Numerous news outlets, including the New York Times, have indicated that the President cancelled a scheduled trip to the Golden Temple over a dispute on how he would cover his head in the Golden Temple. Sikh practice requires that all who enter a Sikh place of worship cover their head. News reports indicate that there is a fear the President may appear to be Muslim and so face negative political consequences in the United States if he appears at the Golden Temple with a head covering.
“If the reported reasons for the President’s cancellation are true, we’re very disappointed,” said Manbeena Kaur, Education Director, Sikh Coalition. “The Golden Temple, at its core, welcomes people of all backgrounds, religions, and cultures. The President’s visit would have been a great way to underscore the message of respect for all. It is shame that this trip may not happen.”
Sikhism is the fifth largest world religion, with approximately 23 million adherents worldwide. It is a unique religion with its own religious scripture, houses of worship, and prophets. Sikhs are religiously-mandated to leave all hair on their bodies uncut, wrapping the hair on their heads underneath a turban.
The Golden Temple is universally known as a place of extraordinary peace and serenity. It has doors on each of its four walls symbolizing Sikhism’s openness to people of all walks of life and all faiths.
In the years since 9/11, misperceptions about this appearance have led to hate attacks and discrimination against Sikhs across the country. The Sikh Coalition has recorded over 900 incidents of bias against Sikhs since 9/11. These incidents often occur because the perpetrators believe Sikhs to be Muslim or of Middle Eastern origin.
“We hope the President visits the Golden Temple,” said Manbeena Kaur. “His visit would be an important ‘teachable moment’ in which the President could demonstrate America’s commitment to religious pluralism and respect for all.”
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