[JURIST] The New York-based Sikh Coalition [advocacy website] Saturday expressed concern [press release] at a new US Transportation and Security Administration [official website] policy that subjects Sikhs to heightened screening procedures at US airports, including mandatory turban pat downs. On Friday TSA officials told the Coalition that in a Guidance memo issued to 43,000 TSA screeners nationwide that it had specifically included the turban [statement, DOC] – worn by Sikhs as a article of faith [Sikh Coalition backgrounder] – as an example of a type of headwear that could potentially hide non-metallic threat items warranting increased scrutiny. The new TSA Guidance amends an earlier one [text, PDF] issued in the wake of September 11 which recognized that "Sikhs view their turbans as an important connection to God that covers a very private and personal part of the body. Accordingly, removal of a turban is considered one of the most invasive acts imaginable."
The Sikh Coalition said it believed that "the most precious article of our faith has [now] become part of a government-mandated profile of a person who is a terrorist threat", and called the new TSA procedure "disturbingly vague":
Screeners have personal discretion to subject a Sikh to additional screening, a turban pat-down, or to remove the turban. With 43,000 TSA screeners nationwide, and minimal cultural competency training, the Sikh Coalition is concerned that this will lead to religious profiling.
AFP has more
. Traditional Sikh religious accessories, including turbans and ceremonial daggers, have lately been the subject of legal controversy in Canada
[JURIST reports] as well as the US, although those countries have reacted differently to potential security concerns.