US urged to help rebuild historic gurdwara in Iraq

April 17th, 2008 - 9:42 pm ICT by admin  

New York, April 17 (IANS) An American Sikh leader has urged Washington to rebuild a historic Sikh shrine in Iraq, destroyed by extremists three years ago. Rajwant Singh met Secretary of Defence Robert Gates Wednesday during a White House ceremony to welcome the Pope and requested him to help reconstruct the gurdwara in Baghdad that was erected to mark the visit of the Sikh religion founder Guru Nanak to the city in the early 16th century.

Singh, chairman of the Sikh Council on Religion and Education, told Gates that Sikhs in the US and India revere the shrine and want to see Pentagon offer the required assistance and resources towards its restoration.

Gates promised to look into the matter.

“The shrine is a symbol of interfaith harmony and dialogue,” Singh told the defence secretary, adding that Iraqis have always been tolerant of other religions and have shown respect for all communities especially Indians. Iraqi Muslims had, in fact, been taking care of the shrine.

The shrine was built next to the tomb of a Muslim saint, which still stands there. During his visit to Baghdad, Guru Nanak met a Muslim holy man named Bahlol Dana, which represents the first dialogue between the two religions.

Recent visits by the Indian press revealed complete destruction of the gurdwara bombed by extremists.

Singh also brought up the subject during his meetings with other political leaders including Senator Ted Kennedy and Congressman Steny Hoyer, House Majority leader.

Singh told them that the Indian government would be willing to join in the restoration of the sacred site with which so many Indians have an emotional attachment.

He added in a press release: “Sikhs are proud to be Americans and they are an integral and productive part of the American society. Many Sikhs are serving proudly in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

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