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Monday, September 10, 2007

TSA targets headdress wearers, including Sikhs

A local man said his religion is being targeted by the Transportation Security Administration because they wear a head-dress called a turban.

Now that man and thousands of other members of the Sikh religion are asking the TSA to take a second look at a new security policy.

A man named Devinder Sing [sic] Bains said the TSA is embarrassing his religion in public. This comes after TSA tightened airport security in early August.

Members of the Sikh religion said their turbans are a sacred religious extension of their body. They said if somebody asked them to remove it in an airport security search, it would be equivalent to asking them to strip naked in public.

A recent revision of a TSA security policy said any head coverings must be removed if TSA agents believe it could contain a threat to security.

Bains said the TSA needs to be more respectful of their religion.

"We’re not [saying] that the security is not a good thing to have ... We are all for the security, but not at the cost of somebody's faith,” Bains said. “That's what this country stands on is freedom of speech and freedom of religion."

No one from TSA was available to speak on camera, but they did release a statement saying: “This new requirement applies equally to any individual wearing any head covering that could conceal a threat item. Examples include cowboy hats, berets and turbans. This regulation is in place to ensure the security of the traveling public and is in no way specific to any religious group.”

TSA said anybody asked to remove a head covering would be offered a private screening area.

The Sikhs said they would still like a better option.

The Sikh Coalition has begun a petition asking the TSA to reconsider the policy. [Link]

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