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Sikh Community Fights to Stop Meat Plant Next to Its Temple

Sikh Community Fights to Stop Meat Plant Next to Its Temple

A Sikh community has appealed to the High Court in Bradford, West Yorkshire in the U.K. to stop the building of a meat processing plant next to the Guru Gobind Singh Gurdwara, one of the oldest Sikh temples in England. Pakeezah, an ethnic food retailer that sells halal meats, is seeking to  expand one of its stores by converting a car workshop into a wholesale meat plant — and it just so happens that this new facility would be right next to the Sikh temple.

Many in the Sikh community are vegetarians and have vehemently objected to the expansion, which was approved by a narrow margin by the Bradford Council in August.

Dispute About the Building of a Meat Plant for Pakeezah, an Ethnic Food Retailer

Protesters from the Sikh community had filled the City Hall room where the Council was making its vote while more people stood outside with placards objecting to the new meat plant. Kuljeet Singh, a lawyer representing the Sikh community, stated that the sound of carcasses being cut up would upset worshippers at prayer. He emphasized that a meat plant in such close proximity to the temple would “seriously undermine” the “purity and sanctity of the Gurdwara … and that will have an effect on the right to worship of Sikhs.”

A spokesman for the Bradford Gurdwaras board of representatives also said that letting the Pakeezah expansion proceed would “set a precedent for other places of worship.”

Pakeezah director Tariq Haq said that the meat plant — which will not be a slaughterhouse — would cause neither smells nor noise and that good relations with neighbors were key for him.  “I’ve grown up with Sikhs all my life. When I found out there were concerns we went straight round to the temple,” he said in August.

Nonetheless, one counselor, Imran Khan, who objected to building the plant, commented that

“I’m a proud Muslim but I would find it very difficult to pray with someone chopping a pig up literally 20 metres away from me. To me, that would be offensive. I think what we need to realize is, for the Sikh community this is the same thing.”

Another councillor, Keith Dredge, thought the plant should not be stopped on the grounds of religious freedom:

“My beliefs dictate that people can believe what they want and worship what they want and I don’t wish to interfere with that in any way, shape or form. But I don’t feel that this would impact on the worship at the Sikh temple.”

The Sikh community is calling for a judicial review against the Council’s ruling. As a result, work on the meat plant could be halted  for up to a month.

The Sikh Community Raises Concerns About Religious Sensitivity

As Govinder Singh Dhaliwal, general secretary at the temple, says: “We were left with no other choice. We feel very offended by this attack on our religious sensitivity and must fight for our cause.” More than 200 members of the Sikh temple have filed formal extensions about the proposed meat plant with the Bradford Council and expressed disappointment that their requests have so far been rejected.

As the Bradford Gurdwara says on its webpage, the construction of a meat plant so close to the temple could sully its sanctity as a place of worship. The objections to having a meat plant so nearby are not only for dietary reasons but philosophical and theological ones, as well:

A Gurdwara is a place of worship, for quiet contemplation, prayer and meditation. All meals served at a Gurdwara are strictly vegetarian as Sikhi teaches compassion and respect for all life including the lives of animals. The approval of a meat processing plant being built in the immediate vicinity of a Gurdwara, that will be processing lamb, sheep, cow and chicken carcasses seven days a week, is not only disrespectful but also extremely hurtful to the whole community.

Guru Gobind Singh Gurdwara president Kaldeep Singh Duway also expressed concerns that “if we let this one through now it will set a precedent for all places of worship,” whether a church or mosque or synagogue.

Back in August, Haq had told the Telegraph & Argus that winning the approval to build the meat plant had turned out to be a Pyrrhic victory. “The decision doesn’t feel like a victory because people are upset. But we want to do everything in our power to make a plant that won’t affect the temple.”

Therein lies the dispute. Based on what the Sikh community says, any sort of meat plant will affect their temple adversely. In an effort to reach a compromise, inter-faith representatives from the Diocese of Bradford and the Muslim Council of Mosques have met with Sikh leaders. Muslim Council of Mosques spokesperson Zulfi Karim described the meeting as positive but said that more needs to be done.

Bradford has recently been the site of an example of inter religious and cross-cultural cooperation. The city’s Muslim community has helped to fund the restoration of Bradford’s 132-year-old synagogue. According to the 2011 census, the city’s Muslims outnumber its Jews by 129,041 to 299. The renovation of the temple has made it possible for the temple’s 45 members to continue to worship in the synagogue. As Karim comments,

“You look at those who killed Lee Rigby, supposedly in the name of Islam. The question is: what makes these young men so radicalised, so angry, so intolerant? I really, really deeply, strongly feel that the way forward is interfaith dialogue – perhaps through food, perhaps through visiting a synagogue or other places of worship.”

Can a similar spirit of cooperation help to resolve the dispute between the Sikh community and Pakeezah about the meat plant? The temple is already there: where else could the meat plant be built?

 

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112 comments

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3:16AM PST on Feb 12, 2014

https://www.facebook.com/Vegetarian.In.Sikhi

1:35AM PST on Jan 11, 2014

TY

9:20AM PST on Dec 31, 2013

How awful. I'd be totally peeved too. I can't imagine being in a place of worship and not only seeing trailors of animals arriving but the utterly agonizing screams would surely make me wanna vomit--especially being many of these people are Veggies. Halal is a term associated with sheer fear and repulsive torture of animals. I hope it doesn't happen...wishing the best 4 these people in 2014. May it never open.

10:30AM PST on Dec 30, 2013

I dislike meat factories myself.. No need to be religious here.. .. Try being a vegetarian.. This goes for Christians as well. jesus was a vegetarian..

4:07AM PST on Dec 30, 2013

Ruth G. - what a filthy diatribe: are you a member of the EDL or some other fascist organisation?

On another tack: being an atheist I am always amused by "religious sensibilities": there is no sense in religion and the answer to all these issues is education and tolerance. I have a great deal of sympathy with Sikhs because they have considerably less arrogance about them than the Muslim / Christian / Jewish axis - probably because you are born a Sikh and cannot convert to being a Sikh: they are a distinctive racial and religious group. Whereas the followers of Yahweh / Allah / God are taught to kill and despise those that do not belong or in some other way offend their "religious sensibilities": homosexuals, non-believers, adulterers, apostates etc. and neither are they trying to turn civilisation back into a medieval parody.

2:09AM PST on Dec 30, 2013

It really ticks me off that if this was a Catholic or Christian church who were refusing the meat factory from being built there would be no such court case or argument, they would be respected. How the meat company can claim that their plant wouldn't disrupt the Gurdwara and those within it is beyond me, people who have compassion for animals don't want the constant daily reminder that animals are tortured and killed every day for meat and having the meat plan so close to them is exactly that sort of reminder. It's distasteful, extremely disrespectful and generally wrong. Move your house of animal death elsewhere and leave the people to practice their religion in peace without the constant reminder of animal death being so close.

5:53PM PST on Dec 29, 2013

sad.

7:36AM PST on Dec 29, 2013

I apologize, Karen. My eyes and brain really failed me when I read your post. You were saying the Sikhs CONDEMNED inhumane practices like infanticide and the burning of live wives on their dead husbands' funeral pyres, yet somehow I thought you were ACCUSING them of all that. I read what you wrote too quickly. My mind was on all the turban-wearing Sikhs who have been attacked by people who thought they were Muslims and have a blind rage against all Muslims, no matter how kind and thoughtful, as well as anybody they think looks like a Muslim, no matter how kind and thoughtful. Too many people are like that, but clearly you are not one of them.

2:41AM PST on Dec 29, 2013

Noted.

11:45AM PST on Dec 28, 2013

I can't say who is right but knowing how hard it is to live next door to a neighbor who wants to run a messy business right under your nose, I am sympathetic.

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