California Lawyer, Harmeet Dhillon, Leads Republican Convention In Sikh Prayer

CLEVELAND, OHIO, USA—On July 19, 2016, San Francisco lawyer Harmeet Dhillon delivered a Sikh prayer as the opening ceremony on the second day of the Republican National Convention (RNC) in Cleveland, Ohio. Harmeet Dhillon is currently the Vice-Chair of the CA Delegation, and is soon to be the Republican National Committeewoman from California. For many in the convention crowd, the Sikh prayer was an unexpected choice to lead with as the opening prayer.

When Harmeet Dhillon first ran for vice chairwoman of the California GOP, rivals worried that the lawyer Harmeet Dhillon give prayers at conventionIndian-born Sikh is in way over her head. GOP is short for Grand Old Party which is a nickname for the Republican Party of the United States.

Donald Trump was officially nominated as the Republican candidate for the US Presidential election on Tuesday. Trump’s formal nomination began with a Sikh Ardaas. Dhillon opened the second night of the Republican National Convention by singing the invocation (shabad) of “Tu Thakur Tum Peh Ardas, Jio Pind Sabh Teri Raas” in Punjabi and then uttering an Ardaas in English for the convention. This Ardaas is a first for the RNC, but it’s not the first time the 47-year-old San Francisco lawyer has startled expectations.

After the pledge of allegiance and the national anthem, Dhillon started her speech saying, “It is an honor as an American and the vice chair of the California Republican party to represent the fifth-largest religion in the world. We look to the one God above for guidance, and a reminder to have humility, truth, courage, service, justice for all and gratitude for all our creator has given to us.”

Dhillon then explained that it was Sikh custom to cover the head for the traditional prayer, so she put a headscarf on her head. After singing the beloved shabad, Dhillon said, “Please bless these delegates from all over this great nation you have created with the integrity to reform faithfully our sworn duty to nominate leaders to take America in the right direction. Please protect us from evil and create prosperity for all Americans.”

“Please give us the courage to make the right choices, to make common cause with those we may disagree for the greater good of our nation,” said Dhillon, speaking during prime time at the convention.

This was the first time the Ardas has been recited at either party’s national convention. Ardas is a Sikh prayer that is recited before performing or after undertaking any significant task. The shabad that was recited, “Tu Thakur Tum Peh Ardas, Jio Pind Sabh Teri Raas” was written by the fifth Sikh Guru, Guru Arjan Dev Ji, which is said as a prelude to the daily Sikh prayers called Ardaas. This verse is compiled in Guru Granth Sahib Ji, the primary Sikh scripture. The prayer, called Ardaas, appeals to God for protection and guidance. It denotes total surrender, humility and, above all, delineates the world as one family, with no distinctions whatsoever. The second line of the verse, “Tum Maat Pita, Hum Barik Tere,” writes Guru Arjan Dev Ji in this invocation to God, which when translated to English means, “You are our mother and father; and we are Your children.” The Sikh Gurus opposed discrimination in any shape or form, be it on the basis of castes, religions, race or gender.

Sikhism is not just a religion; it is a way of life. Anyone, irrespective of his or her birth, background or orientation, is welcome to gurdwaras, the Sikh houses of worship and learning. Essentially, that is what equality is all about, which the faith supports. Sikh history, in fact, is all about preserving and guarding human rights, through intellectual awakening or militarily if other means failed. So, the main hope here is that this Sikh prayer, high on symbolism, will allow Trump to eliminate discrimination in this nation and unify and create equality among minorities in America and outside; Even though the selection was unexpected for many in the room, it was well needed since the presumptive nominee Donald Trump was making headlines for strong rhetoric on immigration.

Dhillon hoped her reading the Ardaas would show that the Republican Party is truly diversified. “I think this is an inclusive party. I’ve never felt anything but included since Day One,” Dhillon was quoted by The Mercury News. Donald Trump won the Republican Party’s presidential nomination to run against Democrat Hillary Clinton in the November polls, a stunning rise for an outsider after months of controversial campaigning. Future more, diversity was showcased by the party in Cleveland when California’s Republicans formally proclaimed their support for Trump, the state party turned to Shirley Husar, who is black, to make the announcement.

Harmeet Dhillon is an Indian-American woman who is a Sikh. She’s a civil rights lawyer who represents minorities in discrimination cases. And she used to be on the board of the ACLU – a body that often takes an opposing stance to the Republicans. Harmeet Dhillon was born in Chandigarh, India. She emigrated with her parents to England and then to the Bronx, N.Y. Her father was an orthopedic surgeon who after moved the family to Smithfield in central North Carolina. She was raised as a Sikh. Her parents supported Republicans after they became naturalized U.S. citizens.

While Dhillon’s ardas was appreciated by many, including Sikhs and non-Sikhs, several others have condemned the recital of a Sikh prayer at a convention where Donald Trump was selected as the nominee of the Republican party.  Trump has uttered hateful remarks for Sikhs, Muslims, African American and other communities.  He has also been arrogant towards women in his speeches.


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