UNITED SIKHSWinner of the Sikhs and Charities Award
November 8, 2010
25th Katik (Samvat 542 Nanakshahi)
Press Release

Visual Representation of the Evolution of TSA Airport Security Policies Regarding the Screening of Sikh Turbans

Sikhs Should Expect their Dignity, Modesty, and Privacy to be Severely Curtailed with New TSA Screening Policies


  • Evolution of TSA security policies (see image below) reveal Sikh civil rights to be severely affected

  • UNITED SIKHS continues to inform and work with members of Congress and TSA officials to educate them of Sikh rights

NEW YORK, NY:The racial/religious profiling of the Sikh community at U.S. Airports due to Transportation Security Agency (TSA) policies is a civil and human rights question that should put all U.S. citizens on high alert. UNITED SIKHS is working closely with Sikh Coalition and Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF) in trying to educate not only our community, but also the country about the full impact of TSA policies and why the Sikh community is paying a disproportionate and heavy price to justify our airport security. From our discussions with TSA officials, screening of Sikhs, almost a decade after 9/11, will become more extreme and severe.

For over three years now, the Sikh community has faced additional secondary screening, sometimes 100% of the time at major U.S. airports. "Today, we must endure further indignity as our turbans, our crown, the fulcrum of our identity, is considered per se an "anomaly" by TSA's Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT)," stated Jaspreet Singh, Legal Director of UNITED SIKHS. 

This begs the question, how advanced can a technology be when turbans which have folds/ layers will be considered an anomaly or "non-form fitting" headwear and always subject a Sikh to not only secondary, but tertiary (three levels) of screening (see graph below). How many TSA officials will be used to screen one Sikh through three levels of screening? Our society must begin to question whether we are actually safer or whether the perception of safety, by trotting out Sikhs for several layers of screening, is enough.

Visual representation of the evolution of TSA policies as described by TSA officials. Click HERE to enlarge image

If you thought you could escape AIT, which many civil rights organizations have called a "virtual strip search", you would be mistaken. TSA is phasing out metal detectors at U.S. airports, leaving passengers with only one option outside AIT, a rigorous "prison style pat-down". 

ACLU Legislative Counsel Chris Calabrese told USA Today: "Are we giving people two intolerable actions at airports? They can be virtually strip-searched or endure a really aggressive grope? (emphasis added)." We are being given a false choice, and hence, no choice at all. TSA has spent billions in rolling out AIT and they will use extreme pat-downs as a way of coercing the public into conformity . . . into using AIT exclusively.

While we are waiting for TSA to release a complete written statement of their policies, UNITED SIKHS has drafted a chart which graphs the evolution of TSA policies since 9/11 based on what TSA officials have told us, making it easier for the Sikh community and the general public to simply visualize how TSA's policies have gradually "stripped" passengers, specifically Sikh passengers, of their dignity, modesty, and privacy.  Please see our recent joint letter with other Sikh organizations to TSA Administrator Mr. John S. Pistole for more detail.

If you have experienced discrimination during air travel, REPORT YOUR EXPERIENCE to UNITED SIKHS.

To see our joint community advisory, please click here: http://www.unitedsikhs.org/PressReleases/PRSRLS-05-11-2010-00.html

Issued by:
Hansdeep Singh
Senior Staff Attorney

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If you have experienced discrimination during air travel, REPORT YOUR EXPERIENCE TO UNITED SIKHS here.

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Protect Our Identity (POI) is an ongoing international campaign launched by UNITED SIKHS in August 2010 . It focuses on the need to protect the Sikh community's right to express its religious identity.  Initiatives under the POI campaign include:

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