Sikhs spoke of their “disgust” today after a BNP poppy wreath was laid among Sikh tributes at a Birmingham Remembrance ceremony.
The BNP laurel appeared to have been deliberately placed in the middle of those left by members of the city’s Sikh community inside the Hall of Memory in Centenary Square.
Guru Ram Dass Singh Gurdwara, in Balsall Heath, was one of the temples which had laid a decoration on the plinth inside the hall. Girval Singh, general secretary of the Moseley Road temple, claimed the British National Party, which restricts membership to white-only British citizens, had shown a lack of respect for Sikhs who had fought and died in the British Army.
“I’m absolutely disgusted,” he said. “Many Sikhs were born in this country and many fought for this country so we deserve respect. They should be ashamed of themselves and show more respect for that particular event and day. I’m very, very disappointed.”
The wreathes had been laid to honour British soldiers who lost their lives in conflicts past and present as the square hosted ceremonies for Remembrance Sunday and yesterday’s Armistice Day.
Kulwant Singh Purewal, a 41-year-old electronics engineer from Edgbaston, attended the Armistice Day service in Centenary Square to mark the bravery of his father and uncle who both served in the British Armed Forces.
He said: “I’m a Sikh who was born in England and is proud to be a member of the British Empire. It gives me pride to remember the men who gave their lives to defend unity, democracy and freedom. Many Sikhs were born here and should not be subjected to this kind of insensitivity. What message is this sending out?“You are born in England and fight for England but then we have to kick you out. Members of my family spent 35 years in the British Army. They served proudly and this is a disgrace to their memory.”
Simon Darby, deputy leader of the BNP, said the party had every right to place wreathes wherever they wanted. He said: “We have as much right to lay a wreath as anyone else. If we don’t lay a wreath we get criticised so we can’t win. Some of our policies are very popular with Sikhs. We don’t regard them as a threat - they are welcome to stay should they wish.”
Earlier this week BNP leader Nick Griffin MEP was accused of whipping up patriotism and support for his party when he joined mourners as the coffins of six British servicemen were presented through Wootton Bassett.
The Royal British Legion, which oversees the collection of wreathes for public remembrance services, said the BNP decoration had not been received by its staff and had been laid independently.
Mike Morris, county manager of the RBL in Birmingham, said: “As far as I’m aware they did not go through our secretary. We are not political animals, of course. Anybody is entitled to place a wreath - we do not police it.”
A spokesman for Birmingham City Council, which helped organise the ceremony, said: “Every member of the public is well within their right to lay a wreath as long as there is no offensive message. We would not want to turn it into politics - it distracts from the importance of the day.”