April 25, 2018 | By Sikh Siyasat Bureau
London: Simon McDonald, the top civil servant in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has been forced to apologise for calling the Darbar Sahib/Harmandir Sahib, as a “Golden Mosque” during a visit to Amritsar.
In a tweet on April 23, Simon McDonald had mentioned the Darbar Sahib as the ‘Golden Mosque’ after which he was widely criticised over the social media.
The Sikh Federation (UK) gave him 24 hours to immediately apologise to the worldwide Sikh community. He official apologised through a tweet on April 24.
I was wrong: I am sorry. I should of course have said the Golden Temple or, better, Sri Harmandir Sahib. https://t.co/4rJ4mwOdCJ
— Sir Simon McDonald (@SMcDonaldFCO) April 24, 2018
Bhai Amrik Singh, the Chair of the Sikh Federation (UK) said:
“This was a major gaffe by a top civil servant and totally unacceptable. It demonstrates a remarkable level of ignorance from someone in his position.”
“What hope is there for the average person to distinguish between Sikhs and Muslims if someone holding his position can make such a massive blunder while visiting the Sikh homeland?”
“Unfortunately, it is this sort of ignorance or ‘mistaken identity’ that breeds hate and has resulted in Sikhs being abused, attacked and in some cases killed across the globe since 9/11.”
“In our view a public apology and admitting the mistake is not enough. What we need is a commitment from the UK Government and senior civil servants to root out such ignorance and discrimination or we will continue to face hate, abuse and threats of violence.”
“The Prime Minister and Home Secretary will have an opportunity next week to address this head on.”
“The Prime Minister will be celebrating Vaisakhi with Sikhs at 10 Downing Street next Monday and the Home Secretary the next day will be meeting Preet Kaur Gill MP, the first Sikh woman MP and the Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for British Sikhs to discuss ignorance, ending discrimination and hate crimes targeting Sikhs.”
The Sikh Press Association (SikhPA) also expressed shock over UK Foreign Office’s top official calling the Darbar Sahib as a ‘mosque’.
In a written statement, the SikhPa said: “We did not expect to see such religious illiteracy from the country’s top diplomat, especially whilst he was visiting the Sikh homeland. This is an example of ignorance and a racist conflation with Islam which Sikhs have seen impact us to tragic lengths in recent history. Considering the status and integration of the Sikh community in the UK, this is not a sentiment we would have envisaged a UK government official fuel”.
“The British government must undertake an urgent consideration of the religious literacy of its staff. As Sir Simon’s tweet has today shown, it is needed at even the highest level of the civil service. And when it happens, it must include Panthic organisations who are best placed to educate about Sikhi; the same organisations connecting with and teaching Sikhs in Gurdwaras and at community events across the [UK]”, the Sikh PA statement reads further.