Obama Head-Covering Controversy Unnecessary: WSO

Ottawa October 20, 2010:  The World Sikh Organization of Canada (WSO) is disappointed to learn that US President Barack Obama may cancel his visit to Sri Darbar Sahib (Golden Temple)  in Amritsar India due to concerns over the Sikh tradition of covering the head.  While all people, regardless of background, religion, gender or class are welcome to visit Gurdwaras (Sikh places of worship), visitors must cover their heads as per Sikh tradition.  According to news reports, President Obama’s visit has been cancelled due to fears that by covering his head, the President may be mistaken to be a Muslim.

According to the Sikh Rehit Maryada or Code of Conduct, all persons entering a Gurdwara must cover their heads as a sign of respect and as a mark of equality.  In the past, several world leaders and politicians have visited Sri Darbar Sahib including a recent visit by Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and head coverings have not been an issue. 

WSO Senior Policy Advisor Gian Singh Sandhu said, “Gurdwaras around the world, including Sri Darbar Sahib in Amritsar are open to all people.  The four doors of Sri Darbar Sahib are open in each direction to symbolize this.  Sikhs only request that visitors cover their heads.  There can be no compromise on this requirement as it is a tenet of the faith and all visitors are considered equal, be they a President or a pauper. ”

WSO President Prem Singh Vinning said, “Sri Darbar Sahib stands as a monument to the principles of equality, tolerance and plurality and so it’s a bit ironic that President Obama may forego the opportunity to visit Sri Darbar Sahib for fear of being mistaken as a Muslim.  The Sikh faith has always stood against ignorance and intolerance and we hope President Obama has the courage to do the right thing and not be swayed by such fears.

The World Sikh Organization of Canada (WSO) is a non-profit organization with a mandate to promote and protect the interests of the Sikh Diaspora, as well as to promote and advocate for the protection of human rights for all individuals, irrespective of race, religion, gender, ethnicity, and social and economic status

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Contact: 

Gian Singh Sandhu

Policy advisor

604-341-2755

gianssandhu@gmail.com

or

Balpreet Singh

Legal Counsel

416-904-9110

balpreetsingh@worldsikh.org