US Sikhs outraged by turban search policy

The largest civil rights organization of American Sikhs expressed outrage Saturday with a new US airport security policy that it said allows arbitrary searches of turbans, a sacred headdress for members of the religion.

US Sikhs outraged by turban search policy
The largest civil rights organization of American Sikhs expressed outrage Saturday with a new US airport security policy that it said allows arbitrary searches of turbans, a sacred headdress for members of the religion.

The Sikh Coalition said it had been informed by the Transportation Security Administration that under its new guidelines, turbans could be subject to manual pat-downs even if their wearers had passed a metal detector test.

"Telling screeners to search people in turbans is the same as telling them to search Black people or Arabs or Muslims," Amardeep Singh, executive director of the Sikh Coalition, said in a statement. "The policy allows screeners to single out travellers on the basis of their religion."

Singh argued that the message the new TSA policy sends to the public is that "people who wear turbans are dangerous."

"That attitude challenges the spirit of religious pluralism on which our country was built," he stated.

TSA spokeswoman Lara Uselding, reached by AFP by telephone late Saturday, acknowledged that on August 4, the agency that oversees security at 450 US airports as well as railroads, ports and mass transit systems revised its screening procedures for head coverings.

But she denied the changes that will be carried out by all 43,000 US airport screeners had anything to do with religious beliefs espoused by travellers.

"TSA does not conduct ethnic or religious profiling, and employs multiple checks and balances to ensure profiling does not happen," Uselding assured.

But the coalition insisted the feelings of about 500,000 followers of the Sikh religion who have made their home in the United States were still likely to be hurt.

The turban is a sacred headdress in the Sikh religion given to its followers by the religion's founding gurus, or prophets.

Obligatory for men and optional for women, it is worn to underscore the distinct Sikh identity and full commitment to the faith, according to members of the religion.

AFP
Last Mod: 26 Ağustos 2007, 10:37
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