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Sikh Protesters Force Couple to Move Wedding


Cambridge Evening News, Sep. 16, 2005

Photo: Anton Gazizov and Ranjit Virk

A couple have been forced to alter plans for their dream wedding after hundreds of religious protesters threatened to disrupt their special day.

Plans to hold a Sikh wedding at Woburn Abbey in Bedfordshire were cancelled after Sikh protesters threatened to picket the ceremony in a row over the use of what they consider to be inappropriate premises.

Objectors say the Sikh holy book should not be used in a building which has been exposed to alcohol and tobacco.

Now Anton Gazizov, 26, from Cambridge, and his bride-to-be Ranjit Virk, 28, from St. Ives, have had to change their plans for Sunday's ceremony at the last minute costing them thousands of pounds and causing massive inconvenience.

Now, the couple plan to marry at Ranjit's family home in St. Ives before going on to a civil function at Woburn.

Anton said: 'Obviously it spoils it, especially the way it was done as well, three days before the wedding.'

He said they had been told that 400 objectors could picket a religious ceremony if it went ahead at Woburn and they were worried about possible trouble. 'It is such a big day. Any other day I would think you can make the changes, but your wedding day you don't want to ruin it.'

Anton, who is of Russian Orthodox faith, said that if the Sikh priests were happy for the ceremony to go ahead at Woburn it should be sufficient.

Anton grew up in Cambridge and went to Trinity College and now works in London. Both Anton and Ranjit were concerned that information about the wedding plans appeared to have been leaked by someone at her father's temple.

Ranjit said objectors claimed the regulation went back to 1996, but she had only been aware of it for a few months. She felt the room they planned to use at Woburn met the requirements in any case because smoking was banned there and there was no bar.

'As far as we are concerned they have a very blinkered attitude to what is a suitable venue,' she said.

Ranjit said the man who warned them about the wedding had pointed out weddings in Southall had been stormed by objectors. She said although it was upsetting to have to alter the wedding plans she was more concerned about the message the row sent out about her faith.

'It is just disappointing to see extremism going on in this religion as well,' she said.

Harmander Singh, of the Sikhs in England organisation, said the issue was simply a matter of respect for the Sikh holy book, which was used in the ceremony and some members of the faith believed it was disrespectful for the book to be used in an inappropriate room.

He said he had been involved in discussions at a national level involving the wedding industry with a view to finding an acceptable alternative, such as the availability of a room which had not been used for the consumption of alcohol.

The couple received a warning about the possible demonstration in a telephone call from a mystery caller earlier this week.