SIKHS are blaming media coverage of international tensions for a rise in criticism of their temple.

News Shopper reported last month how residents near the Guru Nanak Darbar Gurdwara, which is under construction, were criticising the project.

They claimed builders at the site in Khalsa Avenue, Gravesend, were manipulating planning rules and work on the £8m community-funded temple was making their lives a misery.

But members of the Sikh community have hit back suggesting the complaints were a result of anti-multiculturalism.

This, they suggest, is being driven by media coverage of events such as the London Bombings, September 11 and the Prophet Mohammed cartoons.

They claim a climate of fear and prejudice is growing towards all religions and this is now being felt in Gravesend.

Gurdwara member Parveen Sodhi, 28, has hit back at nearby residents who featured in the News Shopper article and referred to the Sikh community as they'.

She says such comments encourage divisions in the town as frustrations are blamed on the Gurdwara site.

She said: "This jeopardises the harmony of the town community who are not racist but frustrated by other grudges, such as the car parking issue in Gravesend at the moment, and the council and the article place blame on the Gurdwara building site."

University student Ms Sodhi said: "There is a generally negative output of multiculturalism in the media nowadays, especially what's happened after 9/11, 7/7 and the cartoon protests.

"The general public has become a lot more fearful and negative towards any religion."

Writing to News Shopper by email, fellow Gurdwara member Sukhbir Sodhi launched an attack on Central ward councillor Bronwen McGarrity, who headed residents' complaints.

Cllr McGarrity has suggested the council's planners were being forced into allowing work on Saturdays to go on past a 1pm deadline.

She claimed builders were deliberately waiting until the last minute to apply for permission knowing council officers and not councillors would make a decision.

And she added as the council was desperate for the Gurdwara car park to be completed to alleviate the town's parking shortage residents' concerns were secondary.

Mr Sodhi said: "It seems like a right-wing councillor is intent on causing delay and upheaval to a project which will ultimately benefit the whole community, not just the Sikh community.

"The Sikh community has contributed greatly to business and community spirit in the Gravesend area for the past 45 years."

Cllr McGarrity responded "It's nothing to do with race. What matters is the people of the area had five years of this and they are fed up. I cannot see where this benefits the whole community."


  • A Gurdwara is a Sikh temple used for worship, learning, meeting and socialising.
  • The building is being built with funds raised entirely by the Sikh community, which has so far raised more than £3m.
  • It is hoped the Gurdwara will open its doors in 2008.
  • When complete it will have three prayer rooms, two kitchens and two function suites for ceremonies.
  • Three hundred people will be able to pray together in each prayer room.
  • Controversy also surrounded the Gurdwara boundary walls, which were built higher than the permitted 2m before planning permission was obtained.