The Sikh Council has issued new guidelines for gurdwaras holding religious wedding ceremonies and called on demonstrators to stop protesting at inter-faith services.
The move follows months of disruptions at wedding ceremonies between Sikhs and non-Sikhs, which protesters believe should not take place in a religious setting.
New guidelines proposed by the organisation which is the largest representative body of Sikhs in the UK, mean that couples wishing to book a religious service or Anand Karaj now have to sign a declaration confirming they are followers of the religion.
In addition, a person from a different faith who wishes to marry a Sikh and accepts the religion, is required to include Singh or Kaur in their name.
Gurinder Singh Josan, spokesperson for the Sikh Council UK and head of political engagement, told Eastern Eye: “It (demonstrations) is something that should be avoided at all costs.
“If a wedding ends up being disrupted, as a community we have all failed. We shouldn’t let it get to that stage.”
He explained that during protests, people have turned up at weddings between Sikhs and non Sikhs, and called on the management committee to stop the ceremony. The police have been called out to a number of demonstrations across the country, Josan added.
“I should imagine it would be quite intimidating. I understand where they are coming from but the gurdwaras have put together a process and they have asked for some time to implement that,” he said.
Although the Sikh Council UK argues that the wedding ceremony should be reserved only for followers of the faith, many in the community disagree with the ruling and believe that Sikhism preaches equality and acceptance.
Paul Uppal, former MP for Wolverhampton South West, told Eastern Eye: “We as Sikhs are taught to learn and pass on messages. We’re supposed to be an inclusive religion, open to everybody.
“For us as Sikhs we have such an established name for hundreds of years for being open and inclusive, but I’m really concerned about the message this sends out. We are fortunate to be Sikhs and to have such a great message from our gurus which is [that we are] inclusive and open to everybody.
“Yet it’s quite disheartening and quite worrying that this message which we’re trying to get to the whole of humanity is being diluted in this way. I find that’s really disconcerting. I think it’s important for the Sikh community to stress how open we are and that we are an inclusive faith and not exclusive in any shape or form. That’s the responsibility for us.”
The Sikh Council UK held a meeting last Sunday (30) to discuss the issue before drawing up the voluntary guidelines which temples can chose to implement.
The meeting also called for the protests to stop for six months to allow gurdwaras to bring in the changes.