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Accueil > Italie > Débats actuels > 2017 > Le cas italien du kirpan : "Vous devez vous adapter à nos valeurs"

Le cas italien du kirpan : "Vous devez vous adapter à nos valeurs"

May 2017

On 15 May 2017, the Italian Court of Cassation ruled against a Sikh migrant who wanted to carry a kirpan (a small sword considered a sacred symbol in Sikhism, one of five articles of faith called the punj kakkar) in public : hearing an appeal filed by the Sikh migrant who was fined 2,000 Euros for carrying a 20 cm. long dagger, the High Court said that public safety must be ensured (see the 110/1975 Law). This has shaken the Sikh community all over the world. Most Sikhs consider the ceremonial dagger (kirpan) an essential part of their religious identity along with their unshorn hair, a small wooden comb, a cotton underwear, and a metal bangle, since the end of 17th century when the tenth Sikh master, Guru Gobind Singh, established the Khalsa Panth by giving the followers of Sikhism a distinct identity.

While seeking the case to be referred to UN Human Rights Committee, legal director of the United Sikhs, Mejinderpal Kaur, said that “it’s regrettable that the Italian Supreme Court judgment is based on the view that immigrants should live in Rome as Romans do when religious freedom is global and across borders.”

From its part, the Italian High Court said that it is important to acknowledge the religious-cultural diversity in a multi-ethnic society. Nevertheless, migrants must ensure that their beliefs are legally compatible with host countries. So the Italian judges ruled that public safety from weapons was of paramount importance and superseded an individual’s rights. In order to justify and sustain this position, the Court also affirmed that migrants who choose to live in the Western world have an obligation to conform to the values of the society they have chosen to settle in, even if its values differ from their own. So, in this manner, the Court did not refer to the legal principles, including the supreme principle of secularism (as the Italian Constitutional Court has called it), as one might expect from a judiciary power. They referred to the generic “values” of the Western society (see also : Corte Suprema di Cassazione, Sez. I penale, sent. 14 June 2016, no. 24739, and 16 June 2016, no. 25163. On the decision A. Licarsto, Il motivo religioso non giustifica il porto fuori dell’abitazione del kirpan da parte del fedele sikh (considerazioni in margine alle sentenze n. 24739 e n. 25163 del 2016 della Cassazione penale)).

In addition, the Court confused a religious identity with immigration. In other words, it did not consider that, in the name of the fundamental right to religious freedom as well as the principle of secularism, some Italians might decide to convert, for instance, to Sikhism. In brief, the Court has set a precedent under which all migrants must ‘adapt’ to traditional (i.e. Western) values that, on the ground of the State-confessions relations, are in Italy strongly influenced by the Catholicism and other few (traditional) beliefs.

For all these reasons, the 15 may 217 judgment has raised a heated debate, also fuelled by some political parties, like the North League (Lega Nord) and Brothers of Italy (Fratelli d’Italia), which in the last years have been protesting against both immigration and the “new” (i.e. different) religious groups that are usually made up of immigrants.

29 mai 2017