A MELBOURNE mum wants laws allowing knives to be carried in public on religious grounds overturned after a scare to her young son at a shopping centre.
The mother and her family were in the Southland food court when they noticed a Sikh man carrying a knife in a sheath.
“My son actually leant over and said to me ‘the man behind us has a knife’,” Tamara, who did not want her surname used, said.
“I shuffled over to have a look and … I was obviously alarmed.”
“Unfortunately in this day and age weapons and knives are a big threat and my son certainly felt intimidated.”
Tamara told the Moorabbin Kingston Leader people should not be allowed to carry weapons on religious exemptions.
“I along with the community have the right to feel safe … in this instance I feel we have been let down, in that a religion should not override our laws,” she said.
“I know that there is an anti-weapons law and I know that my teenage children are not allowed to carry knives. So why is it then that there is an exemption?”
“If they want to carry these knives then it needs to be completely and utterly hidden.”
Under Victorian laws members of the public can be fined $1000 for carrying knives in public without a valid reason — $2000 if found near a licensed premises.
But under an exemption to the Control of Weapons Act, Sikhs are permitted to carry knives (kirpans) in public.
The kirpan is one of five religious articles members of the Sikh faith are required to wear at all times. They are usually 15cm long but in some cases ceremonial varieties can be up a to “few” metres long.
Tamara told Leader she immediately called centre management after she spotted the knife on May 12.
She said a cleaner spoke to the elderly Sikh man.
National Sikh Council of Australia president Ajmer Singh Gill said the kirpan was carried as a symbol of faith and the blunt knives could be used in “extreme” circumstances.
“In the current climate people do have the right to feel threatened. That’s why we encourage people to conceal the kirpan,” he said.
“I’ve never heard of a case when the kirpan has been used in public to threaten.”
He said the Sikh community would be deeply disappointed if they were not allowed to carry kirpans in public.
Department of Justice and Regulation spokeswoman Sheree Argento said there were “no plans” to overturn the exemption allowing Sikhs to carry kirpans.
“The possession and carriage of kirpans by Sikhs for religious ceremonial purposes has been covered by various exemptions since swords were first prohibited under the Act in 2004,” she said.
“There is no reason for any person to be concerned by Sikhs complying with their religious observances.”