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UNC Charlotte issues apology for handcuffing follower of Sikh faith after 911 knife call

School officials said the item was a kirpan, an article of faith in Sikhism.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — UNC Charlotte apologized to the campus community on Friday after officers handcuffed a follower of Sikh faith for having a knife in the Student Union.

In a statement released to students, Chancellor Sharon Gaber and Chief Diversity Officer Brandon Wolfe said officers responded to a call about someone having a knife in the Popp Martin Student Union on Thursday, Sept. 22.

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School officials said the item was a kirpan, an article of faith in Sikhism. Followers of Sikh faith are mandated to wear articles of faith at all times, according to the World Sikh Organization of Canada.

During the interaction, the individual was placed in handcuffs while officers confiscated the kirpan, the school said.

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The university issued an apology to the student community following the incident:

"State law and University policy prohibit the possession of a knife or other edged instruments on campus, but we will use this as a learning opportunity by engaging in constructive dialogue with Sikh students and employees. Together, we are confident we can find reasonable measures and educational opportunities that both protect the safety of our campus and the religious practices of our community members.

Our diversity makes us a better, richer, more successful community.  We want every Niner to feel welcomed, supported and safe. We apologize that is not what this young man felt in our union yesterday.  We are committed to ensuring it doesn’t happen again."

Members of the Sikh Coalition of Charlotte said in response to the incident, there's a lack of understanding of what a Kirpan is. Suneet Kaur, a member of the coalition said it's an important symbol in their religion. 

"A kirpan is an article of faith that all Sikhs wear who are initiated, Kaur said. I understand if someone felt nervous around the Kirpan because it's different. I definitely don’t blame this individual, we just need to sort this through and educate.”

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