UK

Sikh council plea to halt mixed-faith wedding protests

Hindu boy marries a Sikh girl Image copyright Dino Jeram
Image caption The Sikh Council (UK) has announced a new code of conduct for interfaith marriages

A Sikh group has asked for protests at mixed-faith weddings to stop for six months while new guidelines are tried.

Several weddings between Sikhs and non-Sikhs have been disrupted in recent weeks by protesters who say the ceremony should be for Sikhs only.

The Sikh Council (UK) argues that the Sikh wedding ceremony, or Anand Karaj, should be reserved only for Sikhs.

But many in the Sikh community disagree with this ruling, saying Sikhism teaches equality and acceptance.

The Sikh Council hosted a meeting of Sikh representatives from across the UK on Sunday to discuss solutions to the tensions.

This included drawing up a voluntary "code of conduct" designed to address any uncertainties around mixed marriages in the Sikh community.

Marrying people of other faiths is acceptable, they said, but marrying them in a Sikh temple is not.

'Holy scriptures'

A BBC Asian Network investigation had previously found that Sikh weddings were regularly disrupted by protesters opposed to mixed-faith marriages in Sikh temples, called Gurdwaras.

The meeting called for the protests to stop for six months to "allow education processes, programmes and resources" to be developed and implemented by Gurdwaras.

Navraj Singh, who attended the meeting, says the protesters do not want to break anyone's hearts, but Sikh scriptures say there is a code of conduct laid down by the Gurus, which needs to be upheld.

Image copyright Manpreet Singh Badhni Kalan
Image caption The meeting of Sikh representatives argued that a Sikh wedding ceremony should be for Sikhs only

The Sikh Council says only Sikhs can take part in the Sikh wedding ceremony.

Non-Sikhs can only be involved if they accept the Sikh faith and change their name to include Singh or Kaur.

"If somebody really passionately wants to have an Anand Karaj they have to accept that the long-established code of conduct for Sikhs clearly states only a Sikh can be wedded by the Anand Karaj", said Gurinder Singh Josan, from the Sikh Council.

'Contradicts teaching'

People of other faiths are welcome in Sikh temples and can attend blessings for their wedding there, Shamsher Singh of the National Sikh Youth Federation told BBC Radio 4's Today Programme.

Sikh scholar Davinder Panesar says, "If the Gurus don't accept division in faith, caste or gender, why is it being enforced on the Sikh community? It doesn't make sense and contradicts Sikh teachings."

The proposals put forward by the Sikh Council are voluntary. It is up to the Gurdwaras if they implement them.

But Navraj Singh is not sure everyone will follow the guidelines.

"I can envisage there are going to be some Gurdwaras who say we're going to do what we want. I can still envisage some protests happening at these places of worship, people who chose not to follow the Sikh Council," he said.

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