Belgian Police Raid Sikh
Temple, Stop Sikh Prayers at 300th Anniversary Celebration
30 people arrested as part of a city-wide immigration
Belgian Police Stop Sikh Prayers, Arrest 30 in
Belgian, October 19,2008
Police Raid Sikh Gurdwara During Continuous Prayer to Celebrate
the 300th Anniversary Celebration of the Enthronement of Sri Guru
Granth Sahib Ji Vilvoorde, Belgium - As non-stop prayers were
in progress yesterday for the auspicious tercentenary of the enthronement
of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, police raided the Gurdwara Guru Nanak
Singh Sahib (Sikh place of worship) in Vilvoorde, stopping prayers
and arresting 30 people as part of a city-wide immigration raid.
Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji is a compilation of sacred Sikh scriptures
and was enthroned by the Tenth Guru as the last and eternal guru
of the Sikhs in 1708.
Despite the protest of the gurdwara management that a special
48-hour continuous reading of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, known
as an akhand paath, was taking place and that the granthi (person
conducting the prayers) immediately displayed valid immigration
papers, police arrested him and stopped the prayers. "UNITED
SIKHS and the Sikh community are appalled by the police's insensitivity
in its actions during the raid, as police knew that the gurdwara
is a place of worship and should have known about the tercentenary
celebrations and the significance of the continuous prayers which
cannot be stopped.
UNITED SIKHS is writing to the Belgian prime minister, seeking
a full investigation of the incident, an apology from Belgian
police and changes to the police procedures when handling places
of worship of all communities," said Mejindarpal Kaur, UNITED
SIKHS Legal Director.
Mejindarpal Kaur contacted Ines Wouters, a Brussels based lawyer,
to investigate the matter further and to ensure that those arrested
are being provided legal representation. The akhand paath for
the tercentenary celebrations are scheduled to restart today.
Ines Wouters met with the Sikh community at the gurdwara and
reported, "The Belgian Sikh community is very shocked and
will make an official protest and contemplate legal action against
the method used by officials. The same result could have been
reached in a different way respecting the feelings and dignity
of the Sikh community. A society which does not respect religious
belief and sensitivity is losing its fundamental values."
Commenting on the incident, Kuldip Singh, president of UNITED
SIKHS stated, "Belgium has the right to enforce its immigration
laws. However, the police actions here were blatantly disrespectful
and violated all laws and norms regarding people's right to prayer
and worship in peace. There was no need for the police to stop
the akhand paath (continuous reading) as valid papers were produced
on the spot by the granthi."
Resham Singh, President of Gurdwara Guru Nanak Sahib, arrived
shortly after the arrival of police and protested that the akhand
paath must not be stopped. "Our Gurdwara is a place of worship
open to all. We do not inquire about the immigration status of
the people coming to worship at the Gurdwara.
Police should have been more sensitive during the raid; to enter
a gurdwara with shoes on and to further stop an akhand paath is
a serious violation of the religious rights of the Sikh community,"
Avtaar Singh, President of the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak
Committee (SGPC), Amritsar, India, expressed his concern to UNITED
SIKHS, stating, "I severely condemn the police action inside
the Gurdwara. Sikh sentiments are hurt with the disruption of
the akhand paath of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji. The Belgian Government
should seek an explanation and apology from the police department
for the action inside the gurdwara. I will write a memorandum
to the Indian Prime Minister and the Government of Belgium to
investigate the police action in the gurdwara when the 300 years
celebrations were going on in Belgium."
Additionally, Dr Pritpal Singh, Coordinator of the American Gurdwara
Parbandhak Committee (AGPC) stated, "On behalf of the 45
member gurdwaras of the AGPC in the USA, I wish to record our
protest and condemnation of Belgian police action of stopping
Sikh prayers which were being conducted in Belgium to commemorate
the tercentenary of the enthronement of Sri Guru Granth Sahib
Ji. We will write to the Belgian government for an explanation
and also ask the United States State Department to investigate
The Honourable Gurbax Singh Malhi, Member of Parliament for Bramalea-Gore-Malton,
Canada, also expressed concern stating, "If the reports of
the incident are correct, I strongly condemn the police action
in the Belgian Gurdwara. The religious ceremony was stopped which
could have been avoided. All religions should be respected in
Belgium. I will send a letter to Prime Minister of Belgium regarding
the police action."
Commenting on the effect this incident has on the Sikh community,
Kuljit Singh, General Secretary for the oldest Gurdwara in the
western hemisphere, Central Gurdwara (Khalsa Jatha) London in
the United Kingdom stated, "This has been a violation of
basic human rights. Belgium as a democratic country should not
have allowed this kind of behavior by police. Religious customs
should be respected and the police should not have worn their
shoes and stopped the prayers."
"The tercentenary is a very significant celebration for
the Sikhs; one of our most precious historical events, and the
akhand paath should never have been stopped. The last time that
an akhand paath was interrupted was in 1984 when the Golden Temple
in Amritsar was stormed by the Indian army. Sikhs are again pained
to be reminded of that attack by this unfortunate incident,"
he added. Source: NewsBlaze, Daily News