British Theatre ends play after Sikh protest
I think this is an issue which blurs the boundries between liberal and conservative, a difficult issue...for me this is a depressing event, a worrying precedent. As a non-religious person I want to feel free to criticise religions as and when I chose and whatever the religion its wrong that I not be allowed to do so.
The Sikh community had a perfect right to protest the play, but to get their way through threats and intimidation is unacceptable.
The people putting on the play had made certain changes to it, and had even distributed statments from the Sikh community leaders to all audience members.
A BBC report on the events for those who don't know...
A play which led to violent protests among the Sikh community in Birmingham has had its run cancelled by the city's Repertory Theatre.
The theatre said it had refused to censor the work and was abandoning it purely on health and safety grounds.
Three police officers were hurt during clashes after 400 demonstrators gathered outside on Saturday.
Protesters said Behzti, which depicts sex abuse and murder in a temple, portrayed the Sikh faith negatively. The theatre said the "ugly" violence had caused free speech to be curbed.
Stuart Rogers, the executive director of the Rep, told a press conference that the decision had been taken after discussions with police and Sikh community leaders on Monday morning.
Mr Rogers said: "The theatre vigorously defends its right to produce Behzti and other similar high-quality plays that deal with contemporary issues in a multicultural society.
"We sincerely hope that the play will be produced again as we are certain that it is a work that should be seen and discussed.
"It remains a matter of great concern to us that illegal acts of violence can cause the cancellation of a lawful artistic work."
A spokesman for the Sikh community in Birmingham, Councillor Chaman Lal, predicted there would have been larger protests had the play's run continued.
He said: "The theatre has made the right decision in response to a peaceful protest.
"There are no winners or losers - common sense has prevailed."
Mohan Singh, from the Guru Nanak Gurdwara in south Birmingham, also welcomed the decision, but said it had come a week too late.
"Free speech can go so far. Maybe 5,000 people would have seen this play over the run," he said.
"Are you going to upset 600,000 thousands Sikhs in Britain and maybe 20 million outside the UK for that?" But Ursula Owen, editor-in-chief of pro-free speech group Index on Censorship, said: "This decision is absolutely unacceptable. I am shocked."
Earlier, the theatre said short of "blatant censorship" and cancelling the production, it could not have done more to appease the Sikh community.
Behzti, which translates as "dishonour", was written by a young female Sikh, Gurpreet Kaur Bhatt, and was said to have been inoffensive to many younger Sikhs.
However, religious leaders, including the Roman Catholic Diocese of Birmingham, had urged a boycott of the play.
Three people were arrested in connection with Saturday's demonstration.
The theatre said some protesters managed to get backstage, where they smashed equipment and destroyed a foyer door. Mr Rogers added that the Rep's other production, The Witches, would be staged as usual.
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