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Tuesday, November 21, 2006

WaPo: SALDEF Develops Federal Poster on Kirpans with DOJ

Feel frustrated when a jangling bracelet or pocket full of coins sets off security screeners as you make your way into a government building? Consider the Sikhs, whose religion requires them to always wear a dagger.

The centuries-old requirement has collided with beefed-up, post-Sept. 11 rules that no longer allow people to leave legal weapons and other banned items with security guards working in such buildings as courthouses and federal offices. In two dozen cases in the past two years, Sikhs have been arrested, threatened with arrest or harassed in disputes with guards over the ceremonial kirpan, according to the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund.

In an effort to bridge the culture-security gap, the Homeland Security Department and the Sikh legal group yesterday unveiled a poster meant to help screeners through these interactions. The poster, which will be distributed to federal facilities across the country, shows photos of different kirpans, ranging from a symbolic necklace some women wear to the more common three- to six-inch daggers, as well as full-on swords. Sikhs often wear them under their clothing, bound to them by a cloth body holster.

The kirpan, one of five items baptized Sikhs are required to wear, is meant as a reminder of the duty to uphold justice. [Link]

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