On Monday, police arrested Harpreet Singh Khalsa for possession of a kirpan, a ceremonial knife carried by baptized Sikhs. Khalsa, 33, said he converted to Sikhism nine years ago.
“We don’t consider it a knife, but a visual reminder to stand up to justice,” Khalsa said.
Individuals outside the faith often misunderstand the meaning of the kirpan, causing enough concern to alert law enforcement.
Kalsha is the owner of a catering business in Catonsville. He said the arrest on Monday was not his first time dealing with law enforcement and has a prior arrest record related to the kirpan.
Police received a call on Monday from a customer at a Catonsville grocery store, where Khalsa was discovered with a knife on his person. Khalsa said he told police the knife is part of his religion, but he was still put through the legal arrest process.
He was transported to a local precinct, where he was later released without being charged, after police officials “confirmed that the knife was a kirpan and part of his religion and not a threat to the community,” Baltimore County Officer Jennifer Peach, wrote in an email.
“The officer did follow all Maryland and county laws properly in this incident,” Peach said. “There is no known exception to the deadly weapons laws at this time.”
The department is currently providing its officers guidance and education about Sikhs and their culture, Peach said.
Sikh advocates say, in many cases such interactions between Sikhs and police is the results of ignorance about traditions of Sikhism. An estimated 500,000 Sikhs reside in the United States.
Sikhs carry five articles of faith, which are known as Five K’s or Kakaars. The articles include a Kirpan (knife); Kara (bracelet); Kachehra (shorts); Kanga (comb); and Kesh (long hair).