Seymour slams Peters' 'racist attack' on Sikh community

  • Updated
  • 15/08/2017

A Sikh National MP says Winston Peters needs to "grow up", after the New Zealand First leader spoke out against allowing Sikhs to carry a kirpan - a ceremonial religious dagger.

Last week Prime Minister Bill English promised to amend the Crimes Act to allow Sikhs to carry the kirpan for religious reasons if National is re-elected.

Mr Peters said in a statement: "If Sikhs can do this as part of their customs, then what do we say to Māori who want to carry their traditional weapon a taiaha, or perhaps a Hindu who wants to carry a trident, their traditional three-pronged spear.

"We have sympathy for the Sikh community and their adherence to their laws, but they are in New Zealand now and it's our laws that must apply."

National MP Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi has drafted a bill proposing that kirpans can be worn provided they are less than 10 centimetres long and are blunt.

Mr Bakshi said wearing the kirpan is a religious obligation and being refused to be allowed to wear it "will hurt a lot of Sikhs, including myself, because we are law-abiding citizens of New Zealand".

"It has been worn by sikhs for almost 300 years and nothing has happened so far.

"I think he [Mr Peters] should grow up and learn a little bit more about other cultures and let everyone enjoy their independence over here," he said.

Mr Peters said: "When you come to another country you adapt to their laws and their ideas of what is proper in a street or a society. You don't force them to change, which is what the National Party are doing.

"I understand the Sikhs' desire to follow religious tradition, that's fine, but you've got to adapt."

ACT leader David Seymour said it was a racist attack, and Mr Peters "has yet again displayed ignorance of modern New Zealand".

ACT candidate Bhupinder Singh said the ban was "an attack on my freedom of religion".

"Anyone who can't tell the difference between a two-metre long lethal weapon and a 10 centimetre ceremonial ornament needs to properly educate and inform themselves."