This afternoon the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) announced a new security screening policy that will go into effect at U.S. airports on October 27 and apply to all religious head coverings.
The change is a direct result of collaboration between TSA, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials, the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF) and other Sikh organizations in response to the concerns of the Sikh American community over a procedure implemented on August 4, 2007.
The August 2007 procedure disproportionately targeted Sikhs for secondary screening due to their turban, an article of faith, like the Jewish kippah (yarmulke) and Muslim hijab. The turban is an integral part of the Sikh faith and identity, and removal of the turban in public is akin to a strip search. The procedure resulted in Sikh travelers being forced to undergo an invasive pat-down or removal of the turban.
The turban was the only religious article listed as potentially requiring additional screening. Furthermore, the procedure may have resulted in a misallocation of national security resources due to the heightened focus on Sikh passengers solely because of their religious practice of wearing a turban.
“The new policy is encouraging and addresses most of the concerns of the Sikh American community,” said Kavneet Singh, SALDEF’s Managing Director. “Our collaboration with TSA has resulted in a solution that strengthens TSA’s ability to protect our nation’s airports, while also respecting the civil liberties of all travelers of faith. We will continue to work closely with TSA to ensure that the implementation of the new procedure does not result in the inappropriate profiling of Sikhs and other travelers of faith.” (MORE)