U.S. Sikh leader Dr. Rajwant Singh met Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and requested him to rebuild the Sikh shrine in Baghdad which was destroyed by extremists, three years ago. Dr. Rajwant Singh was invited by President Bush to attend the welcoming ceremony of Pope Benedict at the White House. The ceremony was attended by several top religious leaders and political leaders of America and Dr. Rajwant Singh was one of the few religious leaders invited to sit close to the dais while the Pope and President Bush delivered their remarks. Vice-President Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority leader Harry Reid and several cabinet members were present at the occasion.
The Gurdwara (shrine) in Baghdad was built marking the visit of the Sikh Founder Guru Nanak to Baghdad in the early 16th century. During his visit he had dialogue with Muslim holy man, Bahlol Dana, and this meeting represented the first talks between the two religions. This shrine has been in existence for long time and it has been cared for by Iraqi Muslims. Recent visits by the Indian press revealed complete destruction of the shrine by the bombs planted by extremists. The original Sikh gurdwara was built alongside the tomb of a Muslim religious leader, which has suffered no damage. This shrine was built by Sikh soldiers who fought alongside the allied forces of World War I.