President Obama has promised an Indian minister that he’ll reconsider newly implemented Homeland Security regulations that require Sikh turbans to be searched at airport and border checkpoints in the U.S.
The Transportation and Security Administration (TSA) recently announced that all turbans will be checked with hand wands 100% of the time at American airports, even when travelers go through new Advanced Imagine Technology machines. The news outraged Sikh groups that claim the policy is intrusive and tantamount to racial profiling.
Turban checks also constitute a “serious infringement” on the “civil rights and liberties” of Sikhs, according to a U.S. Sikh coalition. “Targeting turbans for additional scrutiny sends a message to other passengers that Sikhs and their articles of faith are to be viewed with suspicion by fellow travelers,” according to a statement released by the group.
This week an Indian lawmaker took the issue up with President Obama during his heavily promoted Asian tour. During a dinnertime chat, the parliament member from Punjab (Harsimrat Kaur Badal) asked the commander-in-chief to stop the “disrespect” shown to Sikh religious symbols during airport security checks. The policy has ignited “widespread resentment” among Sikhs all over the world, according to the Indian newspaper that reported the story this week.
Obama promised to have a “close look” at the issue and said he would ask Homeland Security officials to consider some “credible alternatives” to the disrespectful turban checks, according to the paper. Perhaps he’s trying to compensate for blowing Sikhs off during his jaunt. Obama was scheduled to visit Sikhism’s holiest shrine (the Golden Temple in Amritsar), but the trip was abruptly cancelled and foreign news agencies speculate that it’s because all visitors must cover their heads and the president worried about the image of him wearing a turban.