US Sikh leader to help rebuild Gurdwara in Baghdad

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Washington, Apr 18: An American Sikh leader has requested Washington to help rebuild a Sikh Gurdwara in Baghdad which was destroyed by extremists, three years ago.

Sikh leader Rajwant Singh met Defense Secretary Robert Gates and later said in a statement that Secretary has promised to look into this matter. ''This shrine has lot of reverence in the minds of all Sikhs and it is their desire to see that the Pentagon offers all the required assistance and resources towards the restoration of this important site,'' he said. Dr Singh met with other top political leaders and brought the subject of rebuilding the Gurdwara to their attention.

He also spoke to Senator Ted Kennedy who promised that his staff assistant would look into this matter and take action. Dr Singh also had talks with Congressman Steny Hoyer, powerful House Majority leader, who asked him to set up a meeting with his staff regarding this matter.

Dr Singh said, ''I am pleased with the response from all of the leaders on this issue.'' ''Sikh community in the US and India is eager to help rebuild this shrine but this task cannot be achieved without American involvement. Pentagon can help facilitate this operation and provide the security needed,'' he added.

Dr Singh said, ''Sikhs are proud to be Americans and they are an integral and productive part of the American society. Many Sikhs are serving proudly in Iraq and Afghanistan. We pray that this sacred site be restored as soon as possible and we are sure that our national leaders will support its restoration.'' The Gurdwara in Baghdad was built marking the visit of the Sikh Founder Guru Nanak to Baghdad in the early 16th century.

During his visit he had dialogue with Muslim holy man, Bahlol Dana, and this meeting represented the first talks between the two religions.

This shrine has been in existence for long time and it has been cared for by Iraqi Muslims.

Recent visits by the Indian press revealed complete destruction of the shrine by the bombs planted by extremists. The original Sikh Gurdwara was built alongside the tomb of a Muslim religious leader, which has suffered no damage.

This shrine was built by Sikh soldiers who fought alongside the allied forces of World War I.


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