The University of North Carolina at Charlotte (UNCC) has apologized after campus police placed a Sikh student in handcuffs because he wore an article of faith that looked like a weapon.
The incident, which was caught in a now-viral video, occurred on Thursday after the police received a 911 call about someone carrying a “knife” inside the Student Union Building.
The object the student was carrying was a kirpan, a dagger that serves as one of the religion’s five articles of faith.
Baptized Sikhs are required at all times to carry and maintain the kirpan and the rest of the articles, which include kesh (unshorn hair), kangha (a small wooden comb), kara (a steel bracelet) and kachahra (a special type of undershorts).
“I wasn’t going to post this, but I don’t think I will receive any support from @unccharlotte,” wrote Twitter user @thatsamaan, who claimed to be the student involved. “I was told someone called 911 and reported me, and I got cuffed for ‘resisting’ because I refused to let the officer take my kirpan out of the miyaan.”
The 44-second video, which has now garnered 3.6 million views, shows a deputy attempting to remove the student’s kirpan.
A daily dose of Asian America's essential stories, in under 5 minutes.
Get our collection of Asian America's most essential stories to your inbox daily for free.
Unsure? Check out our Newsletter Archive.
“You can’t take it off me. You want me to take the whole thing off?” the student asks the officer, who proceeds to put him in cuffs. “What are you doing to me, bro?”
Twitter users responded with supportive messages. User @RuthlessJasa, who is also Sikh and a UNCC alum, said he wore his kirpan “every single day throughout the five years” he was on campus “without a single issue from students, faculty or staff.”
In the end, UNCC determined that the object was indeed a kirpan. In a joint statement, Chancellor Sharon L. Gaber and Chief Diversity Officer Brandon L. Wolfe stressed that “we want every Niner to feel welcomed, supported and safe.”
“We apologize that [this] is not what this young man felt in our union yesterday,” the officials said, without identifying the student in question. “We are committed to ensuring it doesn’t happen again.”
Gaber and Wolfe explained that state law and university policy prohibit knives and other “edged instruments” on campus. However, they said the university will use the incident as a learning experience.
“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,” the officials said.
In an update on Saturday, @thatsmaan said he received his kirpan back.
“Thank you all for the continuous support,” he wrote.