Sikh Americans not buying Obama excuse for skipping Amritsar

October 28th, 2010 - 12:20 pm ICT by IANS  

Barack Obama By Arun Kumar
Washington, Oct 28 (IANS) Sikh Americans are not buying the White House explanation that President Barack Obama is skipping a visit to the Golden Temple in Amritsar during his upcoming visit to India because he doesn’t have time.

“The community obviously feels stood up by the president,” said Sapreet Kaur, executive director, Sikh Coalition as the White House Wednesday confirmed Obama wouldn’t be going to the Sikh’s holiest shrine as reported by the New York Times last week.

India is a “big country” and “we can never do as many events as we’d like to do”, Ben Rhodes, a deputy national security adviser, told reporters refuting suggestions that Obama will not visit the Golden Temple because he would be required to cover his head when he entered it, and pictures of him could perpetuate the false belief that he is a Muslim.

“We’ve visited multiple religious sites — mosques, churches, synagogues — on foreign travel. We’ll do so on this trip, probably in Indonesia. So I think that the decision we made was driven by, again, the interests of time, how to best advance our common interests with India in these three days,” he said.

“I’m not really buying it,” Sapreet Kaur said. “I think the administration has been struggling with the false accusation that the president is Muslim. It is not out of the realm of possibility that these fears drove the cancellation.”

“If somebody doesn’t want to come, then they should not come for the right reasons and not hide behind these sort of excuses,” said Jasjit Singh, the associate executive director of the Sikh American Legal Defence and Education Fund.

“He’s playing the game, and that’s what’s unfortunate.”

Britain’s Queen Elizabeth and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper went to the Golden Temple when they visited India. Jasjit Singh noted that Harper simply wore a handkerchief on his head to meet the religious requirement.

“It is disappointing,” said Hansdeep Singh, an attorney for United Sikhs.

But they would “continue to push” Obama to visit Sikh shrines in the US and abroad. “We want to have a continuing dialogue with the White House,” he said.

(Arun Kumar can be contacted at arun.kumar@ians.in)

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