Just a quick one on the remarks by Sir Mota Singh QC, the retired judge who yesterday stated that Sikhs should be allowed to carry their Kirpans – ceremonial daggers – in public places. Naturally, the story has led to lost of chatter in the blogosphere, including this post by Sunny Hundal at Pickled Politics, who warns that some secularlists can come across as anti-religious when responding to issues such as this. Hundal suggests issues such as this should be dealt with through "local decisions based on local conditions", rather than through court decisions which lead to blanket bans or the daggers being allowed across the board.
Since it's become quite a big story, I thought I'd put my view and invite comments on the matter. I'm an atheist and a secularist and I would never, as Hundal suggests some atheists would, want to prevent someone expressing their faith unless there was a good reason. The issue of Sikh Kirpans seems to me to be one where surely we could reach some kind of compromise. The Sikh religion says that adherents must carry a kind of knife. But British law doesn't allow people to walk around with knives. So how about we meet halfway, and Sikhs be allowed to carry a version of the Kirpan that couldn't realistically be used as an offensive weapon. We could call it the "Mick Dundee test" – if all you'd think when you saw it was "That's not a knife...", rather than "Oh no, better start running..." then there's no problem.
So that's my view. Seems like a decent compromise to me. In the BBC article about Mota Singh's comments, there is mention of a case where a Sikh boy was banned from wearing his Kirpan at the Compton School in Barnet. In that instance, the school offered to compromise by offering "the option of wearing a smaller knife, welded into a metal sheath" – that'd certainly pass my Mick Dundee test – but the boy's parents declined and removed him from the school. That seems like a shame to me, as the only way we're ever going to avoid problems with issues like this is through compromise. We can't realistically let school kids carry anything with which they could stab each other.
And before you ask, no I'm not trying to ban compasses from maths lessons. With that, I'll open this to the floor.