LONDON: A Sikh children's group was denied entry into a UK theme park after an elder accompanying them refused to remove the kirpan, an article of faith for the Sikhs, prompting accusations of religious discrimination.
Staffordshire-based Drayton Manor Theme Park, popular with Coventry and Warwickshire families, denied entry to the children's birthday party after the adult refused to remove the small Sikh ceremonial dagger.
A friend of the man described herself as "disgusted" and "saddened" at the reaction of staff and accused the Staffordshire attraction of religious discrimination.
The party, who had spent hundreds of pounds on tickets for a six-year-old's birthday, encountered problems over the kirpan worn by the primary school teacher who is from a respected family in Coventry, the Birmingham Mail reported.
The group was left disappointed last Friday after being told that the kirpan would not be allowed in the park for health and safety reasons.
The families' case has been picked up by the Sikh Press Association, which is seeking discussions with Drayton Manor to resolve the issue.
"In this day and age where the kirpan can be taken into Parliament, it is disappointing to see an amusement park ban this article of faith from their grounds," the association's spokesman said.
"After recent events which have made public news, people across the UK have seen what the Sikh community stands for. We were shocked to be treated in the way we were by Drayton Manor and it is something the Sikh community as a whole was surprised at," he said.
A spokeswoman for the attraction said, the Drayton Manor Park is a family run business which operates within a multi- cultural society enriched with different creeds and beliefs and its staff welcome and embrace this. Kirpans have not been allowed to be worn in the park for a number of years as they pose a health and safety risk to members of the public."
"To this end, Drayton Manor Park offers an alternative to the Sikh Community which has been acceptable -- a necklace worn next to their skin in exchange for the kirpan, which is handed over for safe keeping for the duration of their visit," she said.
"It is regrettable that a group of Sikh visitors who came to the park on Friday 2nd June declined to take up the offer of the alternative to their kirpans and they were therefore denied access to the park," she added.