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Last Updated: Sunday, 19 December 2004, 13:27 GMT
Anger at 'slur' to Sikh religion
Anger at a theatre's decision to stage a play containing scenes of rape and murder in a temple may boil over into further violence, Sikh leaders warn.

Hundreds protested at the Repertory Theatre in Birmingham and will be joined by Sikhs from across Britain, temple leader Mohan Singh said.

He told BBC News that outrage at the play had been building among Sikhs in the city, particularly the young.

"The youngsters get hot-headed and feelings are running very high."

'Anger has spread'

Mr Singh, the president of the Guru Nanak Gurdwara in Birmingham, representing around 3,000 Sikhs, warned that unless the play's script was changed or the play withdrawn more protests would go ahead next week.

He said: "The play is due to be staged again on Thursday and there is no doubt that people will be outside.

"Anger has spread throughout the local community over the last weeks and that anger has now gone nationwide.

We know the local people but how can you control others?
Temple leader Mohan Singh

"People from cities across Britain will come along to protest. On Saturday there were only 400 people - think what it would be like with five to 10,000 people."

Two men were arrested and a handful of demonstrators attempted to storm the theatre during Saturday evening's performance of the play, entitled Behzti (Dishonour).

Protests have been held by members of the Sikh community outside the theatre, known locally as the Rep, for around a week with five further arrests.

The community leader said he feared members of the Sikh community from outside the city may not be so easy for local leaders or the police to control.

"We know the local people but how can you control others?" he said.

"We are trying to close the door on this. All we are asking is for the Rep to move 10% on their position."

'A slur'

Mr Singh explained that the content of the play was not the issue but the setting of the scenes.

He said: "We are not bothered about rape scenes or paedophiles - we know that there are good and bad people from every background and religion.

They will paint all Sikhs with the same brush
Temple leader Mohan Singh

"The problem is having these things take place in a temple. Any religion would not take such a slur.

"On Saturday they were forced to cancel the show because of the violence but that was nothing.

"Since September 11 people have been trying to bridge gaps between communities and then something like this happens. What is needed is a bit of common sense."

He added that Sikhism was a "minority religion" but that around 250,000 Sikhs lived in the Midlands.

"We are concerned that people out there who don't know anything about Sikhs will see this and what sort of a picture will they have in their mind?

"They will paint all Sikhs with the same brush."

Mr Singh said he did not condone any violent protests but knew that feelings were running high and people would not relax until the theatre changed their position.

He said: "We are due to have a meeting with the Chief Constable of West Midlands Police on Monday. We are trying to keep the community calm but we need something to be done."

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