In 1950, Sikh scholars and priests in India agreed on a code of conduct, after multiple attempts, to define what it meant to be a Sikh and what obligations should be placed on followers.
It stated that the Sikh wedding ceremony (the Anand Karaj) could only take place between two Sikhs of the opposite sex.
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.
“Isn’t it better,” she asks, “that we teach our partners and their friends and family about this ceremony and invite them in, rather than building a wall and creating a divide? British Sikhs – who number about 400,000 – are largely seen as a model minority who aren’t embroiled in controversies or plagued by extremists as Muslims are.
Since Sikhi was founded, its adherents in India have faced persecution from Mughal emperors, Hindu kings and the British Raj.
Thirty years ago, thousands were killed by Indian troops in an anti-separatist attack on its Golden Temple, and in the pogroms that followed the retaliatory assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.
She wore a cream and red dress, while he wore a red turban, in keeping with Sikh traditions.
When the BBC Asian Network looked into the controversy that year, its reporter met a family who’d had their windows smashed as a warning about an upcoming marriage. All the cancellations I’ve heard about have been of Sikh women marrying non-Sikh men or men not born into the Sikh religion and I doubt that’s a coincidence.From then on, the Khalsa (baptised) Sikhs were required to carry five articles of faith at all times: uncut hair, a sword, comb, clean clothes and a metal bracelet.A large proportion of Sikhs remain unbaptised, freeing themselves from one or more requirements – they are usually called sahajdari, which could translate as “slow adopters” – but they still practise the religion in other ways.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.Shamsher Singh, of the National Sikh Youth Federation, says it objects to this religious ceremony being appropriated by non-Sikhs.“They can have prayers inside the gurdwara, they can have part of the function inside a gurdwara, just not the religious ceremony.But scratch the surface and there are signs of a growing divide between the liberal and more conservative Sikhs here, and the controversy around interfaith marriages goes to the heart of the problem.Until I posted several videos of wedding disruptions to my Facebook page last month, there seemed to be barely any debate about why they were happening.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.