American Turban

TSA, USA

The revolution will not be televised x-rayed.

Kimberly Wilder of The Wilder Side has an issue with the TSA’s screening procedures in American airports:

This is a humiliation happening to all of the American people. This is an affront to our civil liberties. It is an attempt to control our movements and air travel much like happened in the Soviet Union. Although, at least I don’t think that the Soviets tried to irradiate the citizenry. This is serious. What can you do to help stop full body x-ray scanners at airports?

It is an interesting commentary, especially from a non-Sikh American.  Turban-wearing Sikhs have struggled with TSA screening procedures for a long time, as the TSA continues to enact procedures to search our turbans, while we resist the sense of humiliation for being pulled aside and additionally searched – especially when it is directed at a religious article of faith.  We are also concerned that we are being pulled aside simply because we’re (usually) brown and wear a turban, and without any other cause.

Just today, the Sikh Coalition released an advisory about a new policy by the TSA to secondarily and tertiarily screen all turban-wearing passengers:

 During this second screening procedure, a Sikh will have a choice of either:    

  1. a pat-down of their turban by a TSA screener; 
  2. patting down their own turban and having their hand swabbed for traces of chemical explosives; or 
  3. requesting a private screening (in a room outside of public view) of their turban.

In addition, after this extra screening of the turban, a third screening procedure (under AIT screening policies) will subject Sikhs to a metal detecting wand that will be scanned over the turban.

I am used to the secondary screening procedure and fully expect it when I travel.  The TSA staff are usually very courteous and respectful of my religious sensitivities.  I pat my turban myself and have them scan my hands.  

Of course, the additional screening always comes out clean and in a way I’m personally satisfied.  The more that people see we are not a threat, the better.  But, I wonder if the additional screening legitimizes the thought that we warrant this because we are suspicious. I’m cognizant of this as I find myself looking at the expressions on the faces of other travellers as they watch me undergo this screening.  What they should know is: I’m also probably one the most “scrubbed” passengers on the plane by security, and so I’m safer than most other passengers.

The Sikh Coalition, SALDEF and  United Sikhs bring up some good points (granted, made on assumptions) that question the additional screening, when we as Sikhs are subject to AIT screenings like everyone else.  Are the machines really foolproof? Are they – as Kimberly Wilder suggests – even safe?

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One comment

  1. Pingback: Is it a crime if done by the government? « American Turban

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