Photo: Nick Leonard/Flickr
By Flavia AmabileLA STAMPA/Worldcrunch
ROME – Should a boy scout walking around with a Swiss-army knife be considered dangerous? Should Swiss-army knives be banned altogether?
Well, for the Italian interior minister, if the small knife is carried for religious reasons, then the answer is yes.
Last May, after years of court cases and appeals, the interior minister announced that it was refusing to recognise Sikhism as a religion, on the grounds that the kirpan, the small ceremonial dagger that Sikhs must carry at all times, is dangerous.
The announcement was a great disappointment for the Italian Sikh community. “We are sad. Obviously we respect Italy and its laws, but after all these years of honest work in this country, we were hoping for a positive outcome,” says Harwant Singh, president of the Italian National Sikh Dharam Parchar Committee.
“I’m surprised that legal status is denied to a community which is a symbol of integration. They are the pillars of the production of the Parmesan cheese, just to give an example,” says Andrea Sarubbi, a member of parliament with the centre-left Democratic Party, who is trying to find a solution to the dispute.
The first Sikhs arrived in Italy in the 1980s. They moved to northern and central Italy, where they worked hard without complaining, glad to create their own Italian families. Today, there are 60,000 Sikhs in Italy. “We wanted to live and stay here forever,” says Singh. “We have always followed the rules. We are a peaceful community, but we wish others respected our religion too.”
Despite being founded in the 15th century and being the fifth-largest religion in the world, today in Italy, the Sikh religion has no legal existence. It is just an association like any other.
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