June 6, 2002

LONDON (AP)--Queen Elizabeth II visited a Hindu temple Thursday, taking off her shoes and chatting to worshippers during the stop, part of her effort to recognize all of Britain's religions during her Golden Jubilee year.

Celebrations of her 50 years on the throne during a four-day national holiday that ended Tuesday were a big success, with a million people coming to London for a pop concert at Buckingham Palace and again to watch the Queen ride through the city in an ornate golden coach.

She is touring Britain and the Commonwealth of its former colonies throughout the year, and plans to visit a synagogue, mosque and Sikh temple in the next few weeks.

She removed her shoes to enter the Highgatehill Murugan Temple in north London and put on a garland of yellow marigolds and purple chrysanthemums.

Four Hindu priests blessed the monarch and her husband, Prince Philip, wishing them peace and long life.

The gaffe-prone Philip, who has been chided in the past for his comments about ethnic minorities, asked one priest whether he was a member of a violent separatist group.

``He asked us which part of Sri Lanka we were from, and we said we were from the north and east and were Tamils,'' said the priest, who declined to give his name. ``He asked, `Are you Tigers?''' referring to the Sri Lankan rebel group which is on Britain's list of banned terrorist organizations.

``I said, `No, we're priests. We're not associated with violence,''' he said. ``It was just friendly, just a joke. We were not offended.''

The queen has visited Hindu temples in India, but Thursday's visit was her first to a Hindu temple in Britain.

``It's made people feel valued, and we are honored she chose to come here,'' said Suganya Naveenan, a member of the temple.

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