Is Obama Skipping Temple Over Headgear?

From Jake Tapper and Russell Goldman: On an upcoming trip to India, President Obama will skip visiting one of the country’s most sacred shrines out of fear that wearing the requisite headgear might make him appear Muslim, according to reports from the United States and India. The New York Times, citing an unnamed American official involved in the trip’s planning, reports that the president will not stop at the Golden Temple, a Sikh holy site and one of the country’s most popular tourist attractions, because visitors typically wear headscarves, turbans or Muslim caps. Obama was to visit the sprawling golden complex in Amritsar, "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," wrote the Times. "To come to golden temple he needs to cover his head," Dalmegh Singh, secretary of the committee that runs the temple told the paper. "That is our tradition. It is their problem to cover the head with a Christian hat or a Muslim cap." Obama, who is a Christian, has repeatedly had to fend off accusations that he is secretly Muslim. An April poll conducted by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life found that nearly 1 in 5 Americans believe the president is Muslim. When a photo of then-Senator Obama dressed in a traditional white Kenyan turban was leaked by Hillary Clinton's rival campaign during the 2008 presidential election, Obama called the image a "smear." Sikh men traditionally do not cut their hair and keep their heads covered with a turban. Non-Sikh visitors to the temple often purchase scarves to cover their heads. Because they wear turbans, Sikhs are sometimes confused by Americans for being Muslim. Since 9/11, several Sikhs have been mistaken targets of anti-Muslim attacks. According to the New Delhi-Based India Express, temple authorities suggested Obama wear a modified baseball cap, but stressed that a regular ball cap would not be acceptable. "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," Giani Gurbachan Singh, head priest of the temple told the Express. The temple is a popular stop for visiting heads of state. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper visited the temple with his head covered last year.

A White House official told ABC News that the final schedule for the president's expected visit to India in early November has not yet been released.

"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," the official said. "We will advise the President's itinerary when it is finalized."

-- Jake Tapper and Russell Goldman

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