An Inclusive Litany

10/11/01

The day of the terrorist attacks, law enforcement officials stopped an Amtrak train in Providence that was on its way from Boston to New York after receiving reports that suspicious men were aboard who were possibly involved.

Among the several men questioned was Sher J.B. Singh, a 28-year-old network design consultant and a Sikh. Male members of the Sikh religion, often mistaken for Arabs, wear turbans, have beards, and often carry a kirpan, a 6-inch-long sheathed ceremonial sword. A search turned up such a weapon strapped to Mr. Singh's chest, and after hours of questioning he was charged with misdemeanor possession of a concealed weapon before being released on personal recognizance. Rhode Island law prohibits concealed knives with blades longer than 3 inches.

Singh said he was disappointed the police did not drop the charge. His attorney, Mark Laroche, said: "I thought there would be more tolerance of diversity, especially considering that Providence was founded on principles of religious freedom." Laroche said that he would argue the state law interferes with Singh's constitutionally protected right to freedom of religion. The Rhode Island chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union indicated that it will support Singh's case, he said.

[Ed.: Upholding its zero-tolerance weapons policy, the province of Quebec later challenged the right of twelve-year-old Gurbaj Singh to carry his dagger to school as he had since the age of five, even fully concealed and sheathed as a court had allowed. In fact, if you're twelve and your name is Gurbaj, no amount of protection will do.]

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