend to cloak their actions in some sort of belief system – whether or not that belief system is nominally religious is a cultural variant.

    Are the universal rules, commonly called laws, outlawing murder arbitrarily and dangerous?

    Liam has already answered that question, AA, but if, as some who characterise their belief system (and it is a corpus of beliefs not an absence of belief) as atheists do, you claim some privileged relationship between rationality and the absence of religious faith, I’d invite you respectfully to reflect on your own argumentative strategies.

    EC, I’m an easy marker, but I do like students to be committed to learning! 😉

  70. hannah's dad says:

    “And hannah’s dad gives us the gender equity argument – it should be banned unless it can be shown that female sikhs are required to carry a kirpan too. Or something like that.”
    Actually gummo I don’t think I said what you claim or imply.
    I think this is the closest to a couple of lines summary of my thoughts:
    “I therefore urge strong caution when considering the cry of “religious freedom’ because such may and does equate to loss of freedom for others.
    The sexism of the dagger is a symbolic case in point.”

    So I don’t think your condescension is warranted.
    And your comment hardly qualifies as reasoned debate.
    Pity, cos I usually read your stuff carefully.

  71. gummotrotsky says:

    In this case, happy to disappoint hd.

  72. Liam Hogan says:

    So I don’t think your condescension is warranted.

    x2

  73. kimberella says:

    x3

    Gummo, if you’re going to claim that others are behaving like “utter fools” the basis for that claim might be more secure if you treated arguments with respect and responded to them.

  74. x4

    At least I’m not presuming that my opponents are ignorant.

    I already knew Sikhs carry Kirpans. I have meet Sikhs, I have spoken to Sikhs. I used to work with some. I have discussed their traditions with them.

    I have also written a 2000 word paper whether cultural or religious beliefs/practices should receive exemptions from the law. So I have thought deeping about these issues before.

    I’ll post it on my blog when I find it and workout how to hide stuff below a fold.

  75. hannah's dad says:

    Mark at #69.
    Sorry Mark I was accidentally ambiguous.
    The ‘blatant documented’ cases to which I refer is where the ‘religious dogma’ of a Federal govt. funded family relationship centre, run by a church charity organization, was itself practising the sexist discriminatory treatment. That is, it was the church dogma behind the FRC that was the problem [still is in some cases] not the individual religious or otherwise Aussie blokes whixh is a separate issue.
    The church concerned refuses to acknowledge domestic violence and CSA as issues in family separation.
    In 7 years of practice at one of their centres [not a FRC but general counselling service] they failed to acknowledge a single case of such.
    When this was shown to be incredible by one of their own employees, who studied past files and current cases, the administration simply did not understand what was the problem.
    Outside their mind set.
    Scary.

  76. And I allowed for the fact that the Kirpan may not be dangerous. So if it is, great. I have no problem with it.

  77. Enemy Combatant says:

    X5

    Always put the boot in when a bloke’s down!

  78. Su says:

    “Incidentally, a well-crafted, sturdy rosary makes an excellent garotte – I think I saw that in a film once. Or maybe it was on Cracker or Wire in the Blood.”

    There was the pentacle garotting scene in Polanski’s “The Ninth Gate”, but I’m sure Polanski was paying tribute to prior filmic tradition.

    I live in a small community with a large Sikh population and I was unaware of any local activism in regard to the Kirpan. If the law were to require the observant (boys) among them to uncover their heads, however, I think there would be an outcry. Allowing them to carry a ceremonial weapon with no greater capacity for inflicting damage than other implements readily available in school (and in a high school with a fully equipped metal workshop these are many and varied) seems pretty reasonable.

  79. mbahnisch says:

    hannah’s dad, I agree that’s scary, but I’m not sure I’d make any inference from that as to whether other religious groups are likewise problematic, which is how I read your comment. My apologies if that’s not what you intended to convey.

    AA, if you’re in wordpress, there should be a “more” button to post stuff beneath the fold. If not, use this code where you want the break:

  80. mbahnisch says:

    Sorry, the comments field ate the code. I’ll email it to you.

  81. murph the surf says:

    “In fact, a free society really should demand that school students carry weapons.”

    At last Liam the Reasonable emerges .
    I’m all for teachers carrying lugurs too.

  82. Paulus says:

    Well, Liam, you’ve convinced me.

    I just want to note that as a life-long science fiction fanboy, I shall be raising any children of mine in the Klingon culture and religion.

    That means that my son or daughter will be bringing to school a bat’leth:

    As I’m sure most people here are aware, the first bat’leth was forged by Kahless the Unforgettable in the 9th century. Kahless cut a lock of his hair and dropped it into the lava of the Kri’stak volcano, then plunged the burning lock into the Lake of Lusor and twisted it into a blade. After forging the weapon, he used it to fight the tyrant Molor, and then gave it its name.

    Of course, my child will never use the weapon in aggression, but it is so heavy and sharp that it might just accidently decapitate one of your kids, Liam. I do hope you will not make a fuss about it.

  83. Liam Hogan says:

    I’m forever reasonable, Murph.
    Alas, if all we had were universal rules blind to context and interpretation, we could both find ourselves in a whole lot of trouble with that gun-friendly kind of talk.

  84. I’m going to be consistent and oppose the nerd weapon exemption as well.

  85. hannah's dad says:

    I’m starting to get the feeling this is going on too much.
    But what the hey.
    Mark, that’s just one church, one particular religion.
    Another church [different denomination] claimed at a seminar of counsellors that their FRC had done a survey of their clients and only 4% presented with DV/CSA issues.
    30 professionals, from a variety of organizations, suggested [well it was a little stronger] that something was wrong with their figures and maybe they ought to have a good close look at themselves and their systems and protocols.
    The 2 persons concerned walked out in a huff.
    I was talking, in an consultative capacity, to a MHR whose fundamentalist church of which he was an Elder [different church to the previous 2 examples] had won the tender from the Federal govt. to run the new local FRC.
    He point blank refused to admit the possibility of DV/CSA within separation calling it ‘feminist nonsense’. I presume cos I’m a male he felt safe in saying that.
    I could go on, maybe I have too much already, don’t all rush to agree.
    But religion can do funny things to the values of some people and I’m really wary of the ‘religious freedom’ defence for what is, IMO, frequently indefensible.
    How do I put this clearly?
    Religious freedom should not, IMO, be the excuse for discrimination that directly or indirectly, symbolically or whatever, negates principles of equality. It [religious freedom] should not be the grounds for sexual discrimination. I’m conscious that denying people religious freedom is in itself a dangerous practice and I don’t want to see blanket statements, but I think we need to be very careful and realize that the dagger and scarf issues are tip of the iceberg stuff. Underneath is what I’ve been trying to show where I’ve given examples where individuals and organizations exercising their religious dogma are trampling on the freedoms of others.

  86. mbahnisch says:

    Well, I agree with that, hannah’s dad, and I’m a long time opponent of the exemption of religious bodies from anti-discrimination law, but I don’t see that there’s any explicit relevance to the matter under discussion.

  87. So the Catholic Church should have to ordain female priests Mark? I agree.

    But if you can disregard their religious tradition why must we accept the carrying of daggers in schools. Can’t we disregard that tradition also? For the greater good.

  88. mbahnisch says:

    The Catholic Church, understood in its broad sense (and also in its narrow sense) already has, AA. But that’s not what I’m talking about. Priests aren’t church employees but clerics and the way a private organisation chooses to order itself is a private matter. What I am referring to is when the church carries out a public function – for instance education or the provision of welfare and counselling services) – and when it’s doing that with public money it ought not to discriminate on the basis of gender and sexuality or whatever. You seem to be confused about the public/private distinction. The point of secularism is also to protect civil society from a totalising imposition of any belief system – any one whatsoever – so it’s not designed to impose your ideology or a Sikh ideology or mine on anyone else. The exact opposite, in fact. If people choose to wear clothes that express their beliefs or carry symbols they should be free to do so just as you (unlike in the Soviet Union where it was constitutionally enshrined) have the freedom “of atheist propaganda”. Your last question is either facetious or betrays bad faith in trying to carry your argument at all costs. It’s been pointed out that no one is being harmed by carrying a Kirpan and that is not the same thing as “the carrying of daggers in schools”. You surely understand that, so I’d ask you to argue in a mature and sensible fashion, please, rather than resort to rhetorical obfuscation.

  89. Yeah, you’re right about the priests. The Catholic Church has a right to discriminate within its religious structure. I didn’t think about it properly. My bad.

    Back to the Kirpans. I have said repeatedly that if the Kirpans we are talking about are simply trinkets then I have no problem with them.

    But we can’t seem to decide whether they are in fact harmless. I am more than happy if they are. But if they are harmless they will not need an exemption from school rules.

    Sorry if I wasn’t clear.

  90. philiptravers says:

    The most dangerous weapon I saw at school,was a young man wanking himself in the classroom,whilst the teacher wasnt there to prove that sperm ejected can fly like a rocket!? If my memory serves me it hit the roof! The discipline of us students broke down pretty badly into laughter,admiration and sort of being threatened..because corporal punishment occurred with gay abandon, and that kid would of been told to leave permanently.Thinking back ,the understanding was rocket science calibre,but, I guess from observation he was embarassed by his sense of humour later on in life.He could of been a sexologist with a unique insight already tested and observed.Or even a rocket scientist.The French are boring secularist that have stopped some natural rocket scientists from moving on from life experiment to real technical experiment,by means of the all encompassing condom cover-up.Eh!And the Sikhs are great at tug-of-war around Coffs Harbour way due no doubt to hard work and eating amongst other things bananas.The day is over.Good night morning!

  91. mbahnisch says:

    I’d suggest reading the relevant chapter of the report, as I’ve just done, as a basis for discussion.

    http://www.parliament.vic.gov.au/etc/fs_inq_dress.html

  92. Thanks Mark. I read it and here is my slight summery. (The most relevant pages are 57-8)

    “In a recent media interview, a spokesperson from the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development suggested that the kirpan could be replaced with a small replica or pendant.”

    This was rejected by Sikh Interfaith Council of Victoria:

    “To suggest the using of a replica or any form of material is to belittle the religion. A replica or pendant is not acceptable. The kirpan cannot be of any material other than steel.”

    As a result the report advises that “schools work with Sikh students and their communities to negotiate appropriate standards for the kirpan.” It gives very little guidance beyond that however.

    If the Sikh Interfaith Council of Victoria is successful in lobbying schools it will be the full steel dagger.

    And the kirpan is the real thing. Justice Campbell in Ontario Human Rights Commission and Harbhajan Singh Pandori v. Peel Board of Education:

    “There have been, in the Metropolitan Toronto area, three reported incidents of violent kirpan use. One involved a plea of guilty to attempted murder after a stabbing with a kirpan. In one street fight, a man was stabbed in the back with a kirpan. In one case, a kirpan was drawn for defensive purposes.”
    http://www.sikhcoalition.org/LegalCanada5.asp

  93. myriad says:

    Oh for pete’s sake. I’m an athiest, and a secularist, and female -and lesbian because hey! It might be relevant. I also happen to know lots of Sikhs and have traveled extensively in India. It would be really nice to see people educate themselves before launching into ridiculously ill-informed arguments. About 30% of the posts on this thread are a waste of time because people don’t understand what a Kirpan is. From ‘About.com’ as the Wiki article is pretty crap Sikhism:

    …Kirpans range in size from large ceremonial swords, to tiny knives small enough to be worn about the neck. All Khalsa Sikhs are required to wear the kirpan.

    The kirpan is stricly a religious symbol, and it is never used as a weapon.

    And yes for those wondering, Khalsa Sikhs of both sexes adhere to the 5 Khalsa practices. Sikhism is actually pretty enlightened on the issue of equality between the sexes, and not particularly bloodthirsty, if you care to check.

    As for those who think France’s “secularist” policy of removing all religious symbols was a good idea, I suggest further reading. Mainly what it led to was a lot of Muslims withdrawing their daughters from the well-rounded and open state education system and placing them in Muslim schools so that they could wear a head scarf – strike a blow for feminism.

    People arguing on this thread about religious values & equal rights etc. need to learn to make a few disctinctions, such as

    a) a religious practice doesn’t automatically threaten equal rights and thus I’d like to think we all have the intellectual ability to distinguish between the complete non-impact of wearing a Kirpan for example on women’s rights, and refusing them access to abortion or contraception.

    b) some brisk reading of the very active Mulsim feminist movement might open some eyes to the rather nauseating paternalism practiced by many in the west, who think they know what’s best for Muslim women’s equality, such as assisting the poor hapless petals are ‘assisted’ to be ‘freed’ of the head scarf – when in fact many Muslim feminists offer articulate and oddly more culturally appropriate arguments for why its 1) their choice and 2) actually quite empowering within their cultural contexts.

    And hat-tip to Liam for common sense and wit.

  94. mbahnisch says:

    I see you’ve cherry picked it, AA! But never mind that for the moment, although again it doesn’t give me much confidence that you’re approaching this with an open mind as opposed to a preconceived view. It seems to me that the Committee reached some sensible conclusions.

    If you want to argue on the basis that no religious symbols should be allowed (which, as I’m emphasising is not a secularist argument according to Anglo-American law or political philosophy) please do so openly and drop the stuff about “danger”. It’s obviously just a figleaf for your underlying position, and it would be much preferable for you to argue it openly. Since it would come down to a claim for discrimination in public education on the basis of religious belief, which is contrary to all the principles of liberal society, I doubt you could sustain it but it would be preferable to a spurious set of objections based on partial evidence, with respect.

  95. mbahnisch says:

    I’d also endorse what myriad said, and thank her for the clarification on the Kirpan!

  96. kimberella says:

    Me too. The point about feminism is well made, and is very close to what I argued numerous times about FGM:

    http://larvatusprodeo.net/index.php?s=female+genital+mutilation

  97. myriad says:

    talk about selective quoting AA. For starters regarding your exciting Toronto Kirpan incidences, going by Wiki data, there are about 100 000 Sikhs in Toronto, a city of about 5 million.

    Secondly, you left out the most critical quotes from the ruling, the ones that clearly stated there was absolutely no evidence of violence resulting from kids wearing kirpans, or any recorded incidents of violence in schools involving kirpans.

    The kirpan is a religious symbol, and being made of steel is critical to its symbolism, as it is for the Khalsa of wearing a steel bracelet. The kirpan is also removed from its sheath for some rites, so sewing it in is not acceptable.

    I wonder if it ever occurs to people like you that the practice of demonising a religious practice for which there is exactly bugger evidence to suggest it’s a problem might actually encourage those under attack to become more intractable in their own views?

  98. I’m sorry you don’t take me at my word but I have no problem with the turban, the hijab, the Christian cross etc. all being worn at public school. I think the French law mentioned earlier is silly.

    I am not trying to outlaw peoples’ beliefs. Or stop them from expressing them. I want people from as many religious backgrounds as possible in public schools.

    I want religious education to be compulsory so that children learn about the faiths of the world.

    But when those religious beliefs conflict with a school’s ‘no weapons’ policy I don’t think it wise to grant exemptions.

  99. Sorry myriad but I’m not demonising Sikhs.

    The earlier discussion was over whether the kirpan is dangerous. By this I took to mean whether it can cause serious injury or death. I simply quoted a judge saying the kirpan is dangerous. Of course the vast, vast majority of people are not violent. My point was simply that the kirpan can do real harm.

    I was not trying to prove a kirpan stabbing epidemic.

  100. silkworm says:

    “Kirpan” means “strapped sword”. It is slightly bigger than a dagger. Here is a picture of a kirpan.

    The Wikipedia page states:

    “[The] injunction was primarily in order to protect the weak from tyranny and slavery, to maintain a state of harmony and security, to allow for the free development of trade, craftsmanship, arts & literature and to safeguard and protect the universal right of all beings to live their lives in a peaceful, stable and sheltered environment.

    The kirpan has both a physical function, as a defensive weapon, as well as a symbolic function. Physically it is an instrument of “Ahimsa” or non-violence. The principle of ahimsa is to actively prevent violence, not to simply stand by idly whilst violence is being done. To that end, the kirpan is a tool to be used to prevent violence from being done to a defenseless person when all other means to do so have failed. Symbolically, the kirpan represents the power of truth to cut through untruth. It is the cutting edge of the enlightened mind.”

    I don’t buy the argument that it is an instrument of non-violence. What they really mean is that historically these swords acted as deterrence against violence, but this deterrence only works if the sword is visible.

    If a boy was running with it on and tripped, he could easily injure himself or another. It is a sharp object and inherently dangerous. There are good reasons to ban it. There is only one good reason to allow it, and that is for “religious freedom”, which appears to be Liam’s and Mark’s interpretation of secularism.

    Mark said:

    “It’s been pointed out that no one is being harmed by carrying a Kirpan and that is not the same thing as “the carrying of daggers in schools”. You surely understand that, so I’d ask you to argue in a mature and sensible fashion, please, rather than resort to rhetorical obfuscation.”

    Mark all too easily overlooks the danger that carrying such a sharp object entails. Banning it is the mature and sensible thing to do.

    It is a matter of harm minimization. What harm is done to the Sikh by banning the kirpan? He may get a little upset, but that is a small sacrifice he should pay for the greater good of public safety – which is after all what wearing the kirpan is supposed to represent. What irony!

  101. mbahnisch says:

    Silkworm, you seem to get more than a little upset when people challenge your preferred atheist world view, but you’re quick to dismiss others’ beliefs. If “harm minimisation” is the issue, what’s the problem with a sheath as in Canada, and what’s the problem with negotiating that with the Sikh community? It really does seem to me that a lot of anti-religious prejudice is hiding behind some spurious arguments here, I’m afraid. I’m happy to accept your abjuration of that AA, but then I wonder why you’ve spent so much time arguing (selectively) about the issue if it’s of no importance to you whether or not Sikhs wear a Kirpan if it’s not dangerous.

  102. silkworm says:

    And I could just as easily say that a lot of religious prejudice is hiding behind your spurious argument.

    “… what’s the problem with negotiating that with the Sikh community?”

    The problem is that the Sikh community is refusing to negotiate. They are acting in exactly the way we would expect religious fundamentalists to act.

  103. myriad says:

    silkworm, as Mark says your posts have a lingering smell of prejudice. How many Sikhs have you met I wonder? I have travelled and visited, know and known many hundreds. AS the article I quoted states, Kirpans vary considerably in size. Most of the Sikhs I have known wear one about the size of a letter opener. It can also vary from fairly curved to quite straight, and can range in sharpness from completely blunt on both sides to a single sharp edge. Most Sikhs carry them either in a pendant form, attached to their belt, and most frequently sheathed.

    And it’s not just “he’s” but “she’s”, thanks.

    I don’t buy the argument that it is an instrument of non-violence.

    read a lot of Sikh history and doctrine have you?

    There never has been and never will be a rash of injured or dead little Sikhs because they might carry a sharp kirpan. It’s a religious symbol treated with great respect, and integral to their religion. Asking a Khalsa Sikh not to wear a kirpan is more akin to demanding a Christian does not pray as opposed to say asking the latter to forgo the optional adornment of a crucifix (clue: for different belief systems, different actions and symbols have different levels of significance). In short, your profound religious ignorance and bigotry against same is showing, and your ‘harm minimisation’ argument is tosh.

  104. mbahnisch says:

    Silkworm, the art of negotiating is to begin with your preferred position. Surely you understand that. I’ve never heard of Sikhs described as “fundamentalists” before. As myriad suggests, there’s a lot of (wilful?) ignorance on display on this thread.

  105. myriad says:

    AA, thanks for your last comment, I really appreciated it.

  106. myriad says:

    Ps- I think one of the reasons this issue upsets me is that Sikhs are not only overall incredibly mild and constructive as a religious group, they’ve also been horribly targeted for insults, death threats and outright death because their prominent turbans and beards have made them an easy target for Islamophobes.

    I’m sincerely all for a strong separation of church and state, and secular pluralistic state education, but I think when we start going after people for wearing harmless symbols of their beliefs that are integral to their cultural paradigm, we step over the line of ‘ good secularists’ to ‘paternalistic intolerant pricks’

  107. silkworm says:

    ‘Paternalistic intolerant pricks’? No need to be rude.

    “Wearing harmless symbols.” Sharp objects are not harmless. That is the very issue which your religious blindfold prevents you from seeing.

  108. mbahnisch says:

    I’m sincerely all for a strong separation of church and state, and secular pluralistic state education, but I think when we start going after people for wearing harmless symbols of their beliefs that are integral to their cultural paradigm, we step over the line of ‘ good secularists’ to ‘paternalistic intolerant pricks’

    We’re good secularists, as I’m arguing, if we leave people to make their own decision regarding religious dress and symbolism if there is no harm to others and encourage as many people as possible to access the public education system. The imposition of ideological codes has nothing whatever to do with secularism or liberalism, and is in fact its antithesis because it does harm to choices legitimately made within civil society and by individuals. It’s precisely the same philosophical argument for the state staying out of women’s reproductive choices.

  109. As a regular carrier/wearer of a Skein Dubh I don’t see the problem with a ..er.. “Kirpan”, provided it is likewise ceremoninal, (ie, weak, flimsy & ornamental, rather than real)

    At school I, (along with many other students) used to keep a rifle & ammunition. There wasn’t any trouble with it, though permission to keep them ended after a few “unauthorised discharges” occured. However withdrawal of permission is a far cry from actual physical removal of the hardware, & business went on as usual. We still attended the range every second Saturday, & had our photos taken armed on school photo day.

  110. Post #109 summarised: I’ll see your Kirpan & Raise it by one Brno & a handful of Remington 29 grain kopperklads.

  111. j_p_z says:

    Boy, would I ever love to really wade into this one, but I want to stop being overly argumentative. So I’ll content myself with a few mild peripheral observations.

    For one thing, everyone seems to be focused exclusively on the rights of the kirpan-carrying (or not) student, and no one is concerned with the rights of other individual students, or of the non-Sikh students as a whole. How does one feel if one has to attend school with kids who are visibly carrying daggers strapped to the outside of their clothing? It doesn’t matter what the purpose or context of the weapon is; if it is in fact a weapon, how might you feel? And if you feel uncomfortable or threatened by it (which you reasonably might), then why can’t you have one yourself? Why does the law protect some, and not others? (or, why does the law protect the Other, but not plain old-fashioned others?)

    Conceptually, everyone seems concerned here with freedom of religion, but few seem concerned with equality before the law, which strikes me as every bit as important in this case. Either the kirpan counts as a trinket or a pen-knife, or else it doesn’t. Either it’s a genuine bona-fide dagger, or it isn’t. How can we tell? Well, it looks like a job for that great super-hero, “L’Homme Moyen Sensuel,” using his amazing powers of personal observation and common sense. If the kirpan can be reasonably taken for a trinket (offhand I’d say a tiny ceremonial dagger in a sheath on a chain around one’s neck counts as a trinket), then it doesn’t seem like a problem. Kirpan allowed. But if it can reasonably be taken for a dagger or a dagger-like weapon (personally I’d say a blade much longer than roughly two joints of a grown man’s finger is past the pen-knife stage, and a candidate for this classification, but others might differ), then it falls under the applicable laws. I don’t know what those laws are, but if they are “no weapons-class blades in school,” then this fits the bill, the law should be applied evenly and equally, and so no kirpans allowed. No fuss no muss. If the Sikhs complain, they should just have kirpans made that fit the legal specs. What’s the problem with that?

    It is a ridiculous argument to say that other objects in school are readily dangerous, and therefore the law should be twisted for special pleading, and objects whose sole purpose is to be a weapon should be allowed, on the questionable grounds of an often extra-legal multiculturalism. The rulers and compasses and shop tools have a specific purpose in school, that is what they are there for. We can’t legislate the whole world out of existence, but we make laws about the things we think are of interest, like actual weapons. We cannot get on without pens and pencils, even though they make great stabbing tools. We don’t primarily perceive them as such. One can weaponize just about any object close to hand, including one’s wristwatch (ask me how! on second thought, don’t), but we don’t ban pencils and wristwatches, because their primary functional being does not consist in being a weapon.

    The functional purpose of a dagger is to be a dagger, and (equally importantly) to be seen as such by others. Whether it is used or not, it constitutes an implicit threat, and confers an advantage on the carrier that is inherently imbalanced if you can’t have one, too. Sikhs don’t ruffle my feathers in the least, I know perfectly well they are not going to stab me with their kirpans, but that isn’t really the point. Everyone doesn’t necessarily think as I do, and it seems to me an undue burden on the rest of the student body for them to a) put up with blatant exceptionalism as regards the law, and b) bear an extra burden of having to learn extra facts about Sikhism just to feel at ease in their own school, and also to always have to just TAKE THEIR WORD FOR IT that they are not going to use their daggers in school, in clear contravention of the law applied to others. Oh, and then attend civics class with a straight face.

    Seems to me that people are privileging the freedom of (culturally exotic) religion over (culturally normative) equality before the law. We don’t allow human sacrifice in school either, but from a long-term perspective it probably has a far more venerable religious history among the human race than any number of kirpans, yarmulkes and prayer beads. If a kid brings a bona-fide dagger to school that he openly sports, then I, another kid, feel threatened by it and demand to have one, too. I don’t care a fig about the context and intent of the dagger. Prove that I don’t feel threatened. See the problem? If the kirpan is a harmless trinket, then simply let it be made and seen as such, and then the whole issue becomes easy to cure.

  112. Tony D says:

    Why would a child wear a religious symbol?

    At what age do we decide people are mature enough to make an informed decision about the wearing of religious symbols?

    Why should any child wear any religious symbol before that age?

    Isn’t the symbol (kirpan in this case), being worn to satisfy the religious beliefs of the parent?

  113. Katz says:

    The AK-47 has pride-of-place on the flag of Mozambique (a Commonwealth country!) and on the official Coat of Arms of East Timor.

    Should moppets of Mozambiquan and East Timorese heritage be allowed to carry AK-47s as a symbol of national pride?

  114. j_p_z says:

    “Should moppets of Mozambiquan and East Timorese heritage be allowed to carry AK-47s as a symbol of national pride?”

    Interesting question, but only insofar as ‘national pride’ has the same legal and metaphysical protected value as ‘religion.’ Which I reckon it’s starting to. Besides, what nation? I thought these moppets were Australian.

  115. Liam Hogan says:

    JPZ, equality before the law is of course a critical principle, but it doesn’t lie in simply banning all exceptions and making one-rule-for-everyone. Equality before the law can only be culturally normative in culturally homogeous societies, in which neither you or I live.
    Equality before the law also consists of the effects of its ‘equal’ application, as I’ve argued before. Non-Sikhs are relatively unaffected by a prohibition on ceremonial weapons in schools, while the education of Sikhs would be very strongly affected.
    Furthermore:

    The functional purpose of a dagger is to be a dagger

    That’s not obvious at all. As I’ve explained, religious symbology *specifically* changes the meaning of things. A wooden cross, a symbol of Roman torture and execution, for instance, has a far different meaning when it’s nailed to the roof of a church, or when it’s carried by someone playing Jesus in a passion play, than when it’s left burning in someone’s front yard. The functional purpose of wine is to get people drunk, as I argued before, and is rightly kept away from children, except when it’s a part of the Catholic ritual. See?

    One can weaponize just about any object close to hand

    Oh yeah. One of my classmates whipped up this terrifying weapon out of three red rubber bands, a piece of bent aluminium and a box full of tacking staples left by a bunch of builders. He could punch a hole in a soft drink can from across the room.

  116. Klaus K says:

    “That is the very issue which your religious blindfold prevents you from seeing.”

    Imputing motives is an interesting strategy for an argument designed to convince as opposed to alienate an opponent.

    I think it is worth dwelling on the polarising effects of certain atheist and secularist positions argued here. The surest way to promote fundamentalism or insularity is to give no ground at all on religious practices. Whereas, if we have a nuanced, informed and negotiated response to the demands of religious groups, their children can continue to be part of the educational mainstream. It’s simply good PR for secular education, surely?

  117. Liam Hogan says:

    insofar as ‘national pride’ has the same legal and metaphysical protected value as ‘religion.’

    Benedict Anderson, paging Benedict Anderson. Your argument on nations as metaphysically constituted entities is needed for a cleanup on aisle four.
    JPZ, of *course* national pride has legally protected value as an imaginary irrational construct. The Second Amendment of which Americans are so fond, for example, is looked upon as either outdated nineteenth-century bourgeois militancy, or rank irrational insanity in the rest of the world, but national pride keeps it current, fresh, and perpetually interesting. Religious practice, at least, tends towards the absurd.

  118. Tony D says:

    Anyone feel like addressing the issue of why we as a society sanction the religious brainwashing of our youth?

    Kirpan’s etc act to satisfy the religious beliefs of the parent, not the student.

  119. murph the surf says:

    Ok the Sikh boys get to take the kirpan to school.
    As the school principal in Gummo’s intro stated – “what about when the kirpan is taken and used by another student ?” To menace or taunt either a Sikh or non Sikh class mate?
    Where is the responsibility of the teachers here ? Do they have the various Dept of Ed suspending their responsibility for the presence of a dagger on school premises?
    Allowing any weapon/object designed as a dagger is going to be a major hassle for the teachers .
    Kids are violent to each other and this just seems destined to afford an opportunity where the religious significance of the implement disappears and it reverts to it’s true form.
    The teachers should also be protected from being liable for injuries suffered by children in their care if the kirpan is allowed on school premises.
    What has the teachers union said about this situation ?
    Teachers are responsible for seeing that the children in their care don’t come to grief – be from something as simple as running on asphalt, climbing fences to truant or using lathes in desin and tech classes.
    So that boy at the back, Liam’s friend with the slingshot- you’re on detention immediately!

  120. murph the surf says:

    design that is – good grief.

  121. Now I think I’ll sit this one out and treat myself to some off-line quality time.

  122. Tony D says:

    Hmmmm… actually, that ties neatly into the thread on official australian values…

    ‘..In Australia, we believe it is every persons inalienable right to brainwash their kids into believing whatever crud they (the parent), believe… and make ’em wear some form of distinctive bling to prove it…’ or something.

  123. Liam Hogan says:

    Tony D, when I saw all of the youngsters getting around with their parents, during September, in their Manly jerseys or wearing maroon-and-white, I started to die a little bit in my heart.
    Why are people so unkind?

  124. Katz says:

    Interesting question, but only insofar as ‘national pride’ has the same legal and metaphysical protected value as ‘religion.’

    But nationality can and does have the same protected value as religion under some circumstances, j_p_z.

    Item: Under the Israeli “Law of Return” persons deemed to be of Jewish heritage are deemed to be Israeli citizens regardless of their desire to be Israeli citizens.

    Item: Persons with a British father are automatically deemed to be British citizens. Persons with a British mother are not.

    Item: The Constitution of Australia embodies the metaphysical property call “race” as a component which may be material in any action by the Australian government, including the granting of citizenship.

    Metaphysics rules, OK?

  125. Tony D says:

    Ah yes Liam, Marx was right for his times, that religion was indeed to opiate of the masses – and still is no doubt in many LDCs. But in DCs it seems to be Pro Sport that fills the hole to a large extent…

    Generational sporting, political, religious beliefs – uncritically accepted from ones family, or reacted against. Oh what fun.

    I accept that all education is a form of brainwashing as it changes the way you think. But I’d be guessing that everyone would disagree on what constitutes ‘acceptable’ forms.

  126. Liam Hogan says:

    Well, look, Tony. I’m sure we as a society can try and come to some workable compromise about religious education and the freedom of minorities before the law. We’re grown ups, aren’t we?
    There’s a limit, though. Allowing children to grow up following the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles (pronounced with a silent “Warringah”) is nothing less than child abuse.

  127. Paul Burns says:

    My. my. this one really got us going, didn’t it.
    We don’t have a Bill of Rights because our politicians refuse to give us one because it would take away too much of their power and some Christians don’t want constitutionally guaranteed freedom of speech because it might encourage pornography.
    One right we do have guaranteed in our Constitution is freedom of religion. As an atheist/agnostic (depending on how ex-Catholic I’m feeling)except as an interesting discussion topic, religion never concerns me.
    However, since we have so few rights guaranteed in our constitution, shouldn’t we be worried if one of those rights is whittled away in any way whatever? So if Sikh kids are religiously obligated to carry Kirpans, they have that right, regardless of what other people think, don’t they?

  128. Tony D says:

    So heres a thought Liam, if it is a government school (nominally secular), then no religious paraphernalia at all. If it’s a religious school then whatever is appropriate to that religion is fine.

    Example: the snotty upper class anglican school I had to endure made no allowances at all for its students of other religions – you were there, you had to deal with it. Even the jewish and muslim students had to attend the anglican religious services and participate. It was part of the deal your parents signed you up for when they sent you there and they paid money for it.

    In a public school where education is provided courtesy of the taxpayer, considering Oz is meant to be secular, religion of any sort in schools is inappropriate. It is not the governments role to promote religious gimmickry, it should be left at the school gates.

  129. Tony D says:

    “So if Sikh kids are religiously obligated to carry Kirpans, they have that right, regardless of what other people think, don’t they?”

    Well my religion says that I should carry a nuclear weapon at all times, but society disagrees, so I don’t. It’s just something I’ve had to learn to live with.

  130. Liam Hogan says:

    One right we do have guaranteed in our Constitution is freedom of religion

    That’s a myth, Paul. The Constitution of Australia provides only that the Commonwealth not establish a State religion, or prohibit them, or make religion a condition of office.
    The States can do what they like.

  131. myriad says:

    Anyone feel like addressing the issue of why we as a society sanction the religious brainwashing of our youth?

    yeah it’s called personal freedom, and societal values of cultural diversity and tolerance Tony D, and it’s built on a sophisticated understanding of the fact that unless you want a eugenics-based totalitarian society, parents are entitled to bring up their children as they see fit within the bounds of societal law, and kids are allowed to grow up and rebel against every single bit of their upbringing if they so see fit.

    On that point faith is looking more and more likely to be at least partially genetic, which would explain the several kids I’ve looked after (I’ve nannied at various bits of my life) who had completely a-religious and athiest parents, but whom at ages as young as 5, declared a firmly held belief in god. So your assertion that “Kirpan’s etc act to satisfy the religious beliefs of the parent, not the student: is at highly contentious at best.

    And once again for those not reading – Khalsa Sikhs of both sexes wear the kirpan, not just boys.

    Kirpans are typically worn under clothing and most people would have no idea that it was there. It is not carried as a weapon or deliberate symbol of aggression. It’s actually a symbol for Sikhs of non-violence, which is worth actually reading about before shallowly dismissing out of hand. Therefore a) most non-Sikh kids wouldn’t have a clue that a Sikh was wearing their kirpan (and probably wouldn’t notice the steel bracelet either) and b) I’d like to think that our kids have at least the potential to be more open-minded than some on this thread, and might actually, you know, enjoy interacting with kids from different backgrounds and beliefs, not feel threatened by difference.

    Resorting to analogies of ‘what if x group wanted to carry is a very weak argument, and also demonstrates the sort of fundamentalism us athiests allegedly don’t like in religious sorts. Apparently we’re not capable then of applying common sense and contextual thinking, but rather must have a black and white “principle” (‘no weapons!’ – back to school with crayons then)

    I also think that given that there isn’t a shred of evidence to show that Sikh kids have been wandering from their religious teachings and using kirpans willy-nilly as a weapon, assertions that imply some iminent outbreak of kirpan-violence if Khalsa Sikhs are allowed to carry them are pretty empty rhetoric.

  132. Liam Hogan says:

    Tony D., secularism doesn’t equate to religious prohibitionism, as has been explained a number of times on the thread above. This seems to be a frequently misunderstood point, especially where it’s students not the schools carrying the symbolism.

  133. myriad says:

    Well my religion says that I should carry a nuclear weapon at all times, but society disagrees, so I don’t. It’s just something I’ve had to learn to live with.

    but this sort of nonsense just demonstrates how weak your argument is. There is no religion that requires you to pack nuclear heat, but there really is a religion where believers carry a cherished symbolic dagger called a kirpan. It’s reality we need to discuss, not ridiculous ‘what ifs’ about nuclear weapons and AK-47s.

  134. Tony D says:

    It wasn’t intended to add weight to my arguments Myriad, I have a bad habit of semi-trolling. I try to keep it in check but sometimes it just slips out.

    There is no religion that requires you to pack nuclear heat Yes there is – it’s called Neo-conservatism. But I’m not actually an adherent 😉 Sorry, cheap joke.

    It was intended to point out (via extreme analogy, which is always fun), that religious values can be placed on extremely dangerous objects, usually for local cultural reasons. E.g. Kirpan & self-defense. It’s a cultural tradition without substance in this country.

    “secularism doesn’t equate to religious prohibitionism… it’s students not the schools carrying the symbolism”

    Students who, as I pointed out above, only carry this crud because they have been brainwashed by their parents into thinking it in necessary/desirable. Shouldn’t we ask all students to leave their bias at the school gate? Including their religion?

  135. j_p_z says:

    Are there really such things as sea eagles? The mind reels at the sheer imagination of the Almighty. (To say nothing of John Jesurun’s “Shatterhand Massacree.”) Still, it’s not the worst name for a sports team I’ve ever heard. I can think of a few truly astonishingly stupid ones. And I always wanted to play on a team with the word “Robots” in its name. No wonder I was such an unhappy kid.

    Katz, I agree that metaphysics rules. Mostly I was just having a laugh, but inasmuch as I wasn’t, the point would take far too long to elaborate here, and we’ve all got better things to do.

    Liam, your arguments are as feisty and entertaining as they are, regrettably, completely wrong. 😀 (In particular, your view of the Second Amendment is a true bit of standup comedy, but I have to save all that for another day.) On the other hand, I actually don’t have a completely fixed opinion about this whole thing; I can sort of see the kirpan-permitter’s point of view, which has some merits, if not a quorum. It’s just that I thought this whole question was being viewed through too narrow a lens, and might benefit from other types of consideration.

    “Equality before the law can only be culturally normative in culturally homogenous societies, in which neither you or I live.”

    Well, there’s matter for a May morning. (First of all, I think the “in which neither you or I live” part may only be true in a certain rather superficial sense, but that’s a different argument.) Thus do we observe the slippage of ideas; is it the case that the multiculturalist, when faced with this essential problem, is willing to contemplate jettisoning or altering the equality before the law upon which his particular civilization is founded, rather than simply dispense with the extremes of multiculturalism itself, which is what posed the problem to begin with? That may be an extreme way of putting it in this relatively harmless context, but still, the question can be said to exist.

    Perhaps what your statement shows is that human societies are subject to practical natural limits and do not have infinitely expandable capacities, and that absolute cultural heterogeneity is neither practiceable nor even desirable.

    But now at this juncture, I have to either just shut up, or else write eighteen more paragraphs developing the thesis. Hmm, I think I’ll just shut up.

  136. Katz says:

    It’s reality we need to discuss, not ridiculous ‘what ifs’ about nuclear weapons and AK-47s.

    These may be ridiculous, but they aren’t “what ifs”.

    Zulus, for example, continue to insist on their right to carry “cultural weapons”.

    Culture is very plastic. My argument is that there is absolutely no reason why religions should be privileged over any other collectivity in claims to carry potentially dangerous emblems of their identity.

    I’d be fascinated by any attempt to construct an argument privileging religion in such practices.

  137. Tony D says:

    “On that point faith is looking more and more likely to be at least partially genetic, which would explain the several kids I’ve looked after (I’ve nannied at various bits of my life) who had completely a-religious and athiest parents, but whom at ages as young as 5, declared a firmly held belief in god.”

    Yes, this could be describing my own life – raised by athiests, sent to anglican school, decided I want to join the catholic church at age 13. The reason – I wanted the wine. My parents pissed themselves laughing, I grew out of it. I also used to come home from school confused because I’d been taught that my parents were going to hell ‘cos they weren’t believers. Kids are suggestible.

    “Kirpans are typically worn under clothing and most people would have no idea that it was there.” So they are concealed weapons then?

  138. Tony D says:

    Katz “I’d be fascinated by any attempt to construct an argument privileging religion in such practices”

    I’d have to be based on notions of religious exceptionalism I guess.

  139. Liam Hogan says:

    No, please, JPZ, it’s a slow day at work for me and it must be getting into the interesting bit of the night for you.
    I’ll cop to the cheap shot about the Second Amendment—sorry.
    I *am* a “multiculturalist”, proudly and strongly, but that’s a side matter. The post-1970s political phenomenon of States dealing with difference and diversity has little to do with the Australian tradition of religious toleration, heir far more to the British struggles for toleration than to French secularism or American separationism. Equality before the law, in our pre-Republican Australia, is equality before a Crown who is the official head of the Church of England. In other words, the legal statuses of religion don’t even start out equal in theory. So yes, of course I’m willing to make compromises between symbolic legal equality and practical equality of access!

    Perhaps what your statement shows is that human societies are subject to practical natural limits and do not have infinitely expandable capacities, and that absolute cultural heterogeneity is neither practiceable nor even desirable.

    The same goes for homogeneity, I’d argue. If qualities like freedom and tolerance and respect aren’t being constantly tested in a plural society, they’re of little practical value.

    PS. The evillest club in the history of rugby league, and the noble bird whose name they defile.

  140. Su says:

    Equality before the law is not the same as “the law applies to everyone in exactly the same way in all circumstances”. In fact the law reform commission recognized that consideration of cultural factors when applying the law promotes equality before the law.

  141. […] Word of the Day: Kirpan The kirpan is one of five items of faith which are worn at all times by orthodox Sikhs. We’d call it a ceremonial […] […]

  142. Anna Winter says:

    So heres a thought Liam, if it is a government school (nominally secular), then no religious paraphernalia at all. If it’s a religious school then whatever is appropriate to that religion is fine.

    Tony D, if you are genuinely concerned with “brainwashing” then surely you would agree that making a few allowances for the parents that encourage them to still send their kids to public schools is better than making rules that would force the parents to move their kid to a religious school where there is even less possibility of the kid experiencing diversity of religion and culture.

    As Myriad pointed out, the banning of the veil in France has mostly meant that Muslim girls are being pulled out of state schools. So yeah, it’s clearly the parents who want them to wear the veil – isn’t that even more of a reason to do everything we can to get them into a school where they will be exposed to other viewpoints instead of one that reinforces only the things they learn at home?

    It was a while ago, but Hannah’s Dad:

    He point blank refused to admit the possibility of DV/CSA within separation calling it ‘feminist nonsense’.

    What are you talking about? Firstly, Family Relationship Centres are about providing a forum for negotiation. Couples can choose another one (well, sometimes in theory only I grant you) and they can proceed to the Family Court if they can’t come to an agreement beforehand. I agree that having fundamentalists of any sort running them is a huge problem, but they don’t get to make any binding decisions.

    And CSA?! Are you talking about child support? They have nothing to do with that. Child Support is worked out by the CSA, and is very rarely up for negotiation. One of the reasons it usually causes so much anger is because the formulae are so strict and inflexible.

  143. Tony D says:

    “surely you would agree that making a few allowances for the parents that encourage them to still send their kids to public schools is better than making rules that would force the parents to move their kid to a religious school where there is even less possibility of the kid experiencing diversity of religion and culture.”

    Yeah, sorta. Isn’t this just the tolerance vs. acceptance argument? Should I tolerate or accept that other people seem to have an imaginary friend that they talk to?

    Inclusive social policy to reduce social alienation etc? Where would you place the boundaries of the acceptable or the tolerable? What values are included? What type of values? Are moral values an acceptable basis for policy formation in a liberal democracy? Are they demographically representative of the electorate?

    Personally I’d ‘force’ all parents to send their kids to public schools, and include a comparative religion subject, preferably with Frazer’s ‘The Golden Bough’ as a core text. But then I have a reactionary revulsion towards religious private schools since I attended one 🙂

    And I never said I was againt ‘brainwashing’… I merely wondered why we so readily accept it from parents.

  144. Anna Winter says:

    No, Tony it has nothing to do with tolerance vs acceptance.

    My point is that, assuming you are right that it is entirely about the parents and what they want the kids to wear, isn’t that more of a reason to allow them where it doesn’t cause harm to others. Because parents are also the ones who decide what school the kid goes to.

    So which is worse? Enforcing a one-size-fits-all rule purely for the sake of enforcing a one-size-fits-all rule, and creating a situation where “brainwashing” parents choose to remove their kids from a place where they will be exposed to alternative ideas; or allowing a situation where all kids are taught that equality is more complicated than that, and that society is made up of lots of different people with different values, customs and beliefs.

    I don’t think anyone here is “readily accepting” brainwashing from parents. But what’s the alternative? I can only see two broad choices: we can take child-rearing responsibility away from parents and let the state do it, or we can accept that all parents will choose to teach their children the values they believe are good, but ensure that they are also exposed to as many other ideas as possible. Religious freedom is more likely to achieve this than forcing religious expression out of the public sphere.

  145. Jack Robertson says:

    Plus ca change…

    I once got sixty whacks for openly displaying a symbol of my religious heritage in school. To Rachel Schiller, in the desk next to mine (Civics 101). Coincidentally enough, the general consensus way back on that occasion seemed to that it, too, was small, probably only ceremonial and certainly harmless. Didn’t save me from Miss Lightfoot’s cold spoon, but.

    Philistines.

  146. Su says:

    “And CSA?! Are you talking about child support?”

    I think in that context CSA refers to child sexual abuse.

  147. Liam Hogan says:

    Heh, Jack.
    Tony D, following your example, personally, I’d make moral virtue the *central* pillar of government, and force public education to follow its precepts, with this as the central text.

    La terreur n’est autre chose que la justice prompte, sévère, inflexible ; elle est donc une émanation de la vertu ; elle est moins un principe particulier, qu’une conséquence du principe général de la démocratie, appliqué aux plus pressans besoins de la patrie.

  148. j_p_z says:

    Jack Robertson — hmm, interesting, but a lot depends on what the ‘symbol of religious heritage’ in question was. If, for instance, you were displaying the fact that you were circumcised…
    :-O

  149. Anna Winter says:

    Ah! Thanks, Su.

    Ignore my second point then, but my first still stands. Family Relationships don’t have much legal power, so I don’t think it’s a good example of religious freedom harming others, in any other than a sense of feeling judged and shamed by someone else. Problematic, yes, but something to be managed, not a reason to remove all religious people from the service.

  150. mbahnisch says:

    We don’t have a Bill of Rights because our politicians refuse to give us one because it would take away too much of their power and some Christians don’t want constitutionally guaranteed freedom of speech because it might encourage pornography.

    The irony, which seems to have escaped people on this thread, is that this issue was discussed in the context it was by the Parliamentary Committee precisely because Victoria does have a Charter of Rights! Which includes the right to religious expression. Attendance at public schools is also a right, which I imagine most people on this thread would support. So it’s a matter of reconciling two (slightly) conflicting rights – which happens all the time.

    As to the “brainwashing” argument, it’s wrong for a whole host of reasons. Where the state does believe that harm is being done to children by being raised in a cult which has proven practices which do harm, children can be removed. Otherwise, parents have the right to raise their children.

    It’s also just a bit insulting to many of the children concerned, particularly (but not limited to) the older ones.

    Further, it’s an argument that’s blinkered because it arises solely from a culture which presumes religion is a matter for rational deliberation and choice – that is to say, late modern Western culture. In many other cultures, religion is not some separate sphere of life but an integral part of cultural, national and ethnic identity. That’s bound to be the case with these Sikh students.

    Similar arguments were mounted by the British state in the nineteenth century to compel Welsh children to be educated solely in English, by way of example. To stop them being “brainwashed” by their parents with all that primitive Celtic culture, and to allow them access to the wonders of English rationality (and to fit them for exploitative low waged work in a capitalist society, of course).

  151. Katz says:

    The US Bill of Rights and the Victorian Charter of Rights, while apparently similar in intent, are in fact opposite in operational principles.

    The US Bill of Rights prohibits governments from doing certain things. This principle sets out to guarantee small government

    The Victorian Charter of Rights ostensibly guarantees certain rights and commits government to attempting to achieve them. This principle creates the possibility, indeed the probability, of an enormously intrusive government.

    Once it is established that groups may claim special recognition of their status, there is no absolute limit to how far government intrusion may extend, as the case of the Kirpan testifies.

    And the Victorian Charter is a lawyer’s picnic.

  152. mbahnisch says:

    I don’t see that the example of the Kirpan demonstrates “an enormously intrusive government”, Katz. Not at all.

  153. myriad says:

    “It’s reality we need to discuss, not ridiculous ‘what ifs’ about nuclear weapons and AK-47s”.

    These may be ridiculous, but they aren’t “what ifs”.

    Zulus, for example, continue to insist on their right to carry “cultural weapons”.

    Well Katz, the nuclear and AKs are ‘what-ifs’, but the Zulus are another real example – which would probably be worh discussing if we had a reasonable population of Zulus in Australia wanting to send their little Zulus to state schools so ‘attired, ‘but hey, we don’t.

    So meanwhile back to kirpans. The first obvious difference is that Zulus are recognised to be a militaristic culture and when they carry weapons, they are actually weapons – not so a kirpan, which is a religious symbol that looks like a weapon to some, and respresents a deeply held belief in non-violence and protection of the helpless for some Khalsa Sikhs. Which is where Liam’s point about the symbolism and meaning of items is well made.

    Culture is very plastic.

    here we fully agree. It’s worth noting that in California Khalsa Sikhs have agreed to fuse the kirpan in its sheath, rendering it completely useless should anyone ever want to use it as a weapon – perhaps our Sikh community will adopt a similar line with gentle persuasion. But cultural plasticity works both ways, and as Sikhs have been subject to well-documented and widespread abuse in recent times given that most westerners are too pig-ignorant to know a Sikh from a Mulsim when some feel like going a-busin’, I think your and others hard line will produce a ‘plastic move’ in the wrong direction, ie one of a rigid intransignence. Insisting that a religious community that has an exemplary track record of integration and contribution to our society now be forced to abandon a sigificant religious rite because we can’t be bothered believing them that it’s not carried as a weapon isn’t going to foster the ‘plasticity’ you want to see.

    My argument is that there is absolutely no reason why religions should be privileged over any other collectivity in claims to carry potentially dangerous emblems of their identity.

    And my argument is that such seemingly ‘reasonable’ progressive policies result as Anna and Liam and Mark and I have commented, in a retraction to religious dogmatism and the lessening of integration and exposure to diverse ideas within our community. This is documented. It also flies in the face of promoting tolerance and acceptance of difference for the sake of a harmful conformity.

    Perhaps more importantly, the example we have to hand doesn’t even have any documented evidence that it causes violence, or is likely to. We’d be having a different conversation if a group wanted kids to be able to bring a 6ft razor sharp war spear to school every day because the purpose, design and practice of the item is clearly one of harm. Again, no so the kirpan. Its far more akin to wearing a hijab. I’d be fascinated to see anyone construct an argument that forcing Mulsim girls in French state schools to remove their hijab has done anything to promote tolerance, feminism or equality. Oh, but it removed any ‘relgious exceptionalism’ so it must be a good idea…

  154. But what if the kirpan is dangerous myraid? If it isnt then I agree with you. (As I have repeated boringly.)

  155. Liam Hogan says:

    We’d be having a different conversation if a group wanted kids to be able to bring a 6ft razor sharp war spear to school

    Yes indeed, we’d be calling the AIS about Olympic javelin training, and they’d be counting the gold medal tally in their heads.

  156. myriad says:

    But what if the kirpan is dangerous myraid? If it isnt then I agree with you. (As I have repeated boringly.)

    It’s a reasonable question AA, and I go back to points already made here:

    – for Khalsa Sikhs they don’t see the kirpan as a weapon, and it’s practically taboo to use it as one, so we know there are very strong cultural norms in place that teach Sikh kids that their kirpan is not a weapon

    – there’s no evidence from anywhere else or here that Sikhs have been ‘platicising’ towards using their kirpan as a weapon

    – schools are full of other just as dangerous objects that we ignore either because they’re useful to teaching and/or don’t look like a weapon, whereas a kirpan does. IOW, we’re reacting to the presentation of the item, not its purpose or intent, yet ignoring equally dangerous items because their presentation is innocuous and we trust and understand their purpose and intent. (If we wanted to get really silly, I’d point out that a deep puncture wound delivered by an ordinary school compass is much more dangerous to your health than an open shallow slash such as your standard 3 inch kirpan would deliver ;))

    – in the absence of any evidence that kirpans are dangerous, we should allow them and trust the Sikh community, while obviously making it clear what standards are expected and potential consequences if they are broken.

    Liam, stop making me laugh.

  157. Katz says:

    The kirpan issue is the template for potentially an infinite number of claims to the legitimacy of expressions of cultural identity.

    Eventually, the Human Rights Commissioner is going to decide that one of these claims is spurious.

    And eventually, persons who live with the consequences of these decisions, like the kirpan issue will protest. The kirpan decision allows the carrying of a deadly weapon in a setting, which as Murph the Surf has indicated, involves already quite onerous duty of care demands upon teachers.

    How might the putative right to carry a deadly weapon in this setting be enforced except by intrusive government?

    Will Victorian schools be the locale of a Little Rock-style intervention designed not to assert the equality of persons, but their cultural differences?

  158. mbahnisch says:

    See the comment by myriad above yours, Katz.

  159. mbahnisch says:

    But it’s wrong to characterise it as a claim to “cultural identity”, it’s a claim for freedom of religious expression. If it were the former, I’d imagine many of the big A Atheists on this thread wouldn’t be bothered, which just goes to the lack of seriousness that the issue has been treated with in many of the comments.

  160. But it’s wrong to characterise it as a claim to “cultural identity”, it’s a claim for freedom of religious expression. If it were the former, I’d imagine many of the big A Atheists on this thread wouldn’t be bothered

    Not at all Mark. I don’t want to derail the thread but I argue just as strongly against cultural exemptions to the law. For instance in this case (http://www.nt.gov.au/ntsc/doc/sentencing_remarks/2005/08/gj_20050811.html) Chief Justice Brain Martin refused to sentence NJ to the crime of rape stating that, ‘it is a reasonable possibility that your fundamental beliefs, based on your traditional laws, prevailed in your thinking and prevented you from realising that the child was not consenting.’ He sentenced NJ to two years in jail for unlawful assault and unlawful sexual intercourse, suspended after one month. Martin cited NJ’s ‘lack of knowledge that… [he was] committing an offence and… [his] belief that what’ he did in Ngarinaman law ‘was permissible and justified’ in explaining the lightness of the sentence.

    I completely disagree with the reasoning used by Martin.

  161. mbahnisch says:

    So the religious aspect of it doesn’t worry you, AA?

  162. silkworm says:

    Do Sikh parents send their children to pre-school? Are there four-year-old tots at pre-school running around with kirpans under their clothes?

  163. On the presumption that the kirpan is dangerous.

    What worries me is that religious reasons are being used to justify something, ‘weapons in schools’, that we (secular society i.e. people of all faiths using non-religious reasoning) have decided creates an undue risk.

    In the same way that religious reasons are being used to justify, in the case of the US pharmacists, the denial of birth control to women. Something we (secular society i.e. people of all faiths using non-religious reasoning) have decided is very important.

    And the same follows in the rape case I mentioned. We (secular society i.e. people of all faiths using non-religious reasoning) have decided that rape is very wrong. Here cultural reasoning is being used as an excuse.

    I hope I have made the similarity clear.

  164. j_p_z says:

    Katz: “Once it is established that groups may claim special recognition of their status, there is no absolute limit to how far government intrusion may extend…”

    and later,
    “…the template for potentially an infinite number of claims to the legitimacy of expressions of cultural identity…”

    Good heavens! Katz, what has happened? Did you finally take the red pill, and wake up sane?

    Welcome aboard!

  165. mbahnisch says:

    AA, you just repeat the same arguments again and again without taking into account counter-arguments. I’ve already responded to the alleged parallel with US pharmacists, and pointed out the failure of the analogy, and I’ve also pointed out that the same secular principles which would allow the wearing of a Kirpan also protect reproductive freedoms women enjoy. Myriad has refuted the “dangerous” argument. If you’re going to restate claims which have been addressed without acknowledging them, we’re not in any sense having a debate, and it’s tedious for me to go on participating in it, and I imagine, for others to read it.

    Silkworm, get real. Do you bother to inform yourself about any of the facts under discussion?

    Those who wish to be initiated into the Khalsa, both men and women, should have reached an age of responsibility (usually 14-16), must be in possession of the five Ks (kesh – uncut hair, kangha – comb, kirpan – sword, kaccha – short trousers, kara – steel bracelet) and should be attempting to follow the Sikh way of life.

    http://www.iol.ie/~ndnsp/project/outline12.htm

  166. This morning comrade Zeppo Bakunin lent me a book he’d picked up at a library sale: The Sikhs – History, Religion and Society by W H McLeod. The publication details have been obscured by a bookplate, but it looks like it was published in 1990. I had no idea that there was such a thing in the house.

    No doubt after I’ve read it, I’ll be able to answer silkworm’s hysteria provoking question “Are there four-year-old tots at pre-school running around with kirpans under their clothes?”.

    And now a question of my own – should kids whose parents (of whatever religion) have allowed them to acquire black belts in karate, tae-kwon-do and the like, be allowed to take their hands and feet to school? Should they even be allowed to walk the streets?

    Make that two questions.

  167. mbahnisch says:

    No doubt after I’ve read it, I’ll be able to answer silkworm’s hysteria provoking question “Are there four-year-old tots at pre-school running around with kirpans under their clothes?”.

    Or you could do what I did, Gummo, and google. I’m sure silkworm knows how. See my comment above.

  168. mbahnisch says:

    Welcome aboard!

    Welcome aboard what? j_p_z’s Movement for a Monocultural Society?

    Sheesh.

  169. gummotrotsky says:

    Well, Mark, I googled this earlier today (via Google blogs):

    Our Kirpan can be large or small, worn under our clothes or on the outside, but we never ever pull the blade from the scabbard. Oh we clean and sharpen our Kirpans, as needed, and Kirpans are used passively in Gurdwara for a moment, but beyond these two exceptions, a Khalsa Knight does not pull her/his Kirpan except when we are sure, beyond a doubt, that we are being required under Khalsa vows to defend someone.

    So before a Khalsa Knight can pull a gun, s/he will have to first pull the Kirpan. And before you pull the Kirpan you and the Almighty must be absolutely sure that you are not acting out of revenge, fear, or rage…

    Then, when a Khalsa Knight pulls his or her Kirpan – which again we never do because it is SUCH A BIG DEAL – when a Khalsa Knight pulls the Kirpan, in that moment the Khalsa Knight dies.

    I suppose you might read that as a deadly suicide cultish idea, but if you’re prepared to forego the immediate emotive response and look for roughly equivalent concepts elsewhere, that “death” might be taken as automatic excommunication or something similar. It’s not difficult for me to imagine that Khalsa Sikh parents make a very big deal of the spiritual penalties of using the kirpan so that by the time a child is deemed mature enough to have one, he knows well enough that it’s not to be drawn, or used, casually.

  170. I made it clear that my last comment was with the presumption that the kirpan is a dangerous weapon. Even though that might not be the case, I was taking it as given to respond to your question.

    As I have said, if it’s not dangerous then there is no argument.

    Thanks for the discussion, one and all.

    I have just posted on this topic but it’s a reharsh of the arguments I’ve made here so may not interest everyone.

    Committee Sikhs steel dagger, GSOH, religious rationale a must

  171. gummotrotsky says:

    And as for Martin’s decision in the case of NJ, it’s not the first time that an English judge has accepted “belief in consent” as a mitigating factor or defence in a case of rape. A particular cause celebre of 1976 involved six RAF officers who were found not guilty of rape because the victim’s husband told them that his wife might make a lot of noise about it, but actually she enjoyed a good gang bang.

  172. murph the surf says:

    “schools are full of other just as dangerous objects that we ignore either because they’re useful to teaching and/or don’t look like a weapon, whereas a kirpan does”

    I think this could be rephrased as teachers don’t ignore any dangerous objects -they usually have guidelines for their use , strict rules about who can use them and some are under lock and key.OH and S exists for schools too.
    This whole argument has solely focused on the Sikhs wearing the kirpan. Liability when accidents occur – note carefully the word accident will still afll on the supervising adult- and that seesm unreasonable.

  173. Liam Hogan says:

    Oh I’m very happy to keep arguing against the same rehashed vulgar-atheist argument, Mark. Pointless merry-go-rounds of disagreement are just what floats my boat.
    AA, you really seem to be hung up on the question of whether or not the kirpan is dangerous. Now, imagining (as in my thought experiment from before) that the kirpan is a deadly instrument of pain, you either value an argument of religious freedom and allow children to carry it *in some circumstances*, an argument which gives weight to liberty above strict equality, or you don’t, and you draw a line of radical legal egalitarianism around any religious freedom. Now that’s a perfectly valid argument—but call it for what it is, and accept the negative social consequences.
    I’m not sure why you value equality so highly in matters like this. Equality is a means to a social end; that people don’t feel excluded from society, and that they have a fair opportunity to share in it. When it’s fetishised on its own it loses a lot of its value. Even the French gave poor old Fraternité a guernsey in their Revolutionary trinity.
    Oh, and while I’m thinking historically and globally—can the historical example of the Crusades shed some light on the argument?

  174. Anna Winter says:

    The crusades, and the fractional reserve.

  175. Liam Hogan says:

    I believe also that the bombing campaigns of nihilists in the nineteenth century might have caused us to end up in the predicament we’re in. I blame the anarchists!

  176. mbahnisch says:

    In an ideal society, every resident of Dobell would be compelled to constantly wear a phalactery containing the collected sayings of Chairman Bird, despite the fact that these sayings may constitute a danger to sanity. Just sayin…

  177. j_p_z says:

    Mark, “monocultural society” is redundant. “Society” works here just fine! 🙂

    Liam, your latest thought experiment is fatally flawed. If we value religious freedom so highly that children of, say, the Zargak Cult are permitted to carry to school the zibzob, a deadly instrument of pain, then all the other non-Zargak kids should also be allowed to have a zibzob too under the same circumstances, and we’ll just live with the results; or else perhaps instead the non-Z kids could be allowed to carry the deadly instrument of pain of their choice, the emblems of their own ever-splintering micro-cultures, such as the works of Ayn Rand, L Ron Hubbard, or the French usual suspects (joke makes itself, I take coffee break). Eventually each individual in society will have their own personal religion and own personal Republic of Me, as well their own private language. Actually this process is already well underway in much of Santa Monica, CA (or at least the parts north of Montana Ave). Society breaks down entirely, then everyone succumbs to scurvy, and that’s that. The penguins’ secret plan for world domination has been achieved, without so much as the firing of a shot or the flapping of a flightless wing. You can come out from behind that curtain now, Mr. Pingu: we’re on to your plan.

  178. Anna Winter says:

    Right, and if we let citizens have the right to bear arms then let’s just accept the slippery slope now and give citizens the right to bear zibzobs.

  179. mbahnisch says:

    Shorter j_p_z: we’re all rooned, because there are different people around.

  180. Liam Hogan says:

    the French usual suspects

    Depardieu? His films with Pierre Richard are a deadly genre in themselves. I remember having them inflicted on me in French, and I’ve never recovered from the horrible, horrible humour of comical misunderstanding.
    JPZ, can I have my argument back from its illogical conclusion please? The whole point of having religious freedom at all is so that social fragmentation is *prevented*, as Citoyenne Winter has said.
    At my school, incidentally, any kid unlucky enough to carry around a ritual copy of the Fountainhead, or a batleth as Paulus suggested, would have had their arses handed to them on a plate.

  181. mbahnisch says:

    Since we’ve now totally discarded liberal freedoms, can I echo Comrade Liam’s view and also call for all films involving Daniel Auteil to be banned? Also romantic French comedies involving love triangles… except if Monica Belucci or Emmanuelle Beart is in them.

  182. Liam Hogan says:

    You’ll have to cope with the inconsistencies of your own position, Mark. Manon des Sources has both Beart and Auteuil, and it’s great.
    IMDB’s keywords:

    Nude Girl / Haunted By Past / Romance / Rural / Spring

    What was I saying?

  183. mbahnisch says:

    Like I said, anything with Beart or Belucci escapes the cultural purity police.

  184. silkworm says:

    Myriad said:

    “And it’s not just “he’s” but “she’s”, thanks.”

    You hit me over the head with the sexism stick. It’s a good debating trick, because I initially fell for it. But then I read the following from the “Rupertian” article:

    “The Education and Training Committee report recommended that schools should work with the Sikh community to allow male students to carry a kirpan – a small, curved ornamental steel dagger carried by all initiated Sikh men.”

    You owe me an apology.

  185. j_p_z says:

    So, can my kids bring “La Belle Noiseuse” to school with them?

    “Shorter j_p_z: we’re all rooned, because there are different people around.”

    No, shorter j_p_z would be more like, We’re all rooned, if these alleged ‘different people’ don’t want to be part of the word ‘we,’ and don’t want to function grammatically in this sentence, but at the same time, they also don’t want to leave the sentence; after all, it’s pretty nice here in this sentence.

    Shorter Mark: We’re all ningnok jubziblle because different guiwe ;akjg78 &*@bnm,ao. Hurrah for multicul49qkd$@kdwq19#@

  186. j_p_z says:

    Is Daniel Auteuil in ‘Queen Margot’? Can we be allowed to keep ‘Queen Margot’ under the new regime?

    (oh, and talk about your religious differences, eh?…)

  187. gummotrotsky says:

    Silky, I think it might be an idea for you to look a little further afield – beyond the pages of the Rupertian – before you go demanding apologies from other commenters. Your implicit assumption that the staff of the Rupertian have authoritative knowledge of Sikh religious practice isn’t a sound one.

  188. mbahnisch says:

    No, shorter j_p_z would be more like, We’re all rooned, if these alleged ‘different people’ don’t want to be part of the word ‘we,’ and don’t want to function grammatically in this sentence, but at the same time, they also don’t want to leave the sentence; after all, it’s pretty nice here in this sentence.

    Bored now. I think I’ll go into town and see if I can buy ‘La Belle Noiseuse’ at the video store, if such Francophone cultural influences are allowed!

  189. myriad says:

    silkworm,

    bullshit.

    I have simply pointed out consistently that Khalsa Sikhs of both sexes carry kirpans, and specifically in relation to Hannahs Dad’s comments regarding religion and sexism on this thread. If you consider that “hitting you over the head with the sexism stick”, my condolences. That this decision refers to male students is hardly surprising if you’d bothered to do any reading on Khalsa Sikhs at all, as you’d have found that female Khalsa Sikhs often wear the kirpan as part of a brooch – so some simple deduction would suggest that the different modes of wearing a kirpan employed by girl and boy Sikhs has led initially to a focus on the boys.

    Frankly I find your level of agressive and wilfull ignorance about Sikhs and I presume by extension any other religions and cultures you aren’t interested in educating yourself about just a tad repugnant.

  190. adrian says:

    myriad and others like to go on about others’ ignorance of the Sikh religion, but I would suggest that they are similarly ignorant of the duty of care and other legal responsibiliies of teachers towards the students in their care.
    IF the kirpan is akin to a small dagger it is obviously a dangerous object to have in schools, and its presence makes a teacher’s role in this regard far more difficult, and unecessarily so.

    As katz correctly observed, most of you are effectively advocating an excemption on religous grounds of existing school rules; rules which in this case exist to protect everybody in the school environment.

    And myriad, you come across as a tad agressive yourself, considering you’re keem to lecture others on agression. Let me know if you’d like a link to the relevant legislation on teachers’ responsibilities. Maybe we could all do with a bit of education.

  191. Tony D says:

    Anna W: (happy sigh) Ah good, worked like a treat. Was hoping someone’d use those arguments – I’ll admit at this point I was trolling for that response. Apologies all round!

    Now can we enter into a debate with j_p_z on how policies like multiculturalism etc that encourage inclusiveness can act as counter-terrorism policy? Alienation thresholds and all that. Or how monocultures don’t actually exist and never have? That’s always a fun one

    Oh, and @144 I meant ‘we’ as in society in general, not LP commentators specifically

    Liam (@148 & 176): Lolz tovarich!

    j_p_z @178: you forgot the tie in to global warming – those penguins are trying to preemptively eliminate the polar bear threat!

    Did anyone get around to deciding if kirpan’s are dangerous or not?

  192. mbahnisch says:

    Those questions are addressed in the report of the Parliamentary Committee, which it would be good, as I said a long time ago, if everyone read to prevent the endless repetition of the same points on this thread which can easily be cleared up by informing oneself about the facts.

  193. mbahnisch says:

    Crossed with Tony D – my comment is addressed to adrian.

    If anyone has anything actually new to say on all this, please contact me via Emmanuelle Beart – I’m off to hang out with her to foster intercultural understanding.

  194. Anna Winter says:

    We’re all rooned, if these alleged ‘different people’ don’t want to be part of the word ‘we,’

    Isn’t the entire point that they do want to be part of the word “we”? That they want to be allowed by “we”, rather than refusing to play by society’s rules.

    But I see your point. The idea that where possible we should err on the side of liberty sounds so…American.

  195. Tony D says:

    Isn’t it about time for someone to mention the positive liberty paradox at this point?

    (sorry, sorry)

  196. Liam Hogan says:

    I think it’s time somebody mentioned the previous Clinton administration, which was worse.

  197. Katz says:

    Katz: “Once it is established that groups may claim special recognition of their status, there is no absolute limit to how far government intrusion may extend…”

    and later,
    “…the template for potentially an infinite number of claims to the legitimacy of expressions of cultural identity…”

    Good heavens! Katz, what has happened? Did you finally take the red pill, and wake up sane?

    Welcome aboard!

    But Japerz, I’ll see your libertarianism and raise the stakes to the limit.

    I’ve got nothing against diversity. I assert that there is an infinite diversity of diversities.

    I therefore, don’t approve of religious diversity being privileged over all other forms of diversity.

    I’m also opposed to the means of oversight of this diversity that is written into the Victorian legislation.

  198. j_p_z says:

    Katz, I don’t know how you could come up with the idea that I’m a libertarian, unless you were joking or being very casual. In actual fact I think hard-line libertarians are batshit crazy, and even the softer-core ones sort of give me the willies.

    “I assert that there is an infinite diversity of diversities.”

    That’s fine. An auto mechanic will tell you that there are almost infinitely diverse ways to arrange systems to burn up gasoline, but that only a few of these systems will result in making a Toyota go really fast. Lots of social theories make the same mistake as the economist in the old joke about the desert island: “Step one: Assume a can opener.” Social theorists (like multiculturalists) tend to assume a stable, functioning, peaceful, prosperous society into which they can inject their zany experimental ideas and exotic cultures. They seldom ask themselves how or why the society became stable to begin with, or how that stability is maintained absent their zany theories.

    Anna Winter: “Isn’t the entire point that they do want to be part of the word “we”? That they want to be allowed by “we”, rather than refusing to play by society’s rules.”

    Well you know, that opens up a whole very interesting other area for discussion, I think, with points on both sides of the issue. (And I think your second sentence there is rather problematic, if you look under the hood for a while. [or do you folks say, ‘bonnet’?]) But I also think it’s sort of a vast area of investigation, and I’ve already gotten into more of an argumentative posture here than I had planned to. I started out on this thread raising a few basic questions, then put them aside early on and have been pretty much just joshing around for most of this thread; but I seem to keep stepping in pot-holes all the same, so I’m going to zip it now, for serious talk anyway.

    Mark: “Bored now.”

    Aw, no fair, dude. You’re the one who started in on me…
    Ah well. House rules, I suppose. 😎

  199. Russell says:

    On the desirability of having diversity in public schools: how do teachers explain these visible differences to the class? Some will be interesting or trivial, but outlining the beliefs behind others will reveal a conflict between what most of us value and what this symbol of difference points to. Where does it leave the kid who’s wearing this symbolic difference?

    It’s not the parent who will bear the burden of visible difference – maybe it’s just fairer to the kids to have one school uniform, at least for primary school.

  200. myriad says:

    myriad and others like to go on about others’ ignorance of the Sikh religion, but I would suggest that they are similarly ignorant of the duty of care and other legal responsibiliies of teachers towards the students in their care.
    IF the kirpan is akin to a small dagger it is obviously a dangerous object to have in schools, and its presence makes a teacher’s role in this regard far more difficult, and unecessarily so.

    There are 4 teachers in my immediate family and I’ve run plenty of education course in schools, TAFE, Adult learning etc. Suffice to say I’m familiar with duty of care, at least in my home state (Tas).

    I think your point is made rather moot by the fact that a) the kirpan is not ‘obviously dangerous’ (see a bazillion posts above), and anyway the resolution of this issue will lead to a series of protocols etc. precisely outlining teachers’ duty of care when it comes to allowing Sikh kids to wear kirpans, which all teachers are then briefed on, etc. In my experience duty of care is clearly defined, not a vague concept that can be used to put in this case, teachers in impossible positions. After that assuming sanity prevails, a teacher’s duty of care would be exactly the same whether they saw a student attacked with a kirpan, bare fists, a rubbish bin or a pencil. To try and prevent it or stop it.

    I think this link on duty of care covers it (quoting from ‘student safety and risk management’ for Vic):

    Student safety and risk management
    4.4.1 Liability
    A teacher owes students a duty to take reasonable steps to protect them from any injury that the teacher should have reasonably foreseen (see 4.6.1.2). This requires teachers and principals not just to react to situations as they arise but to engage in appropriate risk management to reduce the risks of injury.

    The document then goes through excursions, curriculum activities etc., so in terms of ‘reasonably forseen’ and ‘risk management’, the issue of understanding and clear agreement on the wearing of the kirpan is obviously going to be critical.

    Given there’s 64 pages in the document above advising teachers on appropriate actions, responsibilities etc. with regard to student safety, (notably the section on martial arts is ‘still to come’, Gummo) I don’t think an extra paragraph explaining kirpan issues is going to be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

    I prefer feisty, and note I’m quite happy to go and look up relevant material rather than repeatedly ignore it. Kind of begs the question why you didn’t just provide a link on duty of care in the first place Adrian.

  201. Katz says:

    They seldom ask themselves how or why the society became stable to begin with, or how that stability is maintained absent their zany theories.

    John Locke answered that

  202. silkworm says:

    “… female Khalsa Sikhs often wear the kirpan as part of a brooch – so some simple deduction would suggest that the different modes of wearing a kirpan employed by girl and boy Sikhs has led initially to a focus on the boys.”

    That’s juicy. The Sikhs are the ones that are committing sexual discrimination, and you’re defending them.

    It’s the boys’ kirpans that are the problem, because they are dangerous sharp objects. The girls’ kirpans are no problem, because they are trinkets (brooches).

    If the Sikh elders want to change the boys’ kirpans into trinkets, like the girls, then there would be no problem. But nooooo. The Sikhs don’t want to budge on the kirpans, but only for the boys. It seems they have already compromised on the girls’ kirpans. One rule for the boys, another for the girls.

    This is not even an issue of religious freedom now. It’s an issue of sexual discrimination.

  203. Katz says:

    [sorry about that]

    question centuries ago to the satisfaction of the framers of the US Constitution.

    If you don’t like Locke’s answer, you may as well tear up large parts of the US Constitution.

  204. mbahnisch says:

    This is a very low quality stoush. The opponents of the dastardly Kirpan can’t decide whether to be in the rarefied atmosphere of Locke and constitutions and political philosophy or quibbling over “duty of care” regulations.

    This is not even an issue of religious freedom now. It’s an issue of sexual discrimination.

    And that’s just nonsense. I note from the report that some put submissions to the committee arguing that girls being required to wear dresses as part of uniforms was discriminatory. I don’t see you beating a drum about that – perhaps because it has nothing apparently to do with teh evil spectre of religion.

    The constant logic-chopping, shifting of ground, or unwillingness to acknowledge counter arguments does nothing to give me much confidence in the virtues of Western rationality or public reasoning as displayed by some of the proponents of “the atheist position” in this confused “debate”.

  205. silkworm says:

    The constant logic-chopping, shifting of ground, or unwillingness to acknowledge counter arguments does nothing to give me much confidence in the virtues of Western rationality or public reasoning as displayed by some of the proponents of “the religious position” in this confused “debate”.

  206. Katz says:

    The opponents of the dastardly Kirpan can’t decide whether to be in the rarefied atmosphere of Locke and constitutions and political philosophy or quibbling over “duty of care” regulations.

    There’s no contradiction between Lockean constitutional theory and tort law.

    It is not necessary to be a fundamentalist atheist to question the bases upon which the kirpan issue was decided.

  207. Liam Hogan says:

    This is a very low quality stoush.

    Oh yes, it’s turned into an all-in motive imputation festival. That’s one rung down from my favourite event (and a few other fans of low-quality stoush) the freestle flame, but we’ll get there in time, I’m sure. At least it’s a step up from the usual endpoint, the Repetitive Demand For Answers Or Evidence.
    Silky, #206 has got to be the laziest, most piss-poor effort at repartee I’ve seen in a long time. If that’s the only shot left in the locker we’ll call it settled now forever against atheism. Richard Dawkins is coming over to tell you how disappointed he is in you.

  208. Zeus, Odin and Indra says:

    “If that’s the only shot left in the locker we’ll call it settled now forever against atheism.”

    And with only seconds left on the clock, too. We were just gearing up our mighty thunderbolts, ready to get all machinae deorum on all y’all.

  209. Guess I might as well put aside my design of flooding the oceans with boiling marinara sauce and burying the cities and habitations of humanity in melted mozzarella too.

  210. David Rubie says:

    I’m still waiting for the definitive answer on the “running with scissors” debate. Can only boys run with scissors, or both boys and girls? Or perhaps some religious minorities can be given special dispensation to run with scissors, because they’ve always done it? (Irish Catholics if you must know)

    Is there a piece of legislation, biblical verse or temple carving somewhere that can definitively solve the running with scissors debate? I need to know because there’s some kids here with scissors and they want to run.

  211. adam says:

    holy crap. quite literally! but not from the sikhs, to be sure.

    here’s my two cents worth. i went to school with sikhs, and i teach them today at uni. so i know some. yes they are my friends. and that’s why i would support them in this. i trust them.

    those i went to school with wore purple turbans – school colour to match uniform. they were happy to make such concessions. i don’t remember any kirpans though. maybe that was another concession to prejudice. they were sure good guys to have about, though. you could rely on them.

    fast forward to today, and i lecture to sikhs each year. some have become friends after graduation. i have invitations to visit india. again, still lovely people. still don’t see any kirpans, though.

    but maybe i don’t really care. i know that their kirpan symbolizes the greyness of doing right, that sometimes hard decisions must be taken and it is better to take them than to sit idly while evil is perpetrated.

    anyone who realizes that you need to exercise active discretion, and must always protect the weak, has got my vote, people. bugger that their religion is different to mine, i can trust them.

    i also haven’t ever personally heard of a sikh going postal, though that’s no absolute. but i prefer the freedom of benefit of the doubt.

    is this really a problem, or is someone looking for excuses? i’m with bahnisch and gummo on this. let’s look to the facts and make a few sensible points. screw the divisive press. we are a community, and let’s learn each other’s ways.

  212. Teh Invisible Pink Unicorn says:

    *neighs*

  213. Enemy Combatant says:

    When you really think about it, the existence of WMDs* in State schools was always going to generate lively discussion.

    * Weapons of Mass Devotion.

  214. silkworm says:

    “Running with scissors” … I love it!

    Now, read it and weep, boys (and girls).

    “Kirpan: small sword (made of steal/iron)
    – The Kirpan is to be used to upkeep righteousness, and is represents kingship.
    – The Kirpan exemplifies the warrior character of a Sikh.

    IS IT OPTIONAL TO WEAR A KIRPAN?
    No! It is mandatory for initiated Sikhs to carry a Kirpan (this is recognised by the British Law).

    WHAT IS THE FUNCTION OF THE KIRPAN?
    § Defence (as a last resort, to upkeep righteousness and justice)
    § Used to bless Sikh Holy Communion, called ‘parshaad’, at the end of religious functions.

    WHAT ARE OFFENSIVE OR MISLEADING SUGGESTIONS ABOUT THE KIRPAN?
    § To suggest that is a ‘dagger’, ‘knife’ or ‘offensive weapon’.
    § To suggest it is a merely cultural symbol.
    § To suggest that the Kirpan can be replaced by wearing a miniature Kirpan.”

    http://www.oxfordsikhs.com/SikhAwareness/91.aspx

    Note that if you call the kirpan an offensive weapon, it is you who are being offensive!

    More intriguing – the Sikhs who have allowed their daughters to wear kirpan brooches have breached the last article, and have offended their own faith.

    I wonder how these Sikhs would punish themselves. Maybe they could stab themselves with their own daggers scissors kirpans.

  215. joe2 says:

    What about avoiding all clubs that would take yourself as a member and any ‘isms’ running the traps, including atheism, while happily accepting those who are mad enough to follow what you are saying, as well those who do not have a clue?

  216. Katz says:

    Or perhaps some religious minorities can be given special dispensation to run with scissors, because they’ve always done it? (Irish Catholics if you must know)

    That’s religious vilification.

    They were permitted to run with the rounded-end scissors only.

  217. Zarquon says:

    i also haven’t ever personally heard of a Sikh going postal

    Assassinating the Indian Prime Minister is pretty well up there.

  218. joe2 says:

    For goodness sake, I was kind of hoping, with the end of Howard would be the end of the minority bash. The germs must have been left in the soil.

  219. Guess you found the last cherry on that web-page a little too sour to pick Silkie:

    IS IT LEGAL TO CARRY A KIRPAN IN BRITAIN?
    Yes it is! Under the Criminal Justice Act 1988 (section 139) and Criminal Justice 1996 (section 3 and 4) allows anyone to carry a blade exceeding the length of 3 inches for religious, cultural or work related reasons. The Criminal Justice Act and the 2003 Religious Discrimination Act safeguards the Sikhs to carry the Kirpan. (my emphasis)

    I think the “cultural” reasons are included to cater for Scotsmen dressing up in full formal clan rig for weddings, funerals and the like. Besides the kilt and the sporran, it includes a dirk tucked into the top of one of your socks (on the right leg, from memory).

    How do I know this? I went to a Scotsman’s wedding once.

  220. Zarquon,

    I hope you’re not suggesting that we judge all Sikhs by the fact that one of them assassinated an Indian Prime Minister. That would be like judging all Orthodox Jews by the actions of Yigal Amir or Baptists and Seventh Day Adventists by the deeds of Sirhan Sirhan.

  221. David Rubie says:

    Gummo Trotsky wrote:

    it includes a dirk tucked into the top of one of your socks

    Blimey! Mine doesn’t reach to my mid thigh, even on a hot day. I salute them!

  222. Foucault A Go Go says:

    I am surprised that so many left wing and progressive people should be divided over this. If a particular school principal does not want children bringing kirpans to his/her school that should the end of the issue. We should not cower every time somebody insists “this is part of our religion.” Who cares? They are school children, not taxpaying independent adults.

    We should not fear saying “Enough” when religious zealots start wheeling out their Trojan horses such as swords. Quite frankly if yor religion relies on you carrying around symbols of violent weapons, you do not have any rights I am willing to fight for.

  223. gummotrotsky says:

    We should not fear saying “Enough” when religious zealots start wheeling out their Trojan horses such as swords.

    Nicely botched metaphor there, F.A.G.G.

  224. Shaun says:

    As an atheist myself, I been a bit puzzled by the reaction to the idea of wearing of the kirpan. A secular society is one where people are free to practice their religion as they see fit (foregoing activities like virgin sacrifice and wicker men for obvious reasons).

    What I see in this thread is no attempt to understand the Sikhs worldview, just trying to make sense from various limited positions. Regardless of whether you are atheist or Christian, limiting yourself to one worldview, to one seemingly stubborn position that offers no understanding, will lead to nowhere.

    Sikhs wearing kirpans is a non-issue. The ceremonial function of kirpans should worry no one. The arguments against make as much sense as the woman protesting the proposed Islamic school in Camden by exclaiming excitedly on the news “You don’t know what they could be carrying under their burqas. They could have an M-16!”

    Now off the learn some decidedly non-secular Christmas tunes on gitar.

  225. mbahnisch says:

    Katz, I wasn’t referring to everyone on this thread, but it would hardly be possible to have a sensible discussion about Locke now in the midst of all this bilge and nonsense.

    Silkworm:

    I wonder how these Sikhs would punish themselves. Maybe they could stab themselves with their own daggers scissors kirpans.

    joe2:

    For goodness sake, I was kind of hoping, with the end of Howard would be the end of the minority bash. The germs must have been left in the soil.

    I know whose side I’m on – definitely joe2’s! The amount of prejudice from some here parading as some sort of defence of secularism, or atheism, or whatever is just pathetic in my book.

  226. Screw that Bahnisch! I’m on adam’s side:

    screw the divisive press. we are a community…

    And I don’t give a toss if he’s embarrassed to have my support, either – he’s stuck with it.

  227. adrian says:

    So, if it’s down to sides as mark suggests…

    On one side we have, let’s call them the Religous Fundamentalists. They have a few heavy hitters on their side, with laughing liam putting in a sterling effort with the usual expected back-up and support from all corners of the field.
    Their argument seems to boil down to the point that a religous minority (or indeed majority) should be permitted to wear a potentially dangerous object to school in contravention of accepted practice and rules.

    The RFs have played variations on this theme, citing persecution, prejudice, inclusion but scored an own goal with the entirely fallacious argument that there are plenty of objects that can do harm that are already alsowed in school such as pens rulers and the arms and legs of karate experts. While some of these arguments may have been trying to appeal to the ref’s sense of humour, we all know refs are generally humorless individuals.
    These tactics have probably misfired, although they do display the flippant cleverness characteristic of this side since they entered the league 4 years ago.

    The RFs have also been keen to cast doubts on the motives of others, while claiming the high moral ground for themselves, a common tactic from all teams in this league.

    On the other side we have a disparate group of individuals probably brought together by a dislike of religous fundamentalism in any form and maybe a practical understanding of the consequences of such exceptions being made.

    This side is not playing as a team so it’s hard to give it a name, though I can imagine some that the FF’s most agressive player GT might come up with a few, given half a chance. Star recruit Katz has tried to broaden the game but the RFs will have none of it, having claimed the high moral ground for the duration.

    In the end the game will no doubt peter out into a dull draw, with the RFs free to wallow in their dull certitudes long after the game is over. The benefits of playing as a team.

  228. Anna Winter says:

    Good stuff, Laughing Liam. We won!

  229. mbahnisch says:

    “Religious Fundamentalists”, adrian? People who think that freedom of religious expression that harms no one should be acceptable in the public arena…? You might like to check the definition of “liberal secularism”.

  230. David Rubie says:

    No decision on running with scissors? Lucky I ran an experiement. 10 children, 10 pairs of scissors, race across the classroom for 9 gluten free muffins. Here goes Sanjit, no it’s Helen, not it’s Spiros, no it’s Joe, Liam coming up the left flank and Mark is laughing but his feet are still moving.

    Out of 10 children, 9 successfully ran with scissors across the classroom. 1 child (calls himself Mar’n, might be Martin can’t be sure) fell on the damn scissors because he tripped on a Cuisinaire block castle. What a mess, he never could count properly.

    Conclusion. Lots of children can run with scissors. Red-headed freckly kids are the exemption, must not be allowed scissors and perhaps should be closely supervised with forks (suggestion: cork sideways on tines of fork). Next suggestion: carry scissors by the blade, not the handles, take note bloodnut.

    Overall conclusion: Knives at school? I respect your religion and all that stuff, but f*ck that bring a plastic one or start your own damn school and here’s some money we have lots. Mar’n make sure your parents replace that box of bandaids – we have a surfeit of laptops but they don’t stick to scissor running wounds. No I haven’t got any muffins left.

  231. Gordon says:

    Had a look at an Indian arms manufacturing website. They were advertising kirpans for sale and they didn’t look like no trinkets! They were knives – daggers – capable of doing a great deal of damage. They claimed the kirpan should be carried by all Sikhs, not just men. Also looked at an Indian site on Sikhism. The extract below makes it clear enough I think.

    Sword in Sikhism

    Very many people question the need of Kirpan or the sword in the atomic age. Others require an explanation for the wearing of the sword. How can sword he reconciled with spirituality ? Even before Guru Gobind Singh Sahib, his grand father Guru Hardgobind had donned the sword as a twin-symbol of temporal and spiritual power(Miri & Piri). He had maintained an army and taken part in military operations against the Mughal forces.

    Guru Gobind Singh Sahib justified the use of the sword as a duty and as a means of protecting the weak and the oppressed. With human brutes, non-violence is meaningless. Guru Gobind Singh Sahib says:

    When the affairs are past other remedies,*
    It is justifiable to unsheath the sword.

    Tyrants are like mad dogs and wolves. They should be opposed in the interests of the good of humanity as a whole. The sword is neither to be used for conquest nor for wreaking vengeance. The sword is meant only for self-defence or for the good of the people. In cases of injustice and intolerance, the refusal to use the sword may do more harm than good. The Sikh’s sword is not an instrument of offence but a symbol of independence, self-respect and power. Guru Gobind Singh Sahib called it Durga or Bhagwati and praises it thus :

    Sword that smites in a flash,
    That scatters the armies of the wicked
    In the great battle-field,
    0 symbol of the brave.
    Your arm is irresistible, your brightness shines forth
    The splendour of the black dazzles like the sun.
    Sword, you are the scourge of saints,
    You are the scourge of the wicked ;
    Scatterer of sinners, I take refuge with you.
    Hail to the Creator. Saviour and sustainer,
    Hail to you : Sword supreme !

    *******************

    But who decides when affairs are past other remedies?

  232. Katz says:

    Star recruit Katz has tried to broaden the game but the RFs will have none of it, having claimed the high moral ground for the duration.

    Modest prevents me from acclaiming the absolute truth of Adrian’s commentary.

    However, functionally, Adrian is spot on.

    The promoters of devotional cuttlery (Liam, Gummo, Mark, Anna, et al), as Adrian so correctly perceived, have taken advantage of the fact that their critics are a broad and disparate group.

    Some of these dissenting arguments are, shall we say, more contestible than others. Yes, low-hanging fruit is very tempting because it can be taken so easily. But the sweetest fruit is higher up the tree, more difficult to reach.

    Can it be disputed that the argument that does not reject the legitimacy of all religious self-expression yet which does dispute that religious self-expression has a privileged place in our culture is worth engaging with?

  233. gummotrotsky says:

    Can it be disputed that the argument that does not reject the legitimacy of all religious self-expression yet which does dispute that religious self-expression has a privileged place in our culture is worth engaging with?

    In a word – yes. It isn’t all forms of religious self-expression that enjoy a privileged place in our culture – predominantly it’s Christian religious self expression, with a subtle hierarchy of degrees of legitimacy – conservative Anglicanism good, Catholicism not quite as good, Uniting Church bad, liberal Judaism OK, Orthodox Judaism a bit whack but nowhere near as bad as Islam, every Muslim a probable supporter of terrorism until proven otherwise.

    On reviewing that response, I’m not sure that it answers your question – but on examining the question I find it so riddled with double negatives that your positive meaning is impossible to parse out.

  234. Katz says:

    Then let me turn my question into a simple assertion:

    “No self-expression deemed to be religious should be privileged over any other form of self-expression.”

    As Gummo has acknowledged, this state of affairs exists today. (He notices that some forms of self-expression are seen to be more legitimately religious than other forms of self-expression, and therefore more worthy of being protected.)

    My argument is that the Victorian Charter of Human rights and Responsibilities perpetuates this unfortunate state of affairs.

  235. […] Filed under: education — exilemerc @ 11:00 am Apropos of this blog’s recent Kirpanning, I’ve put together a piece for Online Opinion which explores the notion of separatist […]

  236. gummotrotsky says:

    Katz,

    That’s not an argument, that’s an assertion. Here’s a list of the rights listed in the Charter, from the Victorian Department of Justice

    * freedom from forced work
    * freedom of movement
    * freedom of thought, conscience, religion and belief
    * freedom of expression
    * right to peaceful assembly and freedom of association
    * property rights
    * right to liberty and security of the person
    * fair hearing
    * rights in criminal proceedings
    * right not to be tried or punished more than once
    * protection from retrospective criminal laws. (emphasis added)

    That’s the same Department of Justice web-page that I linked to in the body of the post. Excuse me if I assume that you haven’t read it. Where I’ve added emphasis it’s to highlight certain rights that have been placed on an equal footing with freedom of religious expression. All the rights listed, I suggest, are on an equal footing by virtue of being listed together. So the conclusion of my argument is that your assertion is complete tosh, unsupported by either logic or evidence.

  237. Katz says:

    I have read it, as it happens.

    My issue is here;

    * freedom of thought, conscience, religion and belief
    * freedom of expression

    What is the precise position of the concept “religion” in this list? Everything that might be included under the rubric “religion” can be included under the other categories.

    What part of religion is not included under “thought”, “conscience”, “belief” or “expression”?

    So the implication of my question is that your criticism of my position is based on either a desire to support sloppy logic (i.e., the quoted formulation is not parsimonious), or that you don’t appreciate what parsimoniousness is.

  238. gummotrotsky says:

    Katz,

    You can do better than that. I’ve seen evidence of this in the past.

  239. myriad says:

    No self-expression deemed to be religious should be privileged over any other form of self-expression.”

    my first reaction to this is to ask where precisely is the evidence in the particular case of kirpans that religious expression is being privileged? The test for any form of self expression should be whether it harms someone else (broadly defining harm to include unreasonably impinging on others freedoms, not just pain etc.) As has been shown repeatedly in this particular discussion, kirpans haven’t been shown to infringe on anyone else’s rights, so I’m lost with the ‘privileging’ assertion.

    As Gummo has acknowledged, this state of affairs exists today. (He notices that some forms of self-expression are seen to be more legitimately religious than other forms of self-expression, and therefore more worthy of being protected.)

    I’d say that largely comes down to common sense and evidence – eg a long history of practice vs a short one, but more importantly, does the evidence support the claim.

    My argument is that the Victorian Charter of Human rights and Responsibilities perpetuates this unfortunate state of affairs.

    It would seem to me that your beef is based on the fact that the Charter uses the word ‘religion’ in there. As religion is a very well-defined concept to which the majority of the population adhere in some form or another, I’ve yet to see any demonstrable evidence that mentioning it is problematic. problems will come if we see other forms of expression losing out to religious ‘rights’. Then your ‘privileging over’ would be a reality.

  240. myriad says:

    The Sikhs don’t want to budge on the kirpans, but only for the boys. It seems they have already compromised on the girls’ kirpans. One rule for the boys, another for the girls.

    This is not even an issue of religious freedom now. It’s an issue of sexual discrimination.

    LOL. Or, you know, the girls have got on with that ‘plasticising’ that Katz points to off their own bat, which they have. Because you see, Sikhs can legitimately claim to be probably the first religion to enshrine equality of the sexes in their teachings and practice, no mean feat in India where it all began. S

    reading will broaden your mind, something I noticed you’re bound and determined not to do. Here,
    from the Sikh Women site :

    Questions & Answers

    (Originally published by the Institute of Sikh Studies, Chandigarh, Jatinder Singh)

    1. What rights do I have as a Sikh woman?

    A Sikh woman has equal rights to a Sikh man. No post in Sikhism is reserved solely for men. A woman is not considered subordinate to a man. Sikh baptism (Amrit ceremony) is open to both sexes. The Khalsa nation is made up equally of men and women. A Sikh woman has the right to become a Granthi, Ragi, one of the Panj Pyare (5 beloved), etc.

    2. Is God considered a Male or Female?

    The Guru Granth Sahib contains many Names for God, both masculine and feminine. These are all used to describe God. Ultimately, the Gurus do not consider God to be male or female. The Mul Mantra states that God is ‘Ajuni’ – Unborn. Thus stating that God belongs to neither sex. Read the section on God’s Gender.

    3. What does the Guru Granth Sahib say about Women?

    Concerning women, Guru Nanak has said, ‘It is through woman that order is maintained. Then why call her inferior from whom all great ones are born.’ Guru Granth Sahib, Pg. 473. The Gurus went further. They used the Woman symbolically in the Bani to represent the disciple. Read what the Guru Granth Sahib says

    4. What restrictions are there on what I can wear?

    When Sikhs take Amrit they must all, regardless of sex, keep the same 5 k’s. Guru Nanak has stated that one should only wear those clothes which do not distress the mind or the body. ‘Friend, all other wear ruins bliss, That which to the limbs is torment, and with foul thinking fills the mind.- Guru Granth Sahib, Pg. 16.

    5. Can I read the Guru Granth Sahib?

    Yes. The reading of the Guru Granth Sahib is open to all. Guru Amar Das was brought to the fold of Sikhism after hearing Bibi Amro reciting the Gurbani. Read the section on participation in congregation.

    6. Who is considered more spiritual, Men or Women?

    Sikhism states both men and women are considered capable of reaching the highest levels of spirituality. A particular hymn in the Guru Granth Sahib states, ‘In all beings is he himself pervasive, Himself pervades all forms Male and Female.’ Guru Granth Sahib, Pg. 605.

    7. In some cultures women are subservient to their Husbands. Does Sikhism state that I must be also?

    Sikhism is totally opposed to this view. The concept of maiden and married names is alien to Sikh philosophy. Sikhs practising it now do so out of ignorance. A Sikh woman is born with the surname Kaur and dies with the same surname. Thus, allowing her to keep her identity throughout her life. Significance of the name Kaur | The Kaur Etymology

    8. Are there any important Sikh Women in our History?

    Sikh history is one which has been made by both men and women. There are many, many outstanding Sikh women. The Gurus’ wives led highly spiritual and independent lives. Mata Sundri ji led the Sikhs for a long period after Guru Gobind Singh returned to his heavenly home. Sada Kaur was a famous Sikh Jathedar and ally of Ranjit Singh who made possible the Sikh empire of the 19th Century. The list of important Sikh women is endless.

  241. Zarquon says:

    As religion is a very well-defined concept

    Ummm, no.

  242. mbahnisch says:

    It’s a notoriously difficult concept to define from a social scientific point of view, but I think you’ll find it has a relatively precise definition in law.

  243. silkworm says:

    This –

    “KIRPAN- A knife – A full size kirpan is 15-20 cms long and Sikhs are forbidden to carry these under British law. They honour this by carrying small symbolic kirpans in necklaces or brooches. It reminds Sikhs they have a duty to fight for justice and truth.”

    http://www.henlow.beds.sch.uk/Subjects/RE/REIThemeSymbols.html

    contradicts this –

    “IS IT LEGAL TO CARRY A KIRPAN IN BRITAIN?
    Yes it is! Under the Criminal Justice Act 1988 (section 139) and Criminal Justice 1996 (section 3 and 4) allows anyone to carry a blade exceeding the length of 3 inches for religious, cultural or work related reasons. The Criminal Justice Act and the 2003 Religious Discrimination Act safeguards the Sikhs to carry the Kirpan.”

    http://www.oxfordsikhs.com/SikhAwareness/91.aspx

    Now, admittedly these two are British sites, but if such confusion reigns in Britain over the legal status of the kirpan, how can we be confident of the legal situation in Australia?

  244. silky,

    Why don’t you do the hard yards yourself for once, and find out? Hint: look for .uk websites which mention the words “Criminal Justice Act”.

    Incidentally, that first quote you cherry picked supports the contention – repeatedly made by other commenters – that with a bit of negotiation and compromise on both sides of the question, an accommodation can be reached. Engineer, hoist, petard.

  245. mbahnisch says:

    Or silkworm could just choose to read the actual report of the Committee, the subject of this thread but apparently perused by few who commented on it…

  246. silkworm says:

    There is another contradiction in the positions held by these two Sikh sites. The first says, “They honour this [British law] by carrying small symbolic kirpans in necklaces or brooches.” The second says it is offensive “to suggest that the Kirpan can be replaced by wearing a miniature Kirpan”.

  247. I repeat. Do. The. Hard. Yards.

  248. silkworm says:

    “silky, Why don’t you do the hard yards yourself for once, and find out? Hint: look for .uk websites which mention the words “Criminal Justice Act”.”

    I did enough work to establish that there is a contradiction in the Sikh position, but not enough to tell which one is the correct one. But at least I’ve done more work than you. Now, smarytypants, why don’t you put us all out of our misery and tell us which one is the correct legal position, or is that too much work for you?

  249. silkworm says:

    “I repeat. Do. The. Hard. Yards.”

    I take it this comment is in response to my pointing out the second contradiction in the Sikh position. If you took the care to read my criticism, you would find it wasn’t about British law, but about the contradictory Sikh position on miniature kirpans. Your ad hominem approach to my second point is entirely inappropriate.

  250. gummotrotsky says:

    Criminal Justice Act, 1988 s139:

    139 Offence of having article with blade or point in public place

    (1) Subject to subsections (4) and (5) below, any person who has an article to which this section applies with him in a public place shall be guilty of an offence.

    (2) Subject to subsection (3) below, this section applies to any article which has a blade or is sharply pointed except a folding pocketknife.

    (3) This section applies to a folding pocketknife if the cutting edge of its blade exceeds 3 inches.

    (4) It shall be a defence for a person charged with an offence under this section to prove that he had good reason or lawful authority for having the article with him in a public place.

    (5) Without prejudice to the generality of subsection (4) above, it shall be a defence for a person charged with an offence under this section to prove that he had the article with him—

    (a) for use at work;

    (b) for religious reasons; or

    (c) as part of any national costume.

    (6) A person guilty of an offence under subsection (1) above shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 3 on the standard scale.

    (7) In this section “public place” includes any place to which at the material time the public have or are permitted access, whether on payment or otherwise.

    (8) This section shall not have effect in relation to anything done before it comes into force.
    (my emphasis)

    The site that asserts the legality of carrying the kirpan (or tucking a dagger in your right sock when you’re togged up in your clan tartan) in the UK overstates the case a bit – it’s still possible that you might get nicked by an overzealous constable but if his or her superiors didn’t decide to drop the case (“For gawd’s sake, Smith, it was the Lord bloody Mayor of Aberdeen’s Annual bloody Charity Ball and the Chief Constable is a McLeod!”) it’s likely the beak would let you off.

    I think we’ll close this thread for now – I’m sure that I can find better things to do with my time if I put my mind to it.

  251. […] screw that. In the words of adam, in this comment: … let’s look to the facts and make a few sensible points. Screw the divisive press. we are […]

  252. […] LP has been stoushing over whether schools are in the right to exclude devout students wearing a kirpan (Sikh short sword). Are expressions of ethnicity, race, identity and heritage more slippery – or less? What about when the expression is completely harmless and non-threatening? What about when one set of students’ natural bodily attributes are privileged over others – and that set is defined in racial terms? […]

  253. […] LP has been stoushing over whether schools are in the right to exclude devout students wearing a kirpan (Sikh short sword). Are expressions of ethnicity, race, identity and heritage more slippery – or less? What about when the expression is completely harmless and non-threatening? What about when one set of students natural bodily attributes are privileged over others – and that set is defined in racial terms? A Maryland three-year-old has been threatened with expulsion from his preschool – over nappy hair. Jayce Brown is an African-American boy with short, natural dreadlocks. Nothing was said when he first enrolled at the school. But the Southern Maryland Christian Academy has turned around and threatened to expel him now, over his hair, claiming that his hair violates this policy:male students are not allowed to have extremely faddish styles including the use of rubber bands or the twisting of hair. What are kids whose hair naturally twists supposed to do? Women of colour are already spending a huge amount of time, money, and pain getting their hair straightened, or they risk facing sneering and sanctions for wearing political hairstyles. Now the bigots are extending this to three-year-olds. If youre not the default Aryan kiddo or military-regulation shaved, you get expelled – from PRESCHOOL. World gone mad. The WaPo writes:Since the dispute between the Browns and the school became public, the family has received hate mail from other residents. One letter said African Americans are ruining Waldorf and instructed them to go back to the District and Prince Georges County. [] David Rocah, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland, said, I dont disagree with [Brown] that specific prohibitions on locked hair or twisted hair have a racially disparate impact, but I cant think of a specific law that would cover her. ad_icon In the newspaper advertisement, Southern Maryland Christian Academy administrators said that they hope the case does not go to trial but that they are confident they would win if it did. Meanwhile, Jayce is attending another Christian preschool in White Plains that has no restrictions on hairstyle. He has no idea what happened, but he keeps asking when hes going to see his old teacher again, Brown said. I dont really know what to tell him. OhDear __________________ ♥ OhDear, it’s not just an expletive anymore…it’s me ! ! ! ♥ […]

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