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Last Updated: Sunday, 19 December, 2004, 11:32 GMT
Theatre stormed in Sikh protest
Police at Birmingham REP
Five police officers were hurt and two people arrested
Hundreds of Sikh demonstrators protested outside a Birmingham theatre against a play depicting sex abuse and murder in a temple.

Five police officers were hurt during struggles at Birmingham's Repertory Theatre on Saturday night.

Two men were arrested and the theatre said some demonstrators stormed the building before the performance of Behzti (Dishonour) was cancelled.

The theatre and the Sikh community will meet police on Monday.

The characters in the play are not intended to be representative of the Sikh community
Theatre statement

The theatre has been the scene of several protests by members of the Sikh community, angered by author Gurpreet Bhatti's depiction of murder and sex abuse.

The protesters claim the play, which centres around two characters and is set in a gurdwara, a Sikh temple, mocks their faith.

The play's author has revealed threats had been made against her and she has been advised by police not to say anything in public.

Saturday night's protest turned violent at 1845 GMT as around 400 people gathered outside the theatre.

'Work of fiction'

Five people were arrested after several protests were held outside the building earlier in the week.

Mohan Singh, a local Sikh community leader, said: "When they're doing a play about a Sikh priest raping somebody inside a gurdwara, would any religion take it?"

In a statement, the Birmingham Repertory said more than 800 people were evacuated, security guards were attacked, a foyer door was destroyed, windows were broken in a restaurant and demonstrators entered back stage and smashed equipment.

Sikhs outside Birmingham REP
Sikh leaders wanted the play set in a community centre

None of the audience were said to have been hurt.

Supt Russell Smith, from West Midlands Police, said: "Our stance is to enable people to make a peaceful protest.

"But they have to respect the public and they have to respect the people who want to actually attend."

The faith leaders had asked for the setting to be changed from a temple to a community centre.

Theatre management insist the play is a work of fiction and no comment is being made about Sikhism as a faith.

The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Birmingham, the Most Reverend Vincent Nichols, said: "Such a deliberate, even if fictional, violation of the sacred place of the Sikh religion demeans the sacred places of every religion."

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