Headgear may land Obama in sticky situation

Last Updated 19 October 2010, 14:49 IST

US President Barack Obama's proposed visit to the Golden Temple seems to have run into trouble over the issue of what headgear he would wear to enter the holiest Sikh shrine. However, Sikh religious leaders are optimistic the issue will be sorted out within this week and Obama's visit will be confirmed.

"There is no big issue in it. Everybody who comes to the Golden Temple covers his head with a cloth or a turban. This is our religious practice and everyone has to follow it. Obama is free to cover his head in whichever way he feels comfortable," Avtar Singh Makkar, president of Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), which manages the shrine, told IANS Tuesday.

"Our preparations are in full swing to welcome the American president as so far we have not got any intimation about the cancellation of his visit.

"A few weeks back, a team from Britain had visited the Golden Temple and they had also covered their heads," he said.

Obama is scheduled to visit the Golden Temple and Khalsa College in Amritsar Nov 7 during his first visit to India as the US president.

However, Obama's advisors in Washington are apprehensive about him covering his head with a scarf as it could create an impression of a Muslim devotee.
SGPC officials are unmoved by this logic.

The Punjab government is also confident this matter will be sorted out.
"We are sure that SGPC will handle this matter without any controversy. Earlier too, many foreign dignitaries and VIPs have come to the Golden Temple and everything went very smoothly," Harcharan Singh Bains, media advisor to Punjab chief minister, told reporters here.

"We are fully cooperating with them (SGPC). The US embassy and security officials are visiting Amritsar at regular intervals and they are quite satisfied with the arrangements," pointed out Bains.

Obama will arrive in Amritsar from Mumbai Nov 7 and visit the Golden Temple and offer prayers at Harmandar Sahib, the sanctum sanctorum. During his three-hour stay in the Sikh holy city, he is likely to spend over 40 minutes at the shrine.

(Published 19 October 2010, 14:47 IST)

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