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WASHINGTON (RNS) The “raghead” comment aimed at South Carolina gubernatorial candidate Nikki Haley was unfair, uncalled for and unreasonable, Sikh advocacy groups said.
“It is a very unfortunate situation,” said Gurinder Singh Mann, director of the Center for Sikh and Punjab Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. “The color of her skin or her background should not be a consideration for whatever she is trying to achieve.”
During an interview on the Internet talk show “Pub Politics,” state Sen. Jake Knotts said of Haley, “We’ve already got a raghead in the White House, we don’t need another raghead in the governor’s mansion.”
Knotts also said Haley’s campaign was orchestrated by Sikhs in foreign countries; Haley is of Indian descent and was raised a Sikh but converted to Christianity as an adult.
“I don’t think that there are any Sikh associations planning on those lines,” Singh Mann said.
Knotts, who supports Haley’s Republican opponent, Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer, has since apologized. He said his “intended humorous context was lost in translation” and Haley was “pretending to be someone she is not.”
The Rev. Welton Gaddy, president of the Interfaith Alliance, also criticized Knotts’ apology.
“Calling her religion into question, as Sen. Knotts continued to do in his apology, is wrong enough — using the language he did is repulsive and demonstrates his own lack of knowledge about how to conduct himself as a public servant,” Gaddy said in a statement.
Singh Mann did not believe the apology.
“It’s sad… I guess he’s using the term that it was a distasteful joke taken out of context but, you know, that’s the sort of routine explanation,” he said.
— Fernando Alfonso III
Copyright 2010 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of this transmission may be distributed or reproduced without written permission.

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