October 20th, 2010
07:08 PM ET

Report: Obama to skip Sikh Temple in India partly out of head covering concern

President Barack Obama will not be visiting the Golden Temple - the architectural pride of the Sikh faith - during his trip to India next month, according to the New York Times:

Revered by Indians of all faiths, it is a cherished emblem of India’s religious diversity. So it was no surprise when the gold-plated marvel was promoted as the likely third stop on President Obama’s visit to India, scheduled for early November.

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 that is the site of the temple, 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....

Mr. Obama, a Christian, has struggled to fend off persistent rumors that he is a Muslim, and Sikhs in the United States have often been mistaken for Muslims.

Here's what a senior White House official tells CNN about the situation:

As you know, we have not yet released the final schedule for the President’s trip to Asia, including India. India is a vast and extraordinary country, and there are many more events that the President would like to do – and sites that our advance teams visit – than he will have time for during a three day visit. We will advise the President’s itinerary when it is finalized.

More as we get it. Full Times report here.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Asia • Barack Obama • Hinduism • India • Politics

soundoff (25 Responses)
  1. best proxy

    Simply wish to say your article is as surprising. The clarity to your post is just great and i can think you are an expert on this subject. Well with your permission allow me to grasp your feed to stay updated with imminent post. Thank you 1,000,000 and please continue the enjoyable work.

    September 12, 2012 at 2:48 am |
  2. S Kaur

    I am very disappointed in the decision that the government has made. He should visit the Golden Temple because he will see the wonders of the place and how people give up their time to come and do seva (volunteer) to help cook, clean, etc... or they come to get blessings. Everytime I go I am always amazed by how many people are there and I feel proud to be one of those people to come and receive my blessings. I feel disappointed in myself for voting someone like him as the President.

    November 7, 2010 at 3:16 pm |
  3. FD Singh

    I am very disappointed with Mr. Obama. I feel like I wasted my tears when he became a president. I thought that I was living on history but now I feel like a MISTAKE has been made in the history. If Mr. obama does not go to Golden Temple when he visits India then indirectly he is saying that sikhs are muslims which is very disappointing and insulting to me as a member of sikh religion. If the prime minister of Canada and Queen of england can wear it why not him. He wore yamulke when he went to Jerusalem. yamulke looks more like what most of muslims wear not the kerchief.

    October 27, 2010 at 12:51 pm |
  4. dj singh

    Why would he look like a Muslim with bandana on his head ? I think Barack will look like a rock star or why not just wear baseball cap ? Chicago Bears hat will be cool. My 2-cents.

    October 23, 2010 at 1:15 am |
    • Christine

      Wearing a cap to any Sikh Temple is disrespectful. . .but yeah, there is nothing wrong with wearing a bandana. If our leaders remain ignorant, then hence the general population will remain ignorant as well. . . .

      November 18, 2010 at 2:19 pm |
  5. RKaur

    This is ridiculous. All he needs to wear is a bandanna, which is not a religious symbol in any sense but what is worn by all who enter the temple – Christians, world leaders, Americans included – that don't wear a turban or woman's long scarf. So fearing the wrath of the fear mongers of certain right-wing factions, he has conceded to them and avoided one of the world's foremost monuments, a symbol of religious pluralism central to India – over politics. I honestly thought he was better than this.
    If someone on his staff is reading, please reconsider. This sends a worse signal, one relating to a more important principle, than the reaction of the people who call you a Muslim.

    October 21, 2010 at 11:46 pm |
  6. massms

    How nice that Obama and Michelle are going on another vacation...er, state visit.

    October 21, 2010 at 11:23 pm |
  7. GSA

    I am sikh and when I go to the Gurdwara (temple) I wear a bandana. Don't know what the big deal is. This is basically Obama and his admin. admitting they thinkg that Americans are idiots and because of there intense, unfounded fears will jump to conclusions that are untrue. If I were an American citizen I would feel pretty angry that my gov't perceives me as that narrow-minded and ignorant since the majority of US citizens are quite level-headed.
    @Reality – this may be a "house of worthless worship" to you but not to many and it also has a long cultural and political history so it is not only a place of worship but also very relevant to anyone wanting to see the historical spots in India. I've been there twice and it's beautiful.

    October 21, 2010 at 12:44 pm |
    • Frogist

      @GSA: I'd like to agree with you about Americans being level-headed. Unfortunately, it is the minority loud mouths who turn this into an issue and use people's fears to prevent enlightenment. It's sad but true. I'm disappointed he might not go too. I hope the White House recognises that sometimes the more difficult choice is still the right one. But in an election cycle, they might just opt for playing it safe.

      October 21, 2010 at 1:38 pm |
    • Disa

      As an American citizen, I perceive most other Americans as narrow-minded and ignorant. In a perfect world, most Americans would know how to use their brains, but the fact of the matter is that they don't, and if one uses his brain he is perceived as an elitist and therefore no longer credible.

      October 21, 2010 at 4:02 pm |
    • massms


      Obama is and always will be an academic, one of the "clever sillies". He is a prime example of the inverse relationship between common sense and intelligence in academics. Keep in mind "educated doesn't always mean smart". The man is out of his element in the White House and in way over his head. He is not representative of any American I'm aquainted with and is completely disconnected from average Americans who, as you stated, are level-headed...contrary to the offensive remarks of Frogist and Disa. Perhaps what Obama really fears if he went to the Sikh temple is the wrath of his Muslim cohorts.

      October 21, 2010 at 11:12 pm |
  8. Maryxus

    The fact of the matter is, however, that it would undermine his credibility with the idiot masses of the country if he were to do it. If he did you know that the Republicans, and the Tea Party especially, would be all over his case, using it as an excuse to refer to him as a Muslim, as if for some reason it actually mattered whether he was or not.

    Honestly, it'd be better if he went through with it for dignity's sake, but, given the country's political climate, I would totally understand if he decided to skip it.

    October 21, 2010 at 12:38 pm |
  9. Ed

    Didn't George W. Bush wear a Mickey Mouse hat once? Oh no wait...my mistake...it was a propeller hat

    October 21, 2010 at 12:25 pm |
    • Frogist

      @Ed: Sorry, you're wrong. It was a dunce cap.

      October 21, 2010 at 1:23 pm |
  10. David Johnson

    I bet Obama would go if he had a spiffy hat like the Pope gave his new cardinals!

    October 21, 2010 at 11:57 am |
  11. Ralph

    I don't know which is more absurd –
    that the President would pass up this opportunity to make a positive statement about religious pluralism – the cornerstone of the Sikh tradition – over putting a kerchief on his head as Queen Elizabeth and Canadian Prime Minister Harper did happily or
    that embassy personnel would leak such an irresponsible statement to the press before it is totally confirmed
    Either way, one wonders where is the wisdom of our decision makers

    October 21, 2010 at 10:07 am |
  12. Kang

    Most indians think US is a country of advanced people with modern thinking and advanced life style. I think such incidences will help them to clear their misunderstanding and will tell them the truth that US is just like another country ruled by mediocre minds. It is not democracy but mobocracy.

    October 21, 2010 at 9:55 am |
    • massms


      If the US was a "mobocracy", we would have run Obama out of the White House long before this. Because we are "a country of advanced people with modern thinking and advanced life style", we are patiently waiting to oust him lawfully in the election of 2012. No referendum has been put to the American people asking if we think he should visit the Sikh temple. The decision NOT to visit the temple is Obama's and his sycophants, not the people's decision. I, as an American, think it would be gracious if Obama and his handlers had the courage to reconsider.

      October 21, 2010 at 11:47 pm |
  13. JohnQuest

    Frank, as far as I can tell, Christians are Jews, Jesus was a Jew, all early followers of Jesus were Jews, Jesus nor any of his followers denounced Judaism. If it smells like a duck.....

    October 21, 2010 at 9:51 am |
    • Frank

      I think we're far past the point of trying to claim that Christianity is Judaism. We worship the same God, yes. Yes, Christ was born of the Jewish woman and the early followers are Jewish but we have 2,000 years of differences between us. Jewish non-belief in the Trinity and their not accepting Christ as Messiah.
      Next you'll say that Muslims are Christians and that Buddhists are Hindus.

      October 21, 2010 at 5:21 pm |
    • massms

      If Christians were Jews, they would call themselves Jews.

      October 21, 2010 at 10:35 pm |
  14. Frogist

    I am disappointed that the President would not visit due to concerns of something as superficial as how he would look in a headdress. Especially since sikhs are not muslim even though ignorant americans think they are. I hope he will change his mind in view of creating greater understanding of different cultures. If the queen of England and the Canadian PM can do it, he shouldn't let something as petty as how he would look deter him from visiting.

    October 21, 2010 at 8:38 am |
  15. Reality

    Actually, no one should go into a "house of worthless worship" so covering one's head in said structure is not relevant.

    Added comments for those new members out there:

    Recognizing the flaws, follies and frauds in the foundations of Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Paganism,
    and Christianity by the "hatters", "bowers", kneelers" and "pew peasants" will quickly converge these religions into some simple rules of life. No koran, bible, clerics, nuns, monks, imams, evangelicals, ayatollahs, rabbis, professors of religion or priests needed or desired. Ditto for houses and classes of "worthless worship" aka mosques, churches, basilicas, cathedrals, temples or synagogues.

    October 20, 2010 at 11:41 pm |
  16. Frank

    How stupid. He'll cover his head when taking part in a Jewish event but not for this? It's kinda insulting.

    October 20, 2010 at 8:26 pm |
    • sikh

      I most definitely agree

      October 20, 2010 at 8:55 pm |
About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.