USA Sikhs: Turban Screenings At Airports Unjust


1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
WASHINGTON — Three national Sikh advocacy and civil rights organizations say that federal transportation officials plan to always search turbans at airport screening stations, even if wearers voluntarily pass through state-of-the-art body imaging scanners.

The groups are calling on their constituents to lobby Congress and the Transportation Security Administration to overturn what they call an "unjust policy."

"All of us jointly feel there are definitely some elements of racial profiling here," said Jasjit Singh, associate director of the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund. "In our faith, it's the equivalent to being forced to be naked."

Hansdeep Singh, a senior staff lawyer for United Sikhs, based in New York, said the Sikh groups met five weeks ago with officials in Washington to hear how new scanners will affect Sikhs, who hoped the devices would eliminate the need for extra screening that they say they are always put through at airports.

The Sikhs said they were told that officers will continue to have the ability they now hold to conduct additional screening of the turbans that Sikh men wear for religious reasons.

They said officials declined, because of security reasons, to tell them whether the scanner is incapable of seeing through a turban, which typically has layers of fabric.

"Removal of all headwear is recommended, but the rules accommodate those with religious, medical or other reasons for which the passenger wishes not to remove the item," transportation security spokeswoman Sterling Payne said. "If the officer cannot reasonably determine that the clothing or head covering is free of a threat item, individuals will be referred for additional screening."