IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

UNC-Charlotte apologizes for handcuffing student whose Sikh article of faith was mistaken for a weapon

A 911 caller confused the student's kirpan for a knife.
University of North Carolina at Charlotte.
The University of North Carolina at Charlotte.Google maps

The University of North Carolina at Charlotte has apologized after a video was posted online showing a Sikh student who was handcuffed for carrying a kirpan, a religious article that resembles a knife.

A statement released Friday, signed by the chancellor, Sharon L. Gaber, and Brandon L. Wolfe, the school's chief diversity officer, said that university police had received a 911 call on Thursday that someone was in the student union with a knife. 

“During this interaction, the individual was placed in handcuffs while officers took possession of the object. The handcuffs were removed after the object was retrieved,” the statement said. “Further investigation showed the item was a kirpan, an article of faith in Sikhism.”

Video of the incident was posted on the Twitter account @thatsamaan, and its user identified himself as the student in question. The post was widely shared on Twitter and Instagram. NBC News was unable to independently verify the Twitter account.

“I wasn’t going to post this, but I don’t think I will receive any support from @unccharlotte,” he tweeted. “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 police officer in the 44-second video told the student he couldn’t have the kirpan on him. 

“OK. You can’t take it off me. You want me to take the whole thing off?” the student asked. He asked the police officer again if he wanted him to remove the kirpan and the gathra, which is the fabric that holds the kirpan and goes over his shoulder.

The police officer told the student to stand up and the student asked, “What are you doing to me, bro?” before the officer told him he was being detained.

Baptized Sikhs are required to carry or maintain the five articles of the Sikh faith: kesh (unshorn hair), kara (steel bracelet), kanga (small wooden comb), kachera (undershorts) and a kirpan (resembling a knife or sword).

The university's news release said that knives or other edged instruments are prohibited on campus, but that they will “use this as a learning opportunity by engaging in constructive dialogue with Sikh students and employees.”

UNC Charlotte did not respond to NBC News’ request for comment, and attempts to reach the student were unsuccessful.

The Twitter user tweeted on Saturday that he did receive his kirpan back.

Other members and organizations in the Sikh community voiced their frustration with the incident.

“We want every Niner to feel welcomed, supported and safe. We apologize that is not what this young man felt in our union yesterday," said the university's statement, using a nickname for UNC-Charlotte students. "We are committed to ensuring it doesn’t happen again.”