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Friday, August 24, 2007

New Airport Security Screening Procedure Affects Sikh Turban

SALDEF meets with TSA to address community concerns and complaints

On Wednesday the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF), the nation’s oldest and largest Sikh American civil rights organization, met with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and other officials from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to discuss the impact on Sikh Americans of the recently implemented changes to security screening procedures at the Nation’s airports.

The new airport security screening procedures implemented on August 4, 2007, allow the Transportation Security Officers (TSOs) greater “discretion” regarding passenger screening and to enforce additional screening for individuals who wear head coverings. As per the TSA, the new procedure is aimed at head coverings that can possibly hide a threatening non-metallic object. The guidance regarding the new screening procedure, provided to the 43,000 TSOs, lists the Sikh turban among others (cowboy hats, straw hats, etc.), as an example of head coverings that may potentially hide a threatening non-metallic object.

The Sikh turban is the only religious head covering cited in the list of example head coverings provided to the TSA airport security screeners. The new procedures explicitly exempts skull caps (religious or not) from the new screening process. Under the old procedure, travelers would only be required to undergo additional security screening if they were unable to successfully clear the metal detector or if they wore loose fitting clothing.

SALDEF expressed the Sikh American community’s outrage regarding the discriminatory nature of the new procedure. SALDEF further expressed its disappointment in the lack of any consultation with the Sikh American community prior to finalizing and rolling out the new screening procedures. [SALDEF Press Release]

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