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Sikh News US Airways' Bigotry Not Acceptable

Discussion in 'Breaking News' started by Aman Singh, Dec 23, 2009.

  1. Aman Singh

    Aman Singh
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    Jun 1, 2004
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    In November 2008, three Sikh musicians - Ragis, spiritual minstrels - boarded a US Airways flight from Sacramento to Salt Lake City. Like many Sikh men, they were wearing turbans and long beards.
    They didn't make it to Salt Lake that day. After the men took their seats, US Airways removed them from the plane.
    Why? It's difficult to know. US Airways has declined to comment. But according to a group that represents Sikhs in this area, US Airways removed the men because a passenger complained about being afraid of them.
    If this is true, it suggests that both airlines and their passengers haven't progressed much since the fearful days that followed 9/11. Back then, passengers of various backgrounds were taken off flights, merely because of their appearance, in blatant cases of racial profiling.
    In this most recent episode, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and a Sikh advocacy group called the United Sikhs filed a lawsuit on behalf of the three men. Last week, the groups announced an undisclosed settlement with US Airways.
    Possibly that settlement will serve as a learning moment - reminding passengers that people wearing unconventional clothes are not necessarily their enemy. And perhaps it will remind people in this area that Sikhs have long been a part of the American scene and the customer base of the Sacramento International Airport.
    Sikhism is one of the world's major religions, and the Punjab region of the Indian subcontinent is its historic homeland. Sikhs began emigrating to the Sacramento Valley more than a century ago. Yuba City, which has the largest Sikh population in the United States, has a Sikh mayor, Kash Singh Gill, whose family goes back four generations here. Currently, the Sacramento area is home to 15,000 Sikhs.
    As for the three spiritual minstrels, all from Punjab, India, they were on a national tour and had performed at a Gurdwara (Sikh church) in West Sacramento before their less-than-welcoming experience at the airport.
    After being removed from their US Airways plane, they booked another flight on Delta Airlines and resumed their journey the next day.
    Later they filed a Deprtment of Transportation complaint, contending US Airways violated federal law barring actions against air passengers on the basis of religious or ethnic appearance.
    It's good to hear that the CEO of US Airways issued an apology to the three men as part of the settlement. Two bad the company didn't make a public statement to make it official.
    As Jaspreet Singh, a representative of United Sikhs, recently noted, "Flying with a turban is not a security threat."
    It's long past time for that message to be part of the friendly skies.

    December 20, 2009

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