Sikh Americans oppose turban screening at airports
November 8th, 2010
01:33 PM ET

Sikh Americans oppose turban screening at airports

Three of the largest Sikh advocacy groups in the United States are opposing airport passenger screening measures they say require hand-searches of turbans, despite the use of electronic imaging technology.

The Sikh Coalition, United Sikhs and the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund are lobbying members of Congress in an effort to pressure federal transportation authorities to re-examine a policy they say unfairly scrutinizes members of the Sikh community.

"Sikh Americans are already looked at differently in this country," said the Sikh Coalition's director of programs, Amardeep Singh. "Once you start pulling Sikhs aside for extra screening, it sends a message that the government is suspicious of them for the same reasons [other passengers] are suspicious of them."

The U.S. Transportation Security Administration adjusted security procedures in 2007 to include provisions for "bulky" clothing that includes headwear, according to an agency statement.

Removal of all headwear is recommended, it said, but the rules are meant to accommodate passengers who may not want to remove the items for religious, medical, or other reasons.

Transportation officials would not confirm whether "advanced imaging technology" can sufficiently see through turbans, citing security reasons.

Despite the advent of the advanced technology, transportation security officers are permitted to use "professional discretion" in determining if a particular item of clothing should be subject to further screening, according to the statement.

Authorities say the policy has remained unchanged since 2007, but Sikh advocacy groups argue that airport security procedures were recently ramped up to include extra screening for all turban-wearing passengers.

Singh said U.S. Sikh groups that had once observed "a patchwork of [airport security] policies" are now witnessing a process in which "all turbans are searched."

CNN was not able to independently verify that claim.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Religious liberty • Sikh

soundoff (104 Responses)
  1. ankururdu

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    Sikhs in Britain: a community in flux

    February 19, 2013 at 1:48 am |
  2. Turban

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    April 21, 2012 at 9:06 pm |
  3. turban

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    April 21, 2012 at 4:56 pm |
  4. GSA

    Agreed that if there is an uprising of Khalistan then yes, check all turbans. Try finding video and web-sites of any other terror group from other countries and other faiths and you will find the exact same result. Some small group or sect readying themselves for an uprising. So yes, check all turbans along with everything else under the sun.

    November 17, 2010 at 2:28 pm |
  5. Singh


    November 14, 2010 at 7:22 am |
  6. GSA

    Nicely said and I have to agree with most of what you said and your line of thinking. I think my last post would make it sound like we have given up trying to out these Sikh extremists and that is not the case. It has proven difficult. I can say that there are 4 Gurdwaras in Edmonton (the city I live in) and the majority of Sikhs here attend 3 of them, the 4th being radical and having pics of martyrs up and spewing rhetoric. It would be lovely to stop these ppl from using the Sikh name and religion yet they do have the legal right to call themselves or there place of worship anything they choose. So they are not "franchised" by us Sikhs but nothing can be done to stop this.
    As far as positive PR for ourselves and bringing a public awareness to the cause. It's been done for many years and the general public, not just Sikhs, are well aware of how these ppl operate. Again legally our hands are tied. There have been more direct approaches and they have ended in violence, the Edmonton Police are well aware of what is going on at this particular Gurdwara yet no arrests. The moderate community has spoken up but most of the articles, interviews, pet – itions have gotten attention only on local or national Indian news or radio networks, it would seem that CBC, CTV, Global news (all the non-Indian, big news broadcaster here in Canada) don't want to touch these stories at all.
    As far as being afraid, I don't think any of the moderates are afraid and they have, in many cases, confronted these ppl themselves. Again only violence and more bad press for Sikhs in the mainstream media. The mere fact that this extreme Gurdwara in Edmonton is supposedly run on donations yet it is a huge facility and only has a handful of supporters there week in and week out shows that the finances are coming from another source other than donations, this has been brought to the attention of the media, the authorities and the public to no avail. The Air India trial alone shows how the general public knew exactly what was going on, protested loudly at the trials and all forms of public media and still the killers walk free.
    As you say "The muslims are, of course, "working the system" over here too, but that will stop at the next incident of islamic violence in the US. Public awareness is also increasing; witness recent state legislation forbidding sharia – and that's just the beginning."
    We're are in the same boat here but progress is slowing. Other than the Air India case, there hasn't been a large-scale attack on Canada so the media moves on to a better "story" to get ratings and the public loses interest
    Canada is very different as well than the US. The country as a whole is very reluctant to stand up for itself and in contrast the Sikhs are very forthcoming and will stand up for themselves. This causes further tensions in relations with the Canadian public and the perception of Sikhs, what we see as taking a stand and fighting what is wrong, many see as causing uneeded violence, it's a huge culture clash.
    Appreciate the candid talk and now my stomach is aching for some cheesecake. mmmmmmmmmm
    @Texas Girl – my apologies. I shouldn't question your service with the US army and whether I agree with your views is no reason to attack. Also anyone can mis-quote or get wrong info, happens to all of us and we learn and move on.

    November 12, 2010 at 4:46 pm |
    • honestanon

      @ GSA

      Understand. I've seen the fights. Orange turbans and all in the Gurdwaras. All on Punjab news, but not national networks.

      1. It seems that Canadian gov't is more screwed-up than I gave it credit for. The government allowed a Sikh terrorist who spent 10 years in a Pakistani jail entry to Canada? Now they've been "trying" to deport him since 1995?


      2. Vancouver and similar cities have high rates of Sikh crime by young 'gangster' types? Including major drug trafficking and many other crimes? And apparently this is unrelated to any Kalistani incitement. The gangs operate similar to organized "mafia." Why with all the peaceful Sikh ideals and history are your youth doing this?

      3. And yet I read there is ever-increasing Sikh representation in the Canadian government. In fact, you seem to have quite a few Sikh Members of Parliament and such. Are they ineffective in serving the needs of their moderate Sikh consti-tuents?

      You appear to have all the 'tools' necessary... ethnic political representation, positive cultural community, informed and supportive non-Sikh public, "terror-aware" government... it seems that you ALL want the same thing. What's the wrench in the machine? What's going wrong?

      November 13, 2010 at 3:26 am |
    • honestanon

      @ GSA

      In light of this...

      ... don't you think it's a good idea to check all headwear, including ball hats, turbans, and such? Kind of looks like simple common sense to me.

      November 13, 2010 at 3:37 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.