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Sikh musicians removed from flight reach settlement
December 15 , 2009


Three Sikh religious musicians who were removed from a US Airways flight leaving Sacramento International Airport have reached a settlement with the airline.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California and United Sikhs, who had accused the airline of racial profiling in the November 2008 incident, announced the agreement Monday.

Financial terms were not disclosed, but Jaspreet Singh, representing United Sikhs, said his clients have received an apology from the CEO of US Airways. Airline officials declined to comment Monday.

The three Indian musicians – Davinder Singh, Gulbag Singh and Iqbal Singh – perform worldwide at Sikh temples, said Jaspreet Singh. "They do Sikh religious hymns in the classical Raag style of singing that's over 1,000 years old," he said. "They've been doing it over 30 years."

Like many Sikh men, the musicians wear turbans and long beards. Before the November incident, they had performed hymns at a Sikh temple in West Sacramento. They had boarded a flight bound from Sacramento to Salt Lake City when they were removed, Jaspreet Singh said.

After a passenger complained of being afraid of the men, they were told to deplane and rebooked on a Delta flight leaving a day later, Singh said.

The trio filed a complaint with the Department of Transportation, claiming the airline violated federal law prohibiting airlines from targeting passengers based on religious or ethnic appearance.

"Flying with a turban is not a security threat," Singh said. "When airlines remove passengers solely because of how they look, they contribute to a climate of biased misinformation."

The Sacramento region is home to the largest Sikh population in the United States, and Sikhs wearing turbans travel frequently from Sacramento International Airport.

The Sikh turban, or dastaar, is the most recognizable feature of devout Sikhs, Singh said. "It is an inextricable part of the Sikh identity and is worn by a Sikh at all times to cover the kesh (unshorn hair), one of the five articles of faith that initiated Sikhs are required to maintain."

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