Incidents of interfaith Sikh wedding ceremonies being disrupted are increasing. What implications does this trend have?

A wave of fundamentalism is threatening to sweep across the Sikh community all over the world. Although the Indian-born religion is one that is fundamentally open, broad-minded and accepting of other faiths and cultures, the rise in incidents where hooligans violently disrupt Sikh interreligious weddings is largely alarming the Sikhs. When Sikhs first migrated to foreign countries from their homeland, they easily dissolved into the cultures of the nations they migrated to because of the flexibility and accepting nature of their faith. However, there is a new generation of Sikh youth who have somehow turned fanatic about their faith, thereby undoing all the efforts that the previous generation made to show non-Sikhs how peaceful Sikhism really is.

In the past, Sikhs have married people of other faiths without any problems. The teachings of Sikhism are such that they do not give scope for any kind of intolerance or hatred of other religions. The founder of the faith, Guru Nanak, advocated equality and openness to all systems of beliefs. As such, for a Sikh, assimilating into another culture is not something that is hard or sacrilegious. However, a newly emerging section in the community does not seem to have this same view. Either due to ignorance of what their faith is all about or stubbornness in their point of view, this new group insists on enforcing a more fundamentalist way of practicing Sikhism. Interreligious marriages are on top of their hit-list.

Although a number of Sikh temples, Gurdwaras, as well as Sikh elders have been supportive towards Sikhs who desire to marry outside their faith, this group has now begun to barge into wedding venues, most recently on September 11 when 55 Sikh men took a temple under siege. This group has only one agenda on their plan, which is that Sikhs must remain “pure.”

The Sikhs do have an official code of conduct called the Rahit Maryada. However, the rules have not been enforced so much on the Sikhs and interfaith marriages have always happened in the community, even in India. Ironically, while fundamentalist Sikhs have been protesting interfaith weddings in foreign nations, no such protests have been reported in India. The Sikh Council of UK made things worse when it declared that interfaith marriages will not be allowed in Gurdwaras, and such marriages will not be considered by the faith.

While on one hand we have Sikhs who insist on keeping their moderate, open-minded views, on the other we have an emerging group of Sikhs who are fundamentalist. Time alone can tell how the community will resolve these issues and bring the two groups to a common ground.

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