Sikhs around the world are upset with an American magazine which published a picture of Guru Arjan Dev Ji holding a golf club.
The image of Guru Arjan Dev Ji is the respected fifth Guru in the Sikh religion. The edited image is set to spark outrage amongst the Sikh community.
British Sikh newspaper, The Sikh Times have covered the story on the front page of its latest issue with the headline “Disgrace”.
Recently Daily Sport published pictures of Sikh Nihang Singh, BABA Major Singh. The controversy erupted on 24th April 2008 when the image of a Sikh Nihang Singh was featured on a double page spread. The front page tactlessly reads, “EXCLUSIVE World’s first curry chain opens in UK.” The angle of the article promotes the new food company “Tiffinbites,” which is the first fast food curry chain in the UK. Rather than actually promoting the new company, the Daily Sport used a photo of the Nihang Singh, which is totally irrelevant towards the article. The headline is a careless play on words “Burger King,” morphing into “Burger Singh.”
The Guru Arjan Dev Ji disrespect came to the attention of Harjit Singh Sandhar, during a flight to Tulsa.. While flipping through the pages, he started to read one article called the “Golf Guru.” This article allows for readers, like Harjit, to write and pose their various golfing questions. Then the authors then answer the various questions as if they are the gurus to the game of golf, hence the whole “Golf Guru” article a play on words.
However at the conclusion of the “Golf Guru” article on page 66, Harjit noticed something strangely familiar but could not at first glance figure out. As the image appeared to be scanned and hence blurry, but seemed strangely familiar.
Harjit and Sartaj kept thinking that this image, it was so familiar from somewhere. If you took away the golf club and the golf glove it appeared to represent a Sikh Guru, but we could not pinpoint which one. “Harjit kept thinking the image was of Guru Ram Das Ji, but I wasn۪t convinced” said Sartaj, Harjit’s cousin.
“So after some thought, I started to think as if I was part of the graphics art team of Golf Digest. Here۪s an article on the “Golf Guru,” and they want me to make an image for it? Hmmm_ maybe Google images can help out?”
“With that thought in my mind, I went to Google images and did a search on “guru.” After doing a search, take a look at the far right most image. It appears to be a “guru” like character.
“However when you click on the image, it becomes very clear where Golf Digest got their inspiration for the “Golfing Guru.” It is none other than the Sikh۪s Fifth Religious Prophet, Guru Arjan Dev Ji”
You can imagine what happened next, and for fun, let۪s just do a side by side comparison.
So clearly Golf Digest did not do their homework when selecting an image of a “guru” for their article. They went with their stereotypical gut of what appears to be a “guru” like figure without doing any homework to who Guru Arjan Dev Ji is.
If they had done their homework, they would have realized that Guru Arjan Dev Ji is a major figure for the Sikh religion. They would have realised how he stood for civil and human rights for all people regardless of faith, creed, or gender. They would have realised that Guru Arjan Dev Ji was the principle architect for both the city of Amritsar and Harmandar Sahib, which is popularly known as the Golden Temple. Furthermore they would have realised how he was the Sikh Guru who created the first compilation of Sikh scriptures known as the Adi Granth, which laid the foundation for its current compilation known as the Guru Granth Sahib (the 11th and immortal Guru for the Sikh faith) and consists of almost half of his teaching. Furthermore if they did their homework, they would have realised that Guru Arjan Dev Ji compiled a special prayer known as Sukhmani Sahib which calls for universal world peace.
And finally if Golf Digest did their homework, they would have realised that Guru Arjan Dev Ji was martyred for his beliefs that worked to benefit all of society, whether it was a Sikh or Non-Sikh.
Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF) contacted Golf Digest publisher, Thomas Blair commenting, While we understand the message that Golf Digest attempted, and failed, to send to their consumers, the decision to use the specific picture shows the cultural and religious ignorance of Golf Digest staff and senior executives.”
SALDEF organised a petition and put immense pressure on the publication and after considerable efforts have received a written apology from the Golf Digest Editor-in-Chief and Chairman Jerry Tarde
Mr. Tarde stated, “Our editors regret this mistake and have learned an important lesson. Thank you for accepting our apology.” Golf Digest has assented to issue a public apology to the Sikh community in the August issue of the magazine which will come out in July as asked by hundreds of community members. In addition, Golf Digest agreed to SALDEF’s demand to stop the use of the image in their magazine or web site in the future.
The printed apology in the August 2008 edition of Golf Digest will read as follows: “It has been brought to our attention that an illustration in the May issue of Golf Digest inadvertently depicted a golfing character resembling an image of Guru Arjan Dev Ji, who is a revered religious figure in Sikhism. This was not our intent. We apologise for the use and for any offences to the Sikh community.”
Article excerpts from The Sikh Times and input from Harvy Kaur Matharu.