Birmingham & Black Country

Sikh man held for carrying kirpan wants more education

Jagmeet Singh
Image caption Jagmeet Singh said he was shocked to be reported for his kirpan at Gatwick Airport

A Sikh man who was stopped at an airport for carrying a ceremonial dagger has called for more education about the small swords.

The kirpan is carried by Sikhs as a symbol of their faith.

Jagmeet Singh, from Wolverhampton, said it was "disheartening" to be reported for carrying a knife at Gatwick Airport as he picked up his family.

The airport said decisions on carrying a kirpan and blades up to 6cm (2.36in) were at managers' discretion.

Image caption Kirpans are one of the five Ks of Sikhism

Mr Singh, who was detained by airport security staff, called for more training for staff and greater awareness.

"I could understand if there was a concealed weapon and someone was acting dodgy in some way," Mr Singh said.

"But I'm a family man, picking up my family and I've got my kirpan on display."

Gatwick highlighted Department for Transport guidance which said airport managers had "the discretion to prohibit any article which, in their view might be used or adapted for causing injury or the incapacitation of a person".

It added: "The carriage of blades including kirpans and knives less than 6cm is at the discretion of the airport manager."

Sukh Deep Singh, who works for education charity Basics of Sikhi, told the BBC a kirpan was "not a knife or weapon used to attack someone" but a religious honour symbolising defence.

Image caption Basics of Sikhi campaigns for greater understanding of Sikhism

In 2017, Drayton Manor theme park revoked its ban on knives after a Sikh family from Coventry was refused access when a man refused to remove his kirpan.

In March last year, Merlin Entertainments followed suit and allowed kirpans at all of its UK attractions apart from the London Eye.

Under current law, knives can be carried for religious reasons, but Basics of Sikhi wants to see more specific legal protections for Sikhs carrying kirpans, and has launched a campaign to educate the public.

The Home Office amended the Offensive Weapons bill, currently going through Parliament, "to ensure that the possession and supply of large kirpans for religious reasons can continue," a spokesman said.

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