UNITED SIKHS
October 28 2010
14th Katik (Samvat 542 Nanakshahi)
Press Release

UNITED SIKHS Vows to Push President Obama to Visit Sikh Gurdwaras Domestically and Internationally: Pakistan Visit in 2011 Presents Another Golden Opportunity

Highlights:

  • Sikh community disappointed that President Obama will not be visiting Harmandar Sahib (known to most westerners as "the Golden Temple")

  • UNITED SIKHS implores President Obama to visit one of many Sikh Gurdwaras (Houses of Worship) in Pakistan during his 2011 visit

  • Call to Sikh community to write to President and urge him to visit other Sikh Gurdwaras either domestically or internationally

  • Sikh community: click HERE to voice your opinion NOW. Or visit White House Facebook and Twitter sites.

NEW YORK, USA: UNITED SIKHS is disappointed that President Obama will not be visiting Harmandar Sahib on his trip to India next month. Although the community feels disheartened by this decision, UNITED SIKHS will actively encourage the U.S. President to visit Sikh places of worship in America and abroad. More importantly, with the White House's confirmation of President Obama's visit to Pakistan in 2011, we want to implore the President to visit Sikh places of worship on that trip.

This week our Senior Staff Attorney, Hansdeep Singh, told political news magazine, Politico, that UNITED SIKHS would “continue to push” Obama to visit Sikh shrines in the United States and abroad. "We want to have a continuing dialogue with the White House,” he said.

Press reportsspeculated last week that the alleged reason for the cancellation of the visit to Harmandar Sahib was due to the President wanting to avoid being perceived as a Muslim. In a press briefing yesterday, the White House Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communication, Ben Rhodes, lead planner for the trip, denied this. He said: “It’s a big country where we’d like to do a lot of things.  It’s an extraordinary country and we can never do as many events as we’d like to do.” During his November trip to Asia, the President has planned visits to Hindu, Buddhist, and Muslim places of worship. Places of worship representing religious minorities, including Sikhs, are conspicuously absent from the itinerary. 

President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Singh of India at the White House in November 24, 2009. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

Despite this setback, UNITED SIKHS will continue to advocate on behalf of Sikhs all over the world for President Obama to recognize our community. His trip to Pakistan next year is poignant because the thrust of his message and visit will be to energize the global community to recognize and continue helping the country recover from the devastating floods. Please click here to read about UNITED SIKHS’ continuing efforts with Pakistan flood relief help.

Avtar Singh Makkar, President of Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) and Paramjit Singh Sarna, President of the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC), told UNITED SIKHS that they hoped the President would visit a Indian Sikh gurdwara in the future to recognize the unique Sikh faith, its diversity and its contribution to the west.

Moreover, there are many significant Gurdwaras in Pakistan. One of these is Nankana Sahib (birthplace of the first Sikh guru, Guru Nanak). There is also Panja Sahib, where UNITED SIKHS is currently undertaking Humanitarian Disaster Relief work in assistance of displaced Christian, Muslim, Hindu, and Sikh victims of the floods. 

President Obama has already recognized UNITED SIKHS for our work in Haiti. (Please watch Obama's endorsement here.) A visit to Pakistan would be an ideal opportunity to recognize the humanitarian work of Sikhs in serving all communities and amplifying our voices to help us continue our mandate of protecting others. Whatever the reasons for President Obama for not visiting Harmandar Sahib, we urge him not to spurn the Sikh community again during his trip to Pakistan in 2011.

The Pakistan trip presents another opportunity for President Obama to not only recognize a religious minority that has suffered the double injustice of unprecedented natural disasters but the constant threat of the Taliban and the choice between forced conversions and death. For example, Afghani Sikh, Jaspal Singh, was brutally beheaded by the Taliban, earlier this year.

UNITED SIKHS director, Kuldip Singh, says: "President Obama's visit to Harmandar Sahib would have brought a message of peace and harmony to all multifaith communities when the world needs it the most".

As UNITED SIKHS and our colleagues, Sikh Coalition and SALDEF have done, please start the campaign NOW to implore President Obama to visit a Sikh Gurdwara in Pakistan, through letter writing, Twitter and Facebook messages.

We MUST amplify our voices first before we can expect President Obama to give voice to our community. Raise the visibility of religious minorities by writing and expressing, in a respectful manner, how important it is for President Obama to visit Harmandar Sahib, via email or through the White House's Twitter and Facebook pages (you must sign up for Twitter and click to 'like' the White House page on Facebook, before posting on the wall) sites.

Or write a letter to the President at this address: 

The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500 


Use your correct mailing address if you hope to get a response and use the appropriate postage. LET'S MAKE OUR VOICES HEARD!

Note to editors: 

Since Sept. 11, 2001, Sikhs have been targets of discrimination and violence due to mistaken identity. UNITED SIKHS has vigorously campaigned for Sikh and other minority communities' rights, who have faced a sharp increase in hate/bias-related crimes and incidents after 9/11.  

Please read about our work tackling hate crime and raising human rights awareness.

Issued By:
Herpreet Kaur
PR and Media Associate
1-888-243-1690
law-usa@unitedsikhs.org

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