Wedding was cancelled in Sikh protest
A wedding ceremony had to be abandoned after a group of 40 hardline Sikhs locked themselves inside a temple to protest the inter-faith marriage.
Scores besieged the building to block the nuptials between Sikh Susan Momi and Christian Kenny Lawrence, who is believed to be of West African background.
The group locked the doors and gates of the gurdwara – a Sikh place of worship – near Kembrey Park, in Swindon, and laid siege to the temple for six hours.
In a clip uploaded to video-sharing website YouTube, the militants later claimed they had acted peacefully to stop an inter-faith union at the temple.
But Susan's devastated mother Harbhajan said yesterday: "Words can't express how I feel – we are all in shock.
"They went inside the temple, locked the doors and switched the security cameras off.
"They ate all the food and then told him 'go or we'll kill you'. We also had relatives from other parts of the world turn up for the wedding who didn't know what was going on.
"I was getting ready to go to the temple when I had a phone call from a friend telling me to stay away. It was awful, my heart is still going even now."
The ceremony had been agreed by the gurdwara's managing committee – but they were powerless to act when vans full of men turned up at 7am on Saturday morning. In an explanation underneath the YouTube video, the group claimed the couple were not permitted to be married in the temple – as they were from different faiths.
But the bride's family say couples from different religions have married before at the gurdwara without incident and claimed the protests were racist.
Harbhajan said: "This had nothing to do with religion. There was nothing to stop the ceremony in the gurdwara. This was all to do with the colour of his skin."
The group briefly left the temple, believing a holy book had been removed from the site and taken to Swindon's Lydiard Park for another ceremony.
But they returned a short time later and stayed until 2pm. A civil ceremony between the couple did go ahead at the other venue.
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.
"I think the reason no one from the community went in is because they know the record of these people.
"The hardliners would have met any challenge with violence. People were afraid they would lose their lives if they challenged them."
Dr Harbans Popli, a senior figure in Swindon's Sikh community, also condemned the militants after speaking to the bride's family.
He said: "The family is very upset and angry. This is against all our morals and principles."
The militants posted footage of the occupation on YouTube, showing a hooded hardliner standing by the gate while a local woman protests against their action.
A spokesman for Wiltshire Police said: "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 protesters 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."
Hardliners stop interfaith marriage in gurdwara, spark off debate on multi-culturism in UK
Ramaninder K Bhatia | TNN
Jul 6, 2012 - VADODARA: Locking up of a gurdwara by hardliners to prevent an interfaith marriage in Swindon, a town in Wiltshire county in UK, has sparked off outrage and debate within communities after the marriage was not allowed to be solemnized.
The hardliner Sikhs quoted a 'Hukumnama' by Akal Takht Jathedar and cited 'Rehat Maryada' (Sikhs' code of conduct) to support their actions, saying only marriages between Sikhs could be solemnized in a gurdwara. They also posted a message on blogs and websites saying they were not against civil marriage ceremonies between couples of different religion." (But) This new trend of interfaith marriages in Sikh places of worship directly breaks the Sikh code of conduct and tenants...", they claimed, adding that they held a "peaceful protest" to stop the "beadbi " (insult) of the gurdwara.
But, their reasoning was hardly a solace for Sikh bride Susan Momi and her Christian beau, Kenny Lawrence, believed to be of West African background, whose wedding could not be solemnized in the gurdwara, after van loads of hardliners arrived at the gurdwara and locked themselves in, and did not allow anyone thereafter to enter the religious place.
A UK daily reported that relatives of the Momi family kept waiting outside, but the group of 40 odd hardliners did not budge. The family members were quoted as saying that they had the necessary permission from the gurdwara's managing committee, but that did not have any effect on the group.
The bride's mother Harbhajan was quoted in newspapers questioning why this marriage was being opposed when interfaith marriages were being regularly solemnized in gurdwaras. She hinted that the opposition had nothing to do with religion, and it had more to do with the "colour of his (bridegroom) skin."
The news sparked off debate on the net and within the community, with arguments 'for' and 'against' the development doing the rounds.
Meanwhile, Wiltshire police was quoted in news reports stating that they dealt with a small protest by a group of men in Swindon, and the protest was conducted peacefully.