The Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund, a Washington advocacy group, is asking for a retraction to be included on its Web site, and that the nature channel produce an informative program that would benefit the Sikh community.
When asked if it would consider these requests, the channel would not comment.
“We have no further statement beyond our initial response,” said Christopher Albert, a spokesman.
“We clearly understand your concern in today’s media and political climate whereby Muslim extremists are typically depicted wearing turbans,” was the official response to SALDEF on Jan 21. “It was never NGC’s intention to mislead or confuse the audience watching the program by implying that Sikhs are Muslim extremists.
“The images of the Sikhs should not have been in the program and we apologize for any disrespect or inconvenience this may have caused the Sikh-American community.
“We have edited the program to remove the images.
“We thank you again for bringing this to our attention, and we hope you accept our sincere apology.”
According to National Geographic, in a December episode of its series, ‘Inside,’ the channel explored Al-Qaida and the overall threat of homegrown terrorism in America and around the world. The episode, ‘Inside Al Qaeda,’ was originally broadcast with a scene showing two Sikhs walking around the Lincoln Memorial as the narrator talked about how America had historically been more welcoming to religious and ethnic groups than Europe. The program then cut to a generic scene of the Lincoln Memorial with no Sikhs present with the narrator saying that American Muslims have better social and economic opportunities than their European counterparts.
Kanwarjeet Singh of New Jersey saw the episode on Dec. 4 and alerted SALDEF.
After National Geographic’s response, SALDEF sent another letter on Jan. 27 asking for more.
“Despite these initial positive steps, we are still deeply concerned of the impressions previous broadcasts of ‘Inside Al Qaeda’ may have already had on viewers in conflating Sikhs with terrorism,” said Jasjit Singh, associate executive director, in the letter. “Our concerns are more serious than ones of “disrespect or inconvenience.”
“…We ask that your website, namely the page for the ‘Inside Al Qaeda’ program, include a statement of retraction. …(And) we welcome the opportunity to work with National Geographic to produce programming that examines issues such as racial profiling, experiences of minority communities post-9/11, specifically the Sikh faith.”
National Geographic Channel would not comment on how many times the episode had aired or what was its audience. But according to Nielsen Media Research in medialifemagazine.com, the network reached 52.6 million homes in 2004.