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National Secular Society

Challenging Religious Privilege

Sikhs can wear daggers at “religion-friendly” Olympic Games

Even though immense security arrangements are being put in place to protect the Olympic Games in London next year, Sikh athletes and spectators have been told that they will be able to wear ceremonial daggers (kirpans) at the Olympic sites.

The daggers will have to be kept sheathed and hidden under clothing and the wearer will have to prove that they are a genuine Sikh by observing four other “articles of faith” – wearing a ‘kara’ and ‘kacha’, carrying a kanga and having kesh (unshaved hair). Media reports said the length of the blade has to be a maximum of 3 inches.

A spokeswoman of the London 2012 Olympics said: “We want to make sure the Games are accessible to everyone. The kirpan will be presented at security but it will not be unsheathed. The policy has been set by our security team, who have liaised with stakeholders, and is part of our multi-faith approach.”

Terry Sanderson, President of the National Secular Society, said: “This is ridiculous. If someone is wearing a turban it seems pretty clear that they will also have a dagger concealed under their clothing. Determined terrorists could quickly overpower such a person and take the knife from him.

“In New York this problem has been solved by demanding that the blade be welded into the sheath so that it cannot be exposed. This surely satisfies the religious requirement while ensuring that the dagger cannot be misused.”

Published Fri, 25 Nov 2011