Italian court upholds ban on Sikhs carrying knives

Sikhs at Amritsar's International Airport (25 May 2011) Image copyright AFP
Image caption Sikhs argue that the carrying of ceremonial knives is an important part of their religious duty

The Italian Supreme Court has ruled against a Sikh migrant who wanted to carry a ceremonial knife in public.

It said that migrants who choose to live in Italy must respect Italian laws prohibiting the carrying of weapons even though many Sikhs regard ceremonial knives as sacred.

The court acknowledged that diversity in a multi-ethnic society is important.

But it ruled that public safety from weapons was of paramount importance and superseded an individual's rights.

The Sikh man in the case was appealing against another court's decision ordering him to pay a €2,000 fine (£1,700; $2,195) because he had been caught leaving his home in Goito, northern Italy, armed with a knife measuring nearly 20cm (7.8in), Italian media reported.

The Sikhs who saved Parmesan

The man had argued that his knife (or kirpan), as well as his turban, were symbols of his religion and wearing them was part of his religious duty.

But the court in Rome ruled that migrants must ensure that their beliefs are legally compatible with host countries.

"[While] the multi-ethnic society is a necessity, public safety is an asset to be protected," the court ruled.

Amritdhari (initiated) Sikhs have been required to carry kirpans since the 17th Century, and insist it is not a weapon.

More on this story