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NEW YORK: The hugely popular golf magazine, Golf Digest has issued an apology to the Sikh community for portraying a Sikh Guru as a golfer. According to Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF), the editor-in-chief and chairman of Golf Digest magazine, Jerry Tarde, has issued an apology to the Sikh community for using the image of Guru Arjan Dev Ji in its May 2008 edition.

The item showed him as a "golfing guru", holding a golf club and offering advice. In a written communication sent to SALDEF, Tarde stated, "Our editors regret this mistake and have learned an important lesson. Thank you for accepting our apology."

Golf Digest has assented to issue a public apology to the Sikh community in the August issue of the magazine which will come out in July as asked by hundreds of community members. In addition, Golf Digest agreed to SALDEF's demand to stop the use of the image in their magazine or web site in the future.

The printed apology in the August 2008 edition of Golf Digest will read as follows: "It has been brought to our attention that an illustration in the May issue of Golf Digest inadvertently depicted a golfing character resembling an image of Guru Arjan Dev Ji, who is a revered religious figure in Sikhism. This was not our intent. We apologize for the use and for any offense to the Sikh community."

The issue was brought to SALDEF's attention by a Sikh blogger based in Washington DC, who did a detailed analysis of the imagery. SALDEF had earlier organized a petition (now closed), calling for people to express their "displeasure" about the image. On page 66 of the publication appears an article titled "The Golf Guru" which answers reader's questions about general topics associated with golf.

The beginning of the article features an image which, at first glance, appears to be a South Asian man drawn in a turban and beard, holding a golf club and wearing a golf glove. The image used is an obvious play on words where consumers have their questions answered by a "Golf Guru." However, under closer examination, the image Golf Digest uses appears to in fact be a widely distributed picture of Guru Arjan Dev Ji, Sikhism's fifth Guru.

Guru Arjan Dev Ji was instrumental in strengthening the message of equality and freedom of the Sikh faith. SALDEF has contacted Golf Digest publisher, Thomas Blair commenting, "While we understand the message that Golf Digest attempted, and failed, to send to their consumers, the decision to use the specific picture shows the cultural and religious ignorance of Golf Digest staff and senior executives."

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