U.S. television host and comedian Jay Leno has outraged the global Sikh community by inappropriately referring to The Golden Temple of Amritsar, the holiest shrine of the faith, in a joke on his program.
A Jan. 19 skit on Leno’s “Tonight Show” depicted the famed temple as being the summer vacation home of Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney, suggesting that the former Massachusetts governor is hiding money in offshore tax havens. The “joke” also implies that the temple is a home for the wealthy, rather than a religious shrine.
The Indian government has expressed its unhappiness with Leno and some Sikhs in the U.S. have launched an online petition against the NBC star.
According to BBC, the petition states that Leno has insulted Sikhs before and that Jay Leno's racist comments need to be stopped right here.
Simran Kaur, a petition signatory, wrote: Jay Leno must apologize and promise not to make any direct or oblique references to Sikhs or their places of worship.
On the Facebook petition, the signatories wrote: “This derogatory depiction of Sri Darbar Sahib [Golden Temple], as the home of rich, is contrary to the reality and hurtful to the sentiments of the Sikhs.”
The Press Trust of India reported that India’s ambassador to the U.S., Nirupama Rao will contact the US State Department over the matter.
Vayalar Ravi, the Overseas Indian Affairs Minister Vayalar Ravi, told reporters: It is quite unfortunate and quite objectionable that such a comment has been made after showing the Golden Temple. The Golden Temple is the Sikh community's most sacred place. The American government should also look at this kind of thing. Freedom does not mean hurting the sentiments of others. This is not acceptable to us and we take a very strong objection for such a display.
Neither NBC nor Leno have responded to the controversy yet.
According to reports, in 2007, Leno referred to Sikhs as “diaper heads.” In 2010, Leno said that President Barack Obama would not be able to visit the Golden Temple during his visit to India because he would have to wear a turban.”