Sikh - Preparing The World For The Turban Legend | Sikh Philosophy Network
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Sikh Preparing The World For The Turban Legend


Jun 1, 2004
The ordeal was finally over after two days for Sikh-American actor and designer Waris Ahluwalia, who had been stopped from boarding a New York-bound flight from Mexico City after he refused to remove his turban during an Aeroméxico security check.


Ahluwalia, who returned to the US only after the airline issued an apology to him, had refused to fly back on any other airline and used the opportunity to raise the issue of training airline staff about sensitivity towards Sikhism and other religions, and religious clothing.

In a statement, Aeroméxico said: “This incident inspires us to make sure that our safety personnel strengthens its customer service protocols, with full respect for the cultural and religious values of our customers.”

Sikh Coalition, a US-based organisation that has been working for many years on social and cultural issues related not just to Sikhs, but other minorities too, has supported Ahluwalia during the incident. “He was in touch with us from Mexico and we worked to make sure that the airline issues a public apology to him. But not just his individual case, we also worked towards making the airlines work with their staff to be sensitive towards Sikhs and people of other religions too and any kind of clothing they may have to wear during international travel,” Simran Jeet Singh, senior religion fellow of the Sikh Coalition, told ET from New York.

Other Indian-American organisations have come out in support India-born Ahluwalia, who recently received praise for his role In Beeba Boys, a film directed by Deepa Mehta.

“We are raising it to the department of justice and also to the foreign relations committee. It is really unfortunate that the Sikh community is facing such racial profiling incidents. The department of justice needs to come down very strongly on this,” said Sanjay Puri, chairman of the US India Political Action Committee.

The Hindu American Foundation, too, is concerned over this incident and has been raising awareness about the prevalence of such incidents and working with the Hindu-American community on similar issues of discrimination. “We have trained hundreds of transportation security agents at airports across the country on how to be respectful of the religious rights of Hindu-Americans, and plan to increase our outreach and training efforts in the aftermath of this incident,” said Samir Kalra, HAF senior director and human rights fellow.

Kalra added that Sikhs, Hindus, Muslims and other Indian communities have all been victimised by hate violence, racism and religious bigotry in the US, particularly in recent years. “This latest incident has contributed to an atmosphere of increased insecurity leading to greater vigilance amongst these communities. It further underscores the need to work closely with federal agencies, such as the Transportation Security Agency, airlines and other stakeholders to train and educate them on religious literacy and cultural competency, so that such incidents don’t continue to occur,” he said.

As a long-term step, HAF is working towards ensuring that elementary school level textbooks in America don’t perpetuate stereotypes about Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims, or any other groups. “These textbooks can have a lasting impact on an individual’s views and beliefs towards other cultures and religions, and justify intolerant views, and at times even lead to hate violence. Second, we need to educate our community members on their rights and how to respond to incidents of discrimination or violence, including accessing resources and the appropriate law enforcement agencies. Similarly, leaders of temples and other religious and community institutions need to know how to take preventative steps to protect their devotees and premises from attacks and/or vandalism,” Kalra added.

He stressed on the need for a sustained campaign to raise awareness about the prevalence of such incidents and educating the broader American society about beliefs and practices of Indians of all backgrounds

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Shabad Vichaar by SPN'ers

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