California passes bill on Sikh symbol kirpan

June 3rd, 2009 - 11:45 am ICT by IANS  

Arnold Schwarzenegger Los Angeles, June 3 (IANS) The California assembly has passed a bill that makes it mandatory for the state to train law enforcement agencies about the Sikh symbol kirpan.
The bill AB-504, which was passed unanimously by the assembly Monday, will now go to the state senate for its nod before Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signs it to make it a law.

Enjoying bipartisan support, the bill was passed 59-0 by the assembly in the California capital of Sacramento.

When it finally becomes a law, it will be the first such legislation in any US state to train law officers about the Sikh religion and kirpan.

Apart from being victims of hate crimes after 9/11, many Sikhs have been stopped at airports and other places for wearing kirpan.

Many of them were also denied entry or arrested for carrying kirpan in public places in violation of concealed weapons laws.

Various Sikh organisations, led by the Sikh Coalition, lobbied with state legislature and senate members to pass the bill introduced by assemblyman Warren Furutani of Long Beach.

Under the law, California would incorporate training about the kirpan in the curriculum for law enforcement officer training.

“It is the legislature’s goal to promote education and awareness of the carrying of the kirpan by Sikhs in California,” says the preamble of the bill.

Law enforcement officers will be trained “how to recognise and interact with persons carrying a kirpan”, the preamble adds.

“Our hope is that being educated about the kirpan and its religious significance will decrease the number of wasteful arrests,” the Sikh Coalition said.

The bill was introduced in the assembly in February.

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