Pakistan deputy attorney-general to clean shoes at Amritsar Golden Temple
After spending several hours polishing the shoes of worshippers at Gurdwara Sisganj in New Delhi on Monday, where he was part of a Pakistan Supreme Court Bar Association delegation, Muhammad Khurshid Khan left for Amritsar, home of the Golden Temple and the centre of the Sikh religion, to clean thousands more.
He began his service pilgrimage after Jaspal Singh, one of three Sikh men kidnapped by Taliban militants in Peshawar in 2010, was murdered. The other two men were rescued by the Pakistani Army. Since then he has visited Sikh temples or Gurdwaras in Pakistan and India to declare his opposition to terrorism through ‘sevadari’ – service – to other religions.
Mr Khan said he was so upset by the killing and his fear that it associated his own Muslim faith with terrorism that he went to sit on the steps of Peshawar’s Gurdwara Bhai Joga Singh. He felt a sense of peace, he told The Times of India, and resolved to visit other places of worship, including Hindu temples and Christian churches to offer his help.
“I am a Muslim, not a terrorist; I am a Khan, not a terrorist; I am from Pakistan, but not a terrorist,” he explained.
The Taliban had damaged Pakistan’s ‘pluralistic’ heritage – there are still Christian, Hindu, Sikh and Jain communities throughout the country – but it was unfair “to tarnish a whole community for the sins of a few,” he said.
He visited his local Gurdwara every day for two months, where he read the works of the Sikh gurus, including Guru Nanak, and polished shoes. In both India and Pakistan, shoes are regarded as dirty, and touching the feet of another is an act of self-abasement and respect.
He was on Monday night travelling from New Delhi to Amritsar after India’s Sikh prime minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, indicated he had no objection to him continuing his pilgrimage at the Golden Temple.
Paramjeet Singh Sarna, president of Delhi’s Sikh Gurdawara Management Committee, said Mr Khan’s actions had moved Indian Sikhs.
“There is always this underlying impression that every Pakistani is a radical but people like Khurshid have changed this image. His act has a message for the entire humanity. Although he as an individual didn’t hurt or kill anybody he has shown remorse for the innocent victims of the Taliban in Pakistan, including a Sikh, by performing community service. We are thankful to him for everything he has done for the minorities in Pakistan,” he said.