A bipartisan group of 20 US lawmakers has called on President Barack Obama to visit a Gurudwara before he leaves office in January next year, in an attempt to raise awareness about Sikhs in America. “We write to you on behalf of Sikh Americans across the country to visit a gurudwara, or Sikh temple, before the end of your term,” said the 20 lawmakers in a letter to Obama.
“Your visit would bring attention to the Sikh-Americans identity and help to eschew the hate which has been directed to the community. Above all, it would demonstrate that diversity is the bedrock of America’s strength and the American story,” said the lawmakers who are members of the American Sikh Congressional Caucus, which is co-chaired by John Garamendi and Patrick Meehan. The letter dated September 28 was released to the media on Tuesday.
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In the letter, the lawmakers said that although Sikhs have contributed to the US for over a century and even though Sikhism is the 5th largest religion in the world, awareness and acceptance have not been easy to achieve. Today there are an estimated 500,000 Sikhs living in the US.
The letter was welcomed by the National Sikh Campaign.
The president’s visit would help bring attention to one of the least understood major world religions in the country and to the growing religious and racial diversity in the US, it said in a statement on Tuesday.
“In a time with so much divisive rhetoric, it is refreshing to see 20 members of Congress, from both parties, come together and work to raise awareness for Sikh-Americans,” said Jas Singh Sajjan, National Sikh Campaign spokesman.
“We also believe that given our political environment, a Gurudwara, which are famous around the world for being open to people regardless of their background, would be the perfect platform for President Obama to address the need for Americans to come together around our common values,” he added.
National Sikh Campaign said misconception and fear towards the Sikh-American community following the 9/11 attacks have led to a steep increase in hate crimes against the community.
This includes the 2012 mass shooting at a gurudwara in Oak Creek, Wisconsin in which six people were killed.
The first homicide of 2016 was also a hate crime against a Sikh man who was stabbed to death in Fresno, California because of his ethnic identity and appearance.
Rana Singh Sodhi, brother of Balbir Singh Sodhi whose death was the first reported hate-motivated murder in the aftermath of 9/11, said, “A visit to a Gurudwara by President Obama would be historic and it would give him a platform to share that in America, we are not bound by a creed, colour, or religion but to an enduring set of universal ideals – a belief that is also central in Sikh philosophy.