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Sikh Priest To Visit United States

January 4, 1999

AMRITSAR, India (AP) _ The Sikh religion’s highest priest said Monday he will visit the United States to settle a dispute over an edict he issued prohibiting the use of chairs and tables in temple dining halls.

Last year Bhai Ranjit Singh, who heads the 300-year-old Akal Takht, or Immortal Throne of Sikhism, said community meals should be eaten while sitting cross-legged on the floor in traditional Indian style.

The ruling has triggered violent disputes between hard-liners and moderates in North America, with several moderates were excommunicated for defying the order. At least three Sikhs have been killed and several more injured in clashes over the issue in Canada and the United States.

During meetings with members of the two factions, Singh said he will stress the importance of tradition.

Male followers of the religion, founded in India as a melding of Hindu and Muslim beliefs, are recognizable by their turbans. Teachings say Sikh men must show their faith by several signs, including never cutting their hair and carrying ceremonial daggers.

Singh plans to fly to the United States Friday, but exact itinerary was not released. His staff said he will visit New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

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