A prominent US university has announced that it would allow Sikh students to wear a kirpan on campus, a religious article in Sikhism. The change comes about two months after a video was posted online showing a student at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte was handcuffed for carrying a kirpan.
The University of North Carolina in a statement on Thursday said that the school’s policy will allow students to wear kirpans on campus as long as the blade length is under 3 inches and is “worn close to the body in a sheath at all times.” The statement released was signed by Chancellor Sharon L. Gaber and Chief Diversity Officer Brandon L. Wolfe said the ruling was effective immediately.
“The Office of Diversity and Inclusion, with support from Institutional Integrity, also conducted additional awareness training this week with our police department and will continue its work to expand our cultural education and training opportunities for all of campus,” the statement said.
The university also said other religious accommodations, including a request to wear a larger kirpan, can be made to the Office of Civil Rights and Title IX and evaluated on a case-by-case basis, it said. “Over the past several weeks, we have engaged in dialogue with representatives from the local and global Sikh communities about how we could modify University policies to honour the tenets of religious freedom while protecting the safety of our campus,” the statement said.
The university thanked Sikh leaders, including nonprofit organisations The Sikh Coalition and the Global Sikh Council, who provided expertise and perspective to help with the policy change. In September, a video of the student being handcuffed went viral on social media.
The video was uploaded on Twitter and said that the police had handcuffed him for refusing to let the officer remove his kirpan. “I wasn’t going to post this, but I don’t think I will receive any support from @unccharlotte. I was told someone called 911 and reported me, and I got cuffed for ‘resisting’ because I refused to let the officer take my kirpan out of the miyaan,” the student tweeted.