Posted by: Singh Is King | Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Sikh Turbans Will Be Subject to Heightened Screening at U.S. Airports

airport-security.jpg The Coalition became aware of the change not from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), but through 4 Sikh air travelers who were subject to mandatory turban pat downs during the past two weeks. While the TSA acknowledges a change in policy has occurred, it has declined to provide details of the policy change for professed security reasons.The new procedures are in direct contradiction to a detailed turban screening policy that has been in place since November 2001. Shortly after the 9/11 attacks in New York and Washington, D.C. Sikh Community Groups Worked closely with Department o f Transportation officials to devise an airport screening protocol that would meet national security requirements, while safeguarding religious pluralism.

The Sikh Coalition is very concerned that a policy affecting millions of Sikh air travelers went into effect without any community group input. The resulting procedure revokes longstanding regulations on which our community has come to depend, and opens the door to legitimizing practices that undermine religious pluralism.

The Sikh Coalition is sending this advisory to alert millions of Sikh air travelers of the change and to provide advice on what to do if subjected to the new screening procedure.

What is Happening?

Over the past two weeks, four Sikhs — Prabhjit Singh, Inderpreet Singh, Pritpal Singh, and Prabhjot Singh — were all required to submit to turban pat downs in order to board an airplane.

At San Francisco International Airport, where three of the incidents occurred, TSA screeners insisted that Sikh travelers submit to pat downs of their turbans as a condition of flying on both domestic and international flights. Similarly, at Baltimore-Washington International Airport, a Sikh air traveler was pulled aside by TSA screeners and told his turban would be patted down before boarding this past week.

When requested, screeners did agree in three instances to conduct additional screening in a private area. TSA screeners, however, refused a request in one instance to wand the turban instead of patting it down. Screeners also refused to provide a copy of the new screening guidelines citing security concerns.

The Sikh Coalition’s Response to the Policy Change

Since the Coalition first learned of the new procedures this past Thursday, we have been working to confirm whether a change in policy has occurred and to understand the parameters of the new policy.

On Friday, August 17th, a TSA representative confirmed that a change in airport search procedures has occurred. The TSA, however, refuses to provide the public with a copy of the new search policies, citing security concerns. Nevertheless, the TSA has assured the Sikh Coalition that it will provide the Coalition with information it can share with the Sikh community by Monday, August 20th. The TSA has also promised to meet with Sikh Coalition staff members early this coming week to discuss the Sikh community’s concerns about the new policy.

The Coalition will report back to the Sikh community once it reviews the information the TSA provides on Monday, and after it meets with the TSA later this week.


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