Another chapter has been added to the saga of religious clothing after Sakira Watkins-Singh was supported by a High Court Judge and allowed to wear the Kara at school after previously being excluded. I’m not sure exactly where I stand on this one. My bigoted dad said “if they can’t dress like the people in this country, they can go back to where they came from”. He got a bit stuck when I told him she was Welsh…
Anyway, although I support religious freedom and freedom of expression, I must admit I was a little frustrated when the judge claimed that the Kara (a bangle worn by all baptised Sikhs) was not a piece of jewellery, but a sign of faith. To me this was just ignoring what’s right in front of them and over-symbolising the item. It may be a sign of faith metaphorically but physically it is a piece of jewellery. Pieces of jewellery are not allowed, so that’s that. If the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster decided that a symbol of their faith was to have bolognese sauce spread across their faces at all times, it wouldn’t be tolerated. If another faith decided that they had to wear giant sombreros, it wouldn’t be tolerated.
Then I was reminded that the Kara is one of the Five K’s. From my limited knowledge of Sikhism I remembered that the 5 K’s are obligatory for Sikhs, which makes it considerably different to the wearing of a crucifix for Christians, for example, which isn’t at all necessary. So in that sense, I see where the judge is coming from. It’s not just taking off a piece of jewellery; in a way, taking it off would be denying their faith, which I wouldn’t endorse.
However, after the Crackergate story, it would be hypocritical of me to respect one crackpot story about Sikhs not being Sikhs if they don’t wear a metal bangle, but not another crackpot story about a cracker turning into a piece of flesh. Surely there are times when a Sikh would take it off, such as when they’re having an MRI? One woman likened taking off the Kara to taking off her arm, which I thought was a bit extreme.
Then another hazy memory from my knowledge of Sikhism came to the fore. Sikhs are also required to wear a Kirpan, a short curved blade, so that they can defend themselves and the weak. We wouldn’t tolerate someone taking a blade into school, no matter how important it was to someone’s faith. The Kara is no different. It’s a piece of jewellery which cannot be worn. End of.