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UK Consultation On Respect For Sikh Turban At Airports Sends Strong Message To Department Of Transport


1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
Sikh News Discussion, Saturday, 24 July 2010
From: “sikh federation” <sikhfederationuk@yahoo.co.uk>
To: “egroup SND” <sikh_news_discussion@yahoogroups.com>

On 9 July, Bhai Amrik Singh, the Chair of the Sikh Federation (UK), wrote to thank the Rt. Hon. Philip Hammond, the Secretary of State for Transport, for installing the pre-29 April 2010 security check for turban wearing Sikhs at UK airports until an acceptable solution could be found.

The letter also pushed for the need to find an acceptable long term UK solution for the Sikh turban as a matter of urgency and that a large survey of a wide cross section of Sikhs across the UK had been commissioned. The results for which would be available to the Department for Transport (DfT) on Monday 19 July.

On 19 July the Sikh Federation (UK) finalised the report summarising the results of the consultation with the Sikh community on the implementation of the new EU Regulation on aviation security. The report which is attached was shared with the DfT before a meeting between Sikh community representatives and officials on Wednesday 21 July.

A short questionnaire was distributed to a number of regional co-ordinators across the UK to seek high level feedback on a number of security procedures for the Sikh turban. The primary target for this questionnaire was turban wearing Sikhs and Amritdhari (initiated) Sikhs. However, searching the Sikh turban will not only affect turban wearing Sikhs, but also their family’s when travelling, therefore efforts were made to obtain the views of a cross section of the Sikh community.

Around 1,200 questionnaires in total were completed. Respondents were from over 50 different towns and cities across the UK and included Executive Committee members from 95 Gurdwaras and Sikh organisations. The results in the report were based on around 850 completed questionnaires that had been received and analysed by the deadline for this survey. The key conclusions are below:

Extent of objection to hand searching the Sikh turban

Almost all (98%) of respondents were against hand searches of the Sikh turban, even though only 60% of those responding actually wear turbans. This reinforced the strongly held view in the wider Sikh community that under no circumstances should the Sikh turban be touched by security or other officers.

Preferred method of searching the Sikh turban

Almost all (99%) of Sikhs had no objections to hand held metal detectors being used to check the Sikh turban. These results suggest hand held metal detectors should continue to be used to check for metal if the walk-through metal detectors suggested a passenger should be searched further. This should also be used for Sikhs working at airports.

92% of all turban-wearing Sikhs were willing to pat down their own turbans and have their hands swabbed or to use a plastic strip (or rod) that could be checked for the possibility of having been in contact with inappropriate materials. However, many when asked suggested a random check of the Sikh turban using the self patting down option would be preferable. This would be less obtrusive, more cost-effective and proportionate response.

Extent to which the Sikh turban is being disrespected at airports in mainland Europe

Feedback from Sikhs across Europe indicate there are extensive difficulties at airports in mainland Europe with reports of Sikhs having their turbans disrespected in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain and Switzerland. This has been corroborated by British Sikhs when responding to the questionnaire. In the last 12 months 36% of turban wearing Sikhs living in the UK who have flown back from an airport in mainland Europe stated they had their turbans disrespected.

Expectations of Amritdhari Sikh passengers in respect of wearing their Kirpan on flights

All Amritdhari Sikhs indicated that following the new Regulation that allows passengers to carry knives or scissors with blades up to 6cm they would welcome clarification on the wearing of their Kirpans on flights. They also indicated they would welcome a directive from DfT to airport security informing them of the right of Amritdhari Sikhs to wear the Kirpan.

Gurjeet Singh
National Press Secretary
Sikh Federation (UK)

Attachment with details of the consultation available from