I really wish we could move on from this story, but unfortunately, it is dominating Sikh-related news.
The hysteria following Jay Leno’s bit that involved a depiction of Darbar Sahib (aka The Golden Temple) refuses to die. Now that a Sikh physician in California has initiated a lawsuit against Leno, and the SGPC (the authority that manages Darbar Sahib and many other Gurdwaras in India) has demanded action from the US Government, and even politicians in the United Kingdom are trying to milk the hype, the story is spiraling out of control and far beyond anything it deserved.
The reports of our community’s panicked sense of offense have now gone viral, and the media is having a field day with sensationalizing this story. Sadly, as Sikhs, especially in this country, this is to our own detriment. Jay Leno’s bit was our chance to welcome the public into our world to educate people in a positive way about what Darbar Sahib is and stands for. We have lost that opportunity and, instead, we have demonstrated that we are a close-minded, short-sighted and paranoid group of people. For many, the real comedy is now not the joke that Jay Leno told, but the response to it by Sikhs and Indian politicians.
However, I believe that there is a not-so-silent majority of Sikhs who share my opinion about the nature of our response to Leno’s bit, but our voice is not being represented by the media who are often implying that the outrage is shared by all Sikhs. Surely, reason and a measured approach is less newsworthy, but I think the voices advocating this must get the message out that we are not like what a few individuals are making us appear.
Of course, no one who watched this segment actually thought Darbar Sahib was Mitt Romney’s house. Perhaps the Taj Mahal would have been a better choice? What do you think? Are you offended by the Mitt Romney joke? Are these lawsuits justified?
Even more emphatic is T. Sher Singh’s editorial on the popular Sikh website, sikhchic.com:
This particular quip was directed against Mitt Romney, and it made the point well.
The reference to the Golden Temple, I thought, was complimentary to the Sikhs, not by any stretch of the imagination a negative one…
Jay Leno has said nothing wrong, done nothing wrong, and has no reason to apologize in this matter.
But what will we do with the dimwits who usurp our voices and lead those amongst us who are simple and trusting, astray?
Sikhs were /are defenders of freedoms even when they were not in line with their own beliefs, for this reason I defend Jay Leno, not that I agree with him, but he has every right to say what he wants and feels, it will not /should not matter to those who revere the Golden Temple, and if their personal belief can be shaken with a small joke they need to really look into themselves.
Further, in the artwork above, Sikhtoons reflects on the irony in the actions of those who want people to take our institutions seriously. The cartoon is another invitation for us to reflect on ourselves as individuals and as a community.
There are many other people who are expressing similar sentiments. Unfortunately, we now find ourselves on the wrong side of the media battle in this situation. The issue now is not just about Jay Leno’s joke, but as much the question of how we must manage the firestorm that we ourselves have fueled.