New Zealand’s first Sikh MP has called for new legislation to enable Sikhs to wear ceremonial daggers freely in the country, saying they are “sensible” people who would not use the ‘kirpan’ inappropriately.
Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi’s statement comes merely three days after seven Sikhs were barred from entering the ground to watch the India vs Zimbabwe Cricket World Cup match.
Bakshi said there needs to be legislation around ceremonial daggers so it is clear they are not weapons and are safe to be worn, The Dominion Post reported.
The biggest issue for Sikhs is being able to wear a ‘kirpan’ - a short dagger that symbolises a Sikh’s duty to come to the defence of those in need - at their workplace and at public events, he said.
“Kirpans have sometimes become controversial but I haven’t seen any Sikh using a ‘kirpan’ for any harm of anyone else,” he said.
“Every baptised Sikh is supposed to have five articles of faith to obey everyday and the kirpan is one of those. It’s traditionally 3 feet long and held by religious leaders but baptised Sikhs can wear a smaller version and we wear it under our clothing, not exposed to anyone.”
Bakshi said carrying a kirpan at all times is a big deal to Sikhs and sometimes there’s a compromise when it comes to flying.
“Some people are very strict at following the rules and don’t fly - in India they’ll travel by road, they won’t fly. There are people who will wear a symbolic one, a smaller version, which is allowed on airplanes.”
He said Sikhs are “sensible” people who would not use a ‘kirpan’ inappropriately. “We are very law-abiding people and we believe in the rule of the land,” he said.
When Bakshi became a Member of Parliament in 2008, he informed then Speaker of the House that he carried a ‘kirpan’ and was given permission to wear it in the Parliament, the report said.
Bakshi also gets approval from the Speaker when he has members of the Sikh community visiting him at Parliament, making them exempt from security rules, it added.
Bakshi has been pulled up for wearing his ‘kirpan’ at the airport but has a small one that meets civil aviation requirements, which he wears to avoid any problems.
The government is considering exempting ‘kirpans’ from civil aviation rules - allowing them to be carried on board planes rather than stowed away with luggage.