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The controversy has barely affected India, home to 90 per cent of the world’s 20 million Sikhs, where interfaith marriages (especially to Hindus) are common.
One might, then, conclude that this issue was about race and the diaspora – but the experience of North America, where nearly a million Sikhs live, says differently.
I do believe it’s a faith issue, but it’s also about gender and race.” Her wedding to her partner, Sam, was disrupted earlier this year, even though he had made an effort to learn about Sikhism and adopted Singh in his name, under guidelines laid out by the Sikh Council UK, an organisation set up in 2010 to deal with issues affecting the Sikh community in Britain and Europe.
Most British Sikhs I have spoken to feel shocked and embarrassed that weddings in the UK are being disrupted in this way, but are usually too worried about the backlash from fundamentalists to say so openly – and it is a very British phenomenon.
To them, it is profoundly disturbing that a recent poll of members by City Sikhs, a 6,000-strong organisation representing professional Sikhs in the UK, should show an overwhelming majority in favour of gurdwaras allowing interfaith marriages.
To understand this, one must look to the history of Sikhi [the Sikh faith], the youngest of the world’s major religions, founded by Guru Nanak Dev Ji in the late 1400s.
In each case, the bride was a Sikh woman and the groom a non-Sikh man.
Under the media radar, such disruptions of interfaith marriages at Sikh gurdwaras have become worryingly commonplace across Britain.
Amardeep Singh, associate professor at Lehigh University in Philadelphia, says that they have a more relaxed approach there, largely because there aren’t such concentrations of Sikhs as there are in London and Birmingham.