Airport Discrimination Against Sikhs, Muslims

November 10, 2001

Source: The New York Times

On November 10, 2001, The New York Times reported that Dr. Ahluwalia, an American Sikh who is chairman of the department of preventive medicine at the University of Kansas School of Medicine, "had already passed through a metal detector and been scanned by a hand-held wand, setting off no warning beeps. So, he said, he was stunned when the guardsman told him to remove his turban...Sikh travelers say that since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks they have been singled out for questioning by the police and security workers at American airports. More than two dozen Sikh men have filed complaints with antidiscrimination groups asserting that they were forced to remove their turbans in public areas of airports, a violation of their religious obligations...Muslim women have also been told to remove their headscarves at airport security checkpoints, also a violation of their beliefs, Muslim advocacy groups say. The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee has received reports from 21 Arab and Muslim travelers who were evicted from their flights after pilots or flight attendants refused to travel with them.

Sikh groups met on Tuesday in Washington with officials of the Department of Transportation. They were joined by leaders of Muslim, Christian and Jewish organizations...Sikh leaders asked that Sikh passengers compelled to remove their turbans be allowed to do so with security officials in private rooms and to be given adequate tie them again...Since Sept. 11, the Transportation Department has issued two memorandums reminding those who work in transportation centers that discrimination is prohibited under federal civil rights laws."