Golden Temple off Obama’s India agenda, Gandhi on
U.S. President Barack Obama will not visit the Golden Temple in Amritsar during his trip to India next month, the White House confirmed on Wednesday
But he will make several other cultural stops, including two related to the revered Indian independence leader Mahatma Gandhi, who is a hero to many African-Americans and was an inspiration to the U.S. civil rights leader Martin Luther King.
Obama is visiting the Gandhi Museum in Mumbai and will also lay a wreath on Gandhi’s grave in New Delhi during his visit.
“The example of Gandhi is one that has inspired Americans, inspired African Americans, including Dr. King, and it’s very personally important to the President. So we’re looking forward to visiting the Gandhi Museum to underscore those shared experiences and shared values,” Deputy Security Adviser Ben Rhodes told reporters.
Other cultural events during the trip include a celebration of the Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, with schoolchildren, and a visit to the tomb of the Mughal Emperor Humayun in New Delhi.
But Obama will not visit the Golden Temple, a pilgrimage site for Sikhs in the northern city of Amritsar. Obama had been expected to visit the holy site, but Indian media reports said that plan was canceled after Obama’s handlers balked at the idea of the U.S. president wearing a headscarf or skullcap while touring the site.
Obama faces persistent talk among some members of the U.S. public that he is a Muslim and, the reports said, aides feared pictures of him wearing such headgear could fuel such rumors.
Rhodes said those reports were just wrong.
“We make the decision about the schedule based on the best way to advance our goals for the trip. And with three days, we just thought that, when we really crunched it, Mumbai and Delhi, with a very packed official program, that the schedule we arrived at for those two cities filled up our time successfully,” he said.
Photo Credit: REUTERS/Danish Siddiqu ( Slippers with Obama’s image displayed in a shoe shop in Mumbai August 18, 2010.)