US President Barack Obama has ruled out a visit to the Golden Temple in Amritsar, sacred to Sikhs, because Obama does not want to wear the head-covering that is required as a sign of respect in case it makes him look like a Muslim. From The New York Times:
But the United States has ruled out a Golden Temple visit, according to an American official involved in planning. Temple officials said that American advance teams had gone to Amritsar, the holy city where the temple is located, to discuss a possible visit. But the plan appears to have foundered on the thorny question of how Mr. Obama would cover his head, as Sikh tradition requires, while visiting the temple.
"To come to golden temple he needs to cover his head," said Dalmegh Singh, secretary of the committee that runs the temple. "That is our tradition. It is their problem to cover the head with a Christian hat or a Muslim cap."
Gawker, which drew my attention to the report, also quotes the Indian Express newspaper on efforts to come up with a "compromise" that would allow Obama to wear a baseball cap - a piece of head gear that would presumably not offend American racists back home:
The White House team which visited India last month ruled out Obama wearing the traditional scarf on his head. Indian officials were informally told that Obama wearing a headscarf to visit the Golden Temple may convey an image of him appearing to be a Muslim. This is one misinterpretation Obama's advisors did not want at any cost, given the political sensitivities over this issue in the US.
Obama's aides finally came up with the idea of a "modified" baseball cap. It would have to be modified because the Golden Temple does not permit a baseball cap instead of a headscarf. In fact, the temple authorities have no problems with skull caps.
As Giani Gurbachan Singh, head priest of the Golden Temple, puts it: "We have no problems if he wears a skull cap, the kind that Muslims wear to the mosque - or any other cap that is modified to something similar. But we don't allow baseball caps or Army hats."
It's hard to imagine anything more insulting to his hosts than this. But of course Obama had absolutely no qualms about wearing a religiously-mandated head-covering when he visited the Wailing Wail, holy to Jews, in Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem as part of his pandering to US Zionists and other racists when he was running for president, as the photo above from his July 2008 visit to Israel and occupied Jerusalem shows (The Guardian).
This is only the latest in a long line of incidents of Obama pandering to Islamophobia rather than standing up to it. During that same election campaign visit to Israel and Jordan, Obama aides were instructed not to wear green clothing, as that is supposedly the color of Islam. Also during the campaign two Muslim women enthusiastically attending an Obama rally were required to move out of camera shot, so that the Post Racial candidate would not be pictured with them.
More recently, Obama has repeatedly failed to stand up to Islamophobic incitement ginned up about the planned lower Manhattan Islamic Center and has basically hung American Muslims out to dry.
If Obama had refused to wear a kippah - the Jewish ritual head-covering - when he went to Jerusalem, and instead insisted on wearing a baseball cap, he would have been declared not only disrespectful, but anti-Semitic as well. Of course the whole point of going to Jerusalem was for that photo-op, in order to buttress his pro-Israel credentials.
But in the current atmosphere of routine, endemic and escalating anti-Muslim incitement Obama has no fear of offending and denigrating Muslims. He also feeds racism against, and misunderstanding of Sikhs, whom racists often mistake for Muslims. Indeed this happened most tragically when Balbir Singh Sodhi, a 52 year-old Sikh man in Mesa, Arizona was shot five times and killed on September 15, 2001 by Frank Roque in "revenge" for the September 11, 2001 attacks.
Sikhs, along with Muslims and so many others, are just the latest to be thrown under Obama's election campaign bus.