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Jon Huntsman brings succor to the Sikhs

by on August 7, 2012

If you know anything at all about former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, you know he has deep ties with the Asian communities.

And if you ever attended one of the Diwali celebrations he held at the governor’s mansion, you would have seen the respect and love returned. Huntsman’s house was overrun with members of the Indian-, Pakistani- and Sikh-American communities’ religious leaders, merchants and entrepreneurs and, naturally, their children.

The Huntsmans were beloved in part for having adopted orphans from India (Asha Bharati) and China (Gracie Mei) but the connection went beyond that. He loved their cultures, their foods (especially their street food and fiery pickles) an their religions. Even before he served as ambassador to China, Huntsman joked that perhaps his adoptive daughters would set an example of respect and cooperation that their native lands would follow.

His love of other cultures may explain Huntsman’s relationship with the Mormon church, which is seems more casual than from Mitt Romney’s. Huntsman told The New York Times that he gets  “satisfaction from many different types of religions and philosophies” and isn’t “overly religious.”

So it comes as no surpise that following the shooting at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, Huntsman would reach out to his friends at the Sikh temple on Redwood Road.

“When events like (the Sikh temple shooting) happen, I want you to know that everyone is with you. They might not come to visit as I have today … but I would say most all Utahns’ hearts are very heavy with a sense of sadness about what happened.”

Maybe not everyone. The Huntsman’s adopted daughters were featured in an attack ad that hinted that Huntsman is “unAmerican.”

In a sidenote, I remember while feasting at Diwali a few years ago with members of the Asian community, several of them assured me that the Utah governor who threw his doors open to them was “really a Democrat.” Considering his positions and performance in the GOP presidential race, maybe they know something Jon doesn’t.

Glen Warchol’s arts, culture and politics blogs also appear in Salt Lake magazine. http://www.saltlakemagazine.com/blog/#

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