India has strongly objected to a joke made by Jay Leno, which mocked India's Golden Temple, one of India's holiest shrines.
During an episode of "The Tonight Show" on NBC, Jay Leno reportedly flashed a picture of India's Golden Temple, and suggested that it is the possible summer home of Republican presidential candidate, Mitt Romney.
Overseas Affairs Minister Vayalar Ravi has objected to Leno's remarks and has directed Indian ambassador to the U.S. Nirupama Rao, to address the matter with the State Department. He told Indian reporters that Leno's comments were unfortunate and objectionable, according to the Press Trust of India.
"It is quite unfortunate and quite objectionable that such a comment has been made after showing the...Golden Temple," Ravi told reporters. "Golden Temple is Sikh community's most sacred place. Even our Prime Minister went there for praying in the New Year."
Ravi added that he believes the remarks were not a result of ignorance and suggested that American government look into the matter. He wished that the Golden Temple was not shown this way by any U.S. media, indicating that he heard about from the Sikh community and had not seen it himself.
According to the India Tribune, Arun K Singh, Deputy Chief of the Indian mission in Washington, met Robert Blake, a senior diplomat in the Obama administration dealing with South and Central Asia affairs. During the meeting he expressed New Delhi's anger over Leno's comment.
The U.S. government cited freedom of speech from the U.S. Constitution, to defend Leno. Victoria Nuland, State Department spokesperson said Leno's remarks appeared to be satirical in nature. She added that the U.S. has absolute respect for all religions, including Sikhs.
"Freedom does not mean hurt the sentiments of others...This is not acceptable to us and we take a very strong objection for such a display of an important place like Golden Temple," Ravi said.
The Sikh community in America has expressed outrage from the January 19 episode of "The Tonight Show" and has launched an online petition against Leno. They have also started a Facebook page to express their anger toward him.