Last week the The Wiltshire Times reported that Forty Sikh militants locked themselves in the Kembrey Street temple in Swindon to stop a Sikh woman marrying a Christian man of West African background. They locked the doors and gates of the Gurdwara, near Kembrey Park, before leaving more than six hours later. During that time they ate the wedding breakfast and allegedly threatened to kill the caterers if they didn’t leave. This ended with the couple bowing to this intimidating pressure and removing the religious element of their wedding so the ceremony could go ahead.
The ceremony had been agreed by the Gurdwara’s managing committee, but they were powerless to act after several vans full of men turned up on Saturday morning. Raghdir Bains, a committee member at the Punjabi Community Centre, said:
Nearly everybody in the Sikh community in Swindon is absolutely against what took place. We live in a multi-cultural society and if that’s the wish of the girl and her parents then it should go ahead. The majority of the hardliners were from Birmingham and Southall and they have been responsible for damage to another temple in Walsall. The committee had accepted the booking and it should have gone ahead. Local families went to the gates to complain, but there was no one to stop the militants.
A spokesman for Wiltshire Police commented
We can confirm that we dealt with a small protest by a group of men in Swindon on Saturday. The protest was conducted peacefully. We believe the protestors objected to an event which was due to take place at the Swindon gurdwara. Our officers continue to liaise with the protestors and the community.
I fully support a persons right to protest peacefully but there is something quite sinister about this protest. The militants claimed on a youtube video of the protest (which is now listed as private) that they had
…acted peacefully to stop an inter-faith union at the temple.
In 2007 Sri Akaal Takhat Sahib – the Supreme seat of authority of the Sikhs – issued a decree stating that Sikh marriage ceremonies should only be conducted when both the bride and groom are Sikhs (as a respect toward Sikh religion) in response to a rising number of interfaith ceremonies taking place in Gurdwara Sahib across the world. The decree also stated that if either of the couple is not a Sikh they must embrace the Sikh faith before the marriage ceremony, and should also change their surname in accordance to tradition.
It seems relaxing the Sikh Code of Conduct to accommodate the wishes of individuals is considered a big no-no to many. However, in the case of the marriage ceremony taking place in Kembrey Street temple in Wiltshire, the codes had been relaxed to accomodate for the couple wanting to get married. The Gurdwara’s managing committee had accepted the interfaith ceremony and the local Sikh community expressed that they largely accepted the ceremony with Dr Harbans Popli, a senior figure in Swindon’s Sikh community condemning the protesters and stating
The family is very upset and angry. This is against all our morals and principles.
The only people who had an issue were those Sikh men who travelled from Birmingham and Southall to disrupt the ceremony despite it not stopping them from continuing to follow their religion how they wish to.
What disgraceful religious bullies.