Model poses bare-headed and with her back to the shrine inside the largest and one of the most venerated Gurdwaras in the world.
by Massimo Introvigne
For the second time in one week, sacrilegious behavior has angered the Sikh community in Pakistan, this time moving the Indian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to intervene and demand investigation and action.
The Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur is a very significant place for the Sikh religion, and the largest Sikh place of worship in the world. It has been built where the founder of the religion, Guru Nanak, spent the last eighteen years of his life, and died in 1539.
It is also in a very delicate political situation. It is located in the Pakistani province of Punjab near the border with India and is even visible from India. There is a “Kartarpur corridor” allowing Indian Sikhs to go on pilgrimage to the Gurdwara without visa, but problems remain, and any incident in Kartarpur has potentially explosive consequences.
The Pakistani online clothing store Mannat hired the popular model Sauleha for a photoshoot inside the Kartarpur Gurdwara (note that, unlike in a Christian Church, the ground around the shrine is an integral part of the Gurdwara, so one can be both outside the shrine and inside the Gurdwara).
Sauleha posted her pictures (now removed, with the model stating that she never intended to offend the Sikhs) on Instagram. They show her both with her head not covered and turning her back to the shrine. Both attitudes are considered highly disrespectful by Sikhs in any Gurdwara and certainly in one of the most important Gurdwaras in the world.
Equally objectionable for the Sikhs is the commercialization of a sacred space so directly associated with Guru Nanak.
Coming a few days after the Sikh holy book was desecrated at Gurdwara Shri Guru Harkrishen Sahib in Village Kot Meer Badan Khan Bajarani in Kashmore district’s Karampur tehsil, the incident is another indication of the prevalence of disrespect for religious minorities in Pakistan, as the Indian Ministry of Foreign Affairs noted.