Thursday, June 22, 2017

It's all about understanding

There's a lot more to religious liberty, which is guaranteed to all citizens, than Mom and Dad singing "Bringing In The Sheaves" at the First And Foremost Congregational on Sunday.

Other people, other faiths, make up the beautiful palette that is America. But as we grow into that palette, we need to understand things about the religions others practice.

Sikhs carry Kirpans
A kirpan
Here in Baltimore County, on the west side, county police arrested Harpreet Singh Khalsa on dangerous weapon charges. Khalsa was shopping, and someone in the store saw something and said something, that something being a call to 911 to say a man was walking around with a knife.

The knife in this case is more formally known as a kirpan. Baptized Sikhs carry them for ceremonial reasons. Mr Khalsa, 33, is a convert to Sikhism.  He is the owner of a catering business on that end of town and has been placed under arrest before for carrying the kirpan, which is carried to be a visual reminder for Sikhs to stand up for justice.

As a huge fan of rituals and of carrying things around, I take immense interest in knowing that Sikhs always carry five articles of faith, which they call they Five K’s or Kakaars. A baptized Sikh will have with him at all times the Kirpan (knife); a Kara (bracelet); a Kachehra (pair of cotton short undergarments); a Kanga (comb); and his Kesh (long hair). This is mandated by faith.

But to be fair, put yourself in the place of the police officer who responded to the call. Ostensibly, this item violates Maryland's deadly weapons law, and Mr Khalsa was taken to the local precinct, where presently the matter was cleared up, and he was released once police "confirmed that the knife was a kirpan and part of his religion and not a threat to the community," Baltimore County Officer Jennifer Peach said.

"The officer did follow all Maryland and county laws properly in this incident," Peach said, adding, "There is no known exception to the deadly weapons laws at this time."

While the law enforcers await that clarification from the lawmakers, the county police are providing training for their men and women about Sikh culture, according to Officer Peach.

There are 500,000 Sikhs in the US, and I don't know how many of them live in our county, but I am glad that our police force is doing what it can to allow them to live here in harmony.

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