Sikhs disappointed Obama is skipping Amritsar

By Arun Kumar, IANS
Wednesday, October 20, 2010

WASHINGTON - Sikh Americans and a leading US inter-religious non-profit organization have expressed disappointment over reports that President Barack Obama has dropped his plan to visit the Golden Temple in Amritsar over a misunderstanding over what headgear he should wear.

Rajwant Singh, a prominent Sikh American leader, who was at the forefront of the move to invite Obama to visit the Sikhs holiest shrine, told IANS that he had sent communications to the top aides to the President and was waiting to hear back from the White House.

Sikhs in America are joyous about President Obama’s visit and they will continue to pray this happens and it is not cancelled due to any reason, said Rajwant Singh, National Chairman of the Sikh Council on Religion and Education (SCORE).

The community leader said he had talked to SGPC president, the high priest of the Golden Temple and the people who make the decisions and was told that the Obamas “can choose to wear anything which they like.

This is total misunderstanding and there is no restriction.

The Alexandria, Virginia, based Institute on Religion and Public Policy said it was deeply disappointed over Obamas reported decision to skip the Golden Temple, one of Indias holiest shrines, out of fear that wearing the requisite headgear might make him look like a Muslim.

This could have been an unique and historic opportunity for the president to stand in the holiest shrine of an often-discriminated religious minority and to speak for the rights of all minorities around the globe, said Institute Founder Joseph K. Grieboski.

Obamas schedule has yet to be officially announced but he was widely expected to visit the sprawling Golden Temple complex in Amritsar.

But the plan appears to have foundered on the thorny question of how Obama would cover his head, as Sikh tradition requires, while visiting the temple, the New York Times said in a report from New Delhi citing an American official involved in planning.

Grieboski said Sikhs are often mistaken as Muslims, and since 9/11 they have been the unintentional targets of anti-Muslim violence in the US.

By turning down a visit to the Golden Temple, President Obama disappoints not only the global Sikh community, but also every religious minority in the world who saw his visit as a demonstrable sign of support for their rights, he said.

Instead of standing for religious freedom and against religious intolerance, President Obama has caved in to an ignorant minority in the US who hide behind a conspiracy theory that he is a Muslim.

(Arun Kumar can be contacted at

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