Jay Leno's Joke on Mitt Romney and India's Golden Temple Holy Shrine Draws Harsh Criticism

Harmandir Sahib - P 2011

"The Tonight Show" host referred to the holiest shrine of the Sikhs as a possible summer home of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

NEW DELHI – Jay Leno's quip is no laughing matter for the Indian government and the Sikh community. The Tonight Show's January 19 episode flashed a picture of the Harmandir Sahib or Golden Temple (the gold-plated holiest shrine of the Sikhs in the North Indian city of Amritsar) with Leno suggesting the place of worship as a possible summer home of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

According to media reports here Monday, India's minister for NRIs (Non-Resident Indians) Vayalar Ravi – currently on an official visit to the US - has objected to the remark and said he has directed the Indian Ambassador to the US, Nirupama Rao, to take up the matter with the State Department.

“It is quite unfortunate and quite objectionable that such a comment has been made after showing the Golden Temple,” Ravi was quoted stating. “The Golden Temple is the Sikh community's most sacred place. Even our Prime Minister (Manmohan Singh, also a Sikh) went there for prayers in the New Year. I believe that the person who has shown (this episode) is not that ignorant. The American government should also look at this kind of thing.”

While Ravi said he had not seen that episode personally and only heard about it from members of the Sikh community in the US, he added, “I wish this kind of thing is not shown by any media in the US. 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 of an important place like the Golden Temple. The Indian Embassy is fully aware of it and they will take it up with the State Department.”

Meanwhile, the Sikh community has also launched a “Boycott Jay Leno” Facebook page.