Are Sikhs taking it too personally?

Should clothing now be sold with a “TSA-Approved” label?

You can’t wear white after Labor Day, and now you have to dress appropriately when you travel:

Travel experts say the new scrutiny underscores the need for better airport fashion choices that can help people breeze through screenings with their dignity intact.

Clothes loaded with metal studs are suddenly a no-no, as are bras with underwires. Slacks instead of skirts are preferred. Any baggy clothing can require extra inspection.

This presumably includes turbans, which the TSA flags for additional inspection and pat down:

If I submit to a full-body scan, could I still be subjected to a pat-down?

Yes. Pat-downs will still be performed on a random basis, or if a traveler sets off traditional metal detectors, wears bulky clothing or refuses to remove headwear.

Sikhs don’t wear turbans as a fashion accessory.  It is a religiously-mandated and internationally recognized article of faith that Sikhs wear to cover their heads in public, per our doctrine.  From the interview above, it is obvious that in TSA’s new policies that a turban-wearer is to be subjected to TSA’s invasive full body patdown, because the turban would qualify as “bulky clothing” or “headwear”.

The Sikh Coalition, United Sikhs and SALDEF brought up the racial profiling implications of TSA’s new procedures, but I had doubts about whether it was really the case.  All Americans are being subjected to this new policy, and even women who wear skirts have had their personal space violated by TSA screeners on the bulky-clothing justification. So, are we really being racially profiled?

Based on the policy, I would say so. If a turban-wearing Sikh passes through an AIT, has his/her turban patted down and scanned for suspicious residue, and has it scanned with a metal detector (per TSA’s new policy), is the FULL pat down necessary?  Even after passing all these procedures, the wearer would still be subject to a full pat down, simply because he/she wears a turban.  This is what gives me pause. 

I wonder, for all the turbans/turban-wearers the TSA have inspected to date, how often they’ve found anything dangerous to other passengers or for air travel. My guess is that such instances are very rare, if they occur at all.  Certainly, with TSA’s previous and less invasive screening procedures, no Sikh has ever been reported to have caused any disruption on any flight in this country. 

The TSA needs to answer these questions in order to justify their inappropriate handling of our turbans, and the use of our turbans as a justification for their invasive searches of our bodies.


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