Sikhs shun San Francisco airport alleging religious profiling


New York: Singled out for additional
screenings at San Francisco International Airport (SFO), Sikhs in the
area say they avoid using the airport whenever possible.

    The Sikh Coalition, a rights group,
    has found in its Transportation Security Administration (TSA) report
    card that SFO was the “worst case scenario” for Sikh travellers.

    Almost 35 percent of all complaints about
    the TSA screening policy received by them from Sikhs across the US stem
    from SFO, a press release said.

    Sikhs, who wear turbans according to the mandates of their faith, believe they are victims of religious profiling.

    “It is pretty clear to me as a Sikh that
    I am being subjected to unreasonable procedures that do not apply to
    other US citizens,” said Kuljot Singh, a Sikh passenger.

    To avoid that treatment at SFO, Sikh travellers are choosing to fly through alternative airports in Oakland or San Jose.

    In October 2007, the TSA implemented a
    policy giving screeners discretion to decide when to additionally
    search passengers with head coverings that could be deemed “bulky”. The
    move mirrored other emerging security policies that take a host of
    variable factors – including facial expressions and ticket status –
    into account when deciding on subjecting a passenger to secondary

    SFO is the only airport that chose to
    interpret the revision as a mandatory turban screening policy, thus
    creating a disproportionate and unwarranted focus on Sikh passengers,
    the press release said.

    “The TSA policy being applied at SFO is
    not keeping any American safe,” said Amardeep Singh, executive director
    of the Sikh Coalition.

    “Targeting all turban-wearing Sikhs is profiling – a strategy that has been proven to be ineffective for law enforcement.
    And singling out all Sikhs in such a public way sends the very harmful
    message to Americans that Sikhs are somehow suspect because of their
    religious garb.”


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