Page last updated at 10:10 GMT, Tuesday, 13 October 2009 11:10 UK

Boy's Sikh dagger in school ban

The boy's kirpan
The kirpan is one of five 'articles of faith' Sikhs must carry

A Sikh boy has been withdrawn from a north London school after he said he wanted to wear his traditional dagger.

The boy, 14, was told not to carry the 5in (12.7cm) kirpan at the Compton School in Barnet after governors ruled it was a health and safety risk.

Under Sikhism the sheathed scimitar is one of five "articles of faith" that must be carried at all times.

The school governors have said they have tried to find a compromise and a place remains open for the boy.

They proposed he wore a 2in version of the dagger welded into a sheath.

But that was rejected as the family said the miniature dagger was a replica and not a genuine kirpan.

Privately educated

The boy first started carrying the religious artefact two years ago when he was baptised as a Sikh.

However, according to his older brother Ravjeet Singh, at the start of term last month, he was told it was no longer allowed.

"He was greeted by the head teacher at the school and was asked if he was wearing the kirpan" he told the BBC's Asian Network.

"He said yes and then they said, 'we're going to have to turn you away'."

At the moment we are holding a place open for the student should he feel able to wear a kirpan suitable to bring into school
Statement by the school's governors

Mejindarpal Kaur, director of community group United Sikhs, said: "The Compton School's decision is a blow to religious freedom in Barnet - schools throughout the UK have accommodated Sikh students who wear a kirpan."

The boy's family said he is now being privately educated, having missed five weeks of school.

A statement by the school's governors said: "We have examined potential compromises after looking at how this issue has been dealt with in other schools and elsewhere within the Sikh community and taken legal advice.

"At the moment we are holding a place open for the student should he feel able to wear a kirpan suitable to bring into school."

The Department for Children, Schools and Families said it was up to schools to make their own policy on the carrying of the kirpan and that, if challenged, it would be up to the courts to decide.

In Sikhism the kirpan is an instrument of non-violence that should be used to prevent harm from being done to a defenceless person.


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