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Sikhs can carry kirpans to schools

Sikh students will be allowed to carry kirpans following a recommendation by a parliamentary committee in Australia.

world Updated: Dec 06, 2007 12:57 IST
Sikh students allowed to carry kirpan to schools in Australia

Sikh students would be allowed to carry kirpans or small daggers to school following a recommendation by a parliamentary committee in Australia's Victoria state but the move has outraged principals.

The committee has also given the green light for Muslim students to wear hijabs or veils in the state's classrooms following a year-long inquiry into uniforms which was tabled in the Victorian parliament on Wednesday.

The Education and Training Committee recommended that all schools should accommodate clothing or other items that are religiously significant.

Its asked schools to work with the Sikh community to allow male students to carry a kirpan - a small, curved ornamental steel dagger which is one of five articles of faith that Sikhs must carry.

The committee found there were concerns from principals and teachers about students carrying the kirpan - which is hidden under the school uniform - but the item was important to the Sikh community.

Victorian Association of State Secondary School Principals head Brian Burgess said kirpans should not be allowed in schools.

"It is potentially very dangerous and should not be brought to school," he said.

"If it was misused, it could hurt kids. And it may not be the students that bring it to school but others who know about it and misuse it," Burgess was quoted as saying in The Australian newspaper on Thursday.

"You are talking about adolescent boys, adolescent students, bringing what is potentially a weapon to school... It is not necessarily about the Sikh students, any other students could grab (the knives)," Burgess said.

The Sikh Interfaith Council of Victoria did not want to comment on Wednesday but previously told the committee that only a small number or Sikhs carry the kirpan.

The council rejected suggestions by the Department of Education that students carry a replica or pendant to school.

The inquiry also ruled against making school uniforms mandatory, instead recommending that the decision remain with individual schools.

The committee also called for schools to include hats and address sun protection in their dress codes.

Earlier this year, a multicultural commission's view that Sikh schoolchildren have the right to carry the kirpan had sparked off an intense debate in Victoria.

Responding to demands from some Sikh families that their children be allowed to wear the kirpan to school, the Victorian Multicultural Commission's had in June said the students should have the right to do so.

"The dagger is an important article of faith. Some children wear them safely under clothes," commission chairperson George Lekakis has said.