Friday, March 09, 2007

California education board votes to remove Sikh image from texts

SACRAMENTO- The state Board of Education voted Thursday to ask a publisher to remove from a seventh-grade history textbook a picture of a Sikh religious leader that many followers said was offensive and inaccurate. The board agreed to the recommendation from state Department of Education officials and the textbook's publisher, Oxford University Press, to remove the historical portrait of Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism, from "An Age of Voyages: 1350-1600."
The controversial image shows Guru Nanak wearing a crown and with a close-cropped beard. The depiction runs contrary to Sikh faith, which requires observant men to wear a turban and not to shave their facial hair. Guru Nanak also was a man of the people and would not have worn an ornate crown, more than a dozen members of the Sikh faith testified Thursday.
The image is taken from a 19th century painting made after Muslims ruled India. The publisher used it because it complies with the company's policy of using only historical images in historical texts, said Tom Adams, director of curriculum for the Department of Education.
After Sikhs complained that the picture more closely reflected a Muslim man than a Sikh, Oxford offered to substitute it with an 18th century portrait showing Guru Nanak with a red hat and trimmed beard. But Sikhs said that picture made their founder look like a Hindu.
The publisher now wants to scrap the picture entirely from the textbook, which was approved for use in California classrooms in 2005. There are about 250,000 Sikhs in California. Sikh leaders say they want a new, more representative image of Guru Nanak, similar to the ones they place in Sikh temples and in their homes. The publisher has rejected those images as historically inaccurate. No images exist from the founder's lifetime, 1469 to 1538.
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