Monday, January 12, 2004


The following report saddens me. I like Sikhs and respect Sikhism and am a great fan of Sikh (Punjabi) food. I am also pleased that I once lived within a short drive of TWO Sikh Gurdwaras (temples). I myself would have no hesitation in taking part in any Gurdwara activity if I were lucky enough to be invited but the important Sikh religious custom of sharing their food and the general Indian custom of eating with their hands do tend to go against Western ideas of hygeine so I can understand the remarks of the British police officer mentioned. I hope no disciplinary action is taken against her for expressing attitudes that would be perfectly normal in other British contexts.

"Scotland Yard has ordered an investigation into remarks by one of its officers that Sikh gurdwara s had poor hygiene.

During the briefing for a procession to be taken out on the birthday of Guru Nanak, a senior policewoman apparently ordered her officers to shun food prepared in gurdwaras on grounds of poor hygiene. "Their hygiene standards are not good as ours," the policewoman is reported to have said.

The police force has reacted following complaints internally and from representatives of some gurdwaras in west London. News of the alleged comments spread quickly.

Himmat Sohi, president of the Southall Gurdwara, the largest in Europe, said the issue must be cleared up quickly. "The commissioner, Sir John Stevens, has been to our gurdwara and eaten here and so have the local commanders. We have good connections with the police and they have all left very happy. If this is not sorted out people will be very hurt because they work hard into the early hours to prepare this food and get blessings for that," Sohi added.

Suresh Grover of the Southall-based The Monitoring Group said the allegation was profoundly disturbing. "It smacks of racism. The standard of cleanliness and hygiene in the gurdwaras is extremely high. This is very serious because issues of religious identity and respect for religion are crucial.""

More here


A reader of Indian origin writes:

Note that, at least by Western standards, the Gurudwaras (Sikh temples) are really unclean. I have been to many of them through my life, and they serve food in buckets that have been used for cleaning floors or washing clothes and the server serves food with their bare hands. That is the religious custom. When I once requested a spoon for serving food, in a gurudwara in North Carolina, they told me they did not have any, and religious custom demanded that I take food from the servers bare hands! So the police officer who made that remark was probably right!

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