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Sikhs Celebrate Siri Guru Granth Sahib at White House

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    For the first time in a hundred years the White House marked a Sikh event to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh holy book.

    At the invitation of the White House, 90 Sikhs from around the United States gathered at the White House where high-level officials of the Bush administration greeted the Sikhs with special comments and dialogue.

    The programme, which began at 3:15 pm, started with a Sikh prayer and Shabad Kirtan (rendering of hymns).

    According to Rajwant Singh, National Chairman of the Sikh Council on Religion and Education, Sep 1 marks the 400th anniversary of the compilation of the Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh scriptures and its installation at the Golden Temple (Harmandir Sahib), located in Amritsar, India, in 1604.

    The scriptures are the guiding principle for the followers of Sikhism founded by Guru Nanak.

    Said Singh: "The Sikh community in the United States is extremely pleased
    with President Bush's invitation on this auspicious occasion. Sikhs have
    been in America for over 100 years and this definitely sends a strong signal
    that this White House recognizes the Sikh presence in the US."

    He said the "Sikhs are highly gratified at this unique honour given to their community."

    Sikh contributions to American political developments, to the American economy and to American culture have been recognized in official circles.

    There are close to half a million Sikhs in the US and they have now established a thriving community and continue to make significant contributions to American society as physicians, high-tech professionals, academics, entrepreneurs, cab drivers and convenience store workers.

    They are amongst the most hard-working, educated and prosperous groups of Americans. The first Asian American to be elected to the US Congress in 1962 was a Sikh from California - Dilip Singh Saund.

    Singh said, "President Bush and his administration have been extremely prompt in responding to the needs of the Sikhs. We always remember his
    leadership immediately after 9/11 and his words of assurance to the Sikh
    community facing tough times during those days. It is our conviction that
    President Bush will continue to welcome Sikhs and other diverse groups to
    the White House signifying that the highest political office of this land
    belongs to all people."

    Recalling the difficult times the Sikhs, with their uncut beards and turbans, have faced in the U.S. soon after 9/11 due to hate crimes and how a Sikh was gunned down and killed in Mesa, Arizona, Singh said it was Bush who lost no time in calling a special meeting of the Sikh leaders to the White House to assure the community of his administration's support.

    The majority of people in America who wear a turban are in fact Sikhs. Many
    in America are unaware about the Sikh traditions and observances and due to
    this Sikhs have continued to face harassment at airports and high
    security areas.

    "We are looking forward to a constructive dialogue and engagement with our government and hope to alleviate situations faced by Sikhs in the US," Singh added.

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