PROTEST: Gurdwara Temple, in Leamington Spa, was the scene of over 50 police arrests on Sunday
PROTEST: Gurdwara Temple, in Leamington Spa, was the scene of over 50 police arrests on Sunday

Protest at the temple

According to a group that organised a protest at a Sikh temple last Sunday, where police arrested more than 50 people, the demonstration was part of an attempt by younger members of the community to reclaim the religion in the UK.

Shamsher Singh, of the Sikh Youth UK group – that organised the protest against an interfaith marriage being carried out as a ‘Sikh ceremony’ at the Gurdwara Temple in Leamington Spa, Warwickshire – said it was part of an increasingly active youth movement within the community.

He said: “More and more young people are becoming interested in the true interpretation of what it means to be Sikh.

“The elder generation arrived [in the UK] and fitted their faith round the need to assimilate, survive and to get work. This led to a stripping back of the spiritual nature of what it means to be a Sikh to a series of symbols.

“Now younger people want to reclaim Sikhism as a deeply spiritual, peaceful and encompassing religion and this is why we are seeing these protests.”

Armed officers detained 55 men on suspicion of aggravated trespass after being called to the temple in Leamington Spa at about 6.45am on Sunday 11th September.

On Monday police said all but one of the ‘bladed weapons’ seized were ceremonial.

The Sikh Federation UK, the largest political group representing Sikhs in the UK, called on the police to apologise for its ‘disproportionate’ response.

It said those arrested had walked into the temple to protest against an interfaith marriage being carried out as a Sikh religious ceremony.

A spokesman said: “We stand with those who peacefully protested against the actions of the management committee at Leamington Gurdwara.

“It now materialises the police were told masked men forced their way into the gurdwara carrying a range of bladed items other than kirpans [one of the five physical symbols of faith worn by Sikhs] that are worn at all times by initiated Sikhs, and it may have been suggested they were holding hostages.”

Under UK law it is illegal to carry a knife in public – unless it is a knife with a folding blade that is three inches long or less- without good reason.

A good reason could be if it is for religious purposes. The government information website gives the Kirpan as an example.

If someone gets charged with illegally carrying it, it is down to a court to decide if they were carrying it for a good reason or not under UK law.

A Warwickshire Police spokesman said the force had responded to a report of a group of masked men, who had forced their way into the temple.

He said: “These were reported to be carrying a range of bladed items, some of which were initially described as not being for ceremonial use.

“Blades seized so far have been ceremonial. Another non-ceremonial weapon was seized.”

He said police would be investigating the initial claim that other weapons were involved.

Sikh Youth UK said last year that a resolution, saying inter-faith couples could not have a Sikh marriage in a temple, was approved at a meeting called by the Sikh Council UK and represented by 300 Sikh organisations.