Sikh community speaks up after UNC Charlotte student handcuffed for article of faith

According to the university, UNCC dispatch received a 911 call about a person with a knife inside a building on Thursday.
According to the university, UNCC dispatch received a 911 call about a person with a knife inside a building on Thursday.
Published: Sep. 24, 2022 at 4:41 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - The chancellor of UNC Charlotte penned a letter on Friday after an incident occurred on campus earlier in the week involving a Sikh article of faith.

According to the university, UNCC dispatch received a 911 call about a person with a knife inside a building on Thursday.

Officers responded to the Student Union and engaged the person in question.

While officers were interacting with the person, he was placed in handcuffs while police took possession of the object that prompted the response. UNCC says that once the object was taken from the person, the handcuffs were taken off.

The University said that further investigation into the situation revealed that the object was a kirpan, which is a Sikh article of faith.

WBTV reached out to the student we believe was detained but have not heard back. Now, Sikh community leaders are speaking up.

“It’s very frightening to see a young man handcuffed and understandable many viewers are concerned for his safety,” Pawanjit Singh said.

Pawanjit said he wishes this never happened but is using the instance to spread knowledge and awareness about Sikhism, the 5th largest religion in the world.

“Love, service, and justice are the core values of our faith,” Singh said.

Park of the Sikh religion is being easy to identify, often times that means wearing a turban and kirpan. This lets other people know you are a safe person to approach

“We stand up for service to humanity it is a constant reminder,” Singh said.

UNCC student and NAACP political action chair Jeremiah Williams says he hopes UNCC puts real action behind its statement to learn from the Sikh community.

“Officers on campus in my opinion need cultural competency training to have that cultural curiosity,” Williams said.

Williams hopes this will teach other authority figures to approach these kinds of situations with questions before taking action.

The letter released by UNCC went on, in part, to say the following:

“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.”

The letter can be read in its entirety here.

UNCC Chancellor Sharon L. Gaber and the school’s Chief Diversity Officer, Brandon Wolfe, signed the letter.

Related: ESPN statistician, UNC Charlotte professor working to increase diversity in sports analytics