Sikhs Appeal to Department of Homeland Security
One of the most cherished values of our nation is "liberty and justice for all". Sometimes, we overlook what liberty really means and step on it occassionally. We hope Michael Chertoff will consider the new law that contradicts this principle and he will get the people involved in he decision, that which affects them.
Please read the petition below and sign your name to support, yet another appeal to repeal the law that undermines our liberty.
Mike Ghouse, President
Foundation For Pluralism & World Muslim Congress
2665 Villa Creek Dr, Suite 206
Dallas, TX 75234
Stop Religious Profiling in US Airports
Secretary of Homeland Security
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Washington, D.C. 20528
Dear Secretary Chertoff,
We are writing to you because we are very concerned about a recent policy shift in screening procedures for the Sikh turban in United States airports. It is our understanding that on August 4, 2007, the Transportation Security Administration ("TSA") changed a longstanding policy on security screenings, recommending that passengers with turbans be pulled aside for secondary searches. This means that millions of Sikh travelers will be singled out based on their religious practice, violating the spirit of religious pluralism that is a founding principle of this country.
We request that you meet with representatives of the Sikh community and other concerned communities to resolve our concerns. We want to work with TSA to develop a policy that will balance the nation's security concerns with the civil rights of those who wear religious headdresses.
As you may be aware, Sikhs are required to wear turbans as an article of their faith. The turban, worn over unshorn hair, signifies a Sikhs' commitment to God, justice and to uphold the principles of her faith. Touching a Sikh's turban is a significant affront to her religious practice. In its new policy, the TSA equates searching turbans to searching a cowboy hat or a beret. This is unacceptable. A turban is a form of religious garb, not a fashion statement.
TSA officials have admitted that the new policy, which specifically cites turbans as an example of headwear that could be used to conceal "threat items," was not thoroughly researched. Nobody responsible for this policy thought it necessary to familiarize themselves with the turban, or even confirm that a "threat item" could indeed be hidden in a turban. Nevertheless, without consulting the concerned communities, and with minimal guidance offered to their TSA screeners, the TSA's new procedures were implemented nationwide.
The TSA has also kept the new screening procedures a secret. This leaves affected communities without a meaningful opportunity to comment upon the policy, or understand how their religious practice may be affected when flying. In addition, the policy on its face is vague and gives screeners unwarranted discretion to engage in possible religious profiling. According to over two dozen reports received by the Sikh Coalition so far, it is clear that TSA field officers nationwide are interpreting the new procedures broadly to target Sikh turbans. This religious profiling also puts an official stamp of approval on the public's stereotyping of Sikhs, Muslims, Arabs and South Asians as terrorists.
Again, we request that you take up this matter urgently, and meet with our community groups to resolve the concerns raised by this new policy. While we fully appreciate the Department of Homeland Security's need to protect our citizens, the practical implementation of this policy means that screeners are conducting religious profiling. We strongly encourage the TSA and the Department of Homeland Security to reconsider their implementation of these new procedures.
We thank you for your immediate consideration of this matter, and look forward to receiving your response.
The Sikh Coalition, undersigned co-sponsors and concerned citizens worldwide
Please click the following link and do the needful:
Asian American Justice Center
American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC)
Coalition for Asian American Children and Families (CACF)
Greater New York Labor-Religion Coalition
Guru Gobind Singh Foundation, Maryland
International Institute for Gurmat Studies
Legal Access Network for South Asians
Sikh Council on Religion and Education
South Asian American Leaders of Tomorrow (SAALT)
World Muslim Congress
Foundation for Pluralism
From: Neha Singh [mailto:]
Sent: Friday, August 24, 2007 1:29 PM
To: Amardeep Singh
Subject: Your Help is Needed: Sign on as a Co-Sponsor By Noon Sunday
We are writing to request that you sign on to the attached petition letter to DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff, expressing our opposition to the TSA’s new headwear screening policy that effectively requires TSA screeners to conduct mandatory secondary screenings of all religious turbans.
The TSA’s new procedures reflect a reversal of longstanding policy that allowed for religious turbans to be screened only if they indicated a potential threat. The new policy is unacceptable because
1) it specifically lists the turban as an example of headwear that can be subjected to secondary screening at the discretion of the screener;
2) the new procedure and guidance on how to implement them have been kept a secret;
3) the procedures (given the limited information on them released to the public) are disturbingly vague;
4) the new procedures were created without consulting any Sikhs or Sikh organizations.
Thank you to those of you who have already reached out for us. Please let me know as soon as possible, preferably by noon on Sunday, August 26, 2007, whether your organization will sign on to the petition as a co-sponsor. If you have any questions or comments, you can reach me at the number below
Please also send out the link to our petition to your respective email lists and/or relevant listservs. The petition is available online at
If you’d like further information, please see the update and community advisory attached below.
Thank you all for your support at this difficult time.
Advocacy Director / Staff Attorney
The Sikh Coalition
40 Exchange Place, Suite 728
New York, NY 10005
Ph: 212.655.3095 (ext. 84)
To learn more about the Sikh Coalition, watch: http://alsolikelife.blip.tv/file/17779
Here’s what we know about the TSA’s new screening procedures for religious headwear: Our meeting with TSA officials in Washington, D.C. yesterday was very troubling. We were told that the TSA’s new policy, intended to target “non-metallic threat items,” allows individual screeners to decide whether they believe someone’s headdress may be able to conceal such an item. That means that 43,000 individuals nationwide who are charged with our security, but have very little idea of what goes under a turban or how to pat it down, now have the right to freely profile everyone that walks through a metal detector with something on their head in US airports. Whether or not a metal detector sounds an alarm, we are told, is irrelevant. Individual TSOs have the right to pull aside anyone with headgear that they think is suspiciously spacious.
Even more outrageous is that the official guidelines accompanying the new policy explicitly cite Sikh turbans as an example of something that could hide a threat item. When asked, the Assistant General Manager of the TSA’s Office of Security Operations admitted that nobody in his office had actually checked whether something could be hidden inside a turban. By leaving community groups out of the decision-making process, the TSA chose to forego adequately researching their new policy. In addition, no cultural sensitivity training has been provided on the topic; no safeguards have been implemented to ensure that this policy achieves its purpose without infringing on anyone’s civil rights. Since the language of the policy is still a secret, we have no idea how broadly it will be interpreted, and whether it can also be expanded to include hijabs, skullcaps or other forms of religious headdress.
While the TSA went to great lengths to explain that the policy is not a mandatory pat-down, but allows for screener discretion, officials seemed oblivious to the fact that in practice, they had just given their employees the right to profile anyone they choose. According to dozens of reports received by our office, TSA officers around the country are implementing this as a mandatory turban pat-down procedure. Saying that religious turbans are an example of something that could contain a terrorist weapon also acts as an official stamp of approval on the turban = terrorist assumption that so many people already make about Sikhs. Not to mention the fact that non-metallic items can be hidden anywhere else on the body as well – your trouser pockets, under your t-shirts, or in your socks. Why then target people for wearing cloth on their heads instead of patting down anyone in a pair of pants?
I’ve also attached below a copy of the advisory we sent to community members yesterday, informing them of what we learned at the meeting.
From: The Sikh Coalition [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Wednesday, August 22, 2007 8:36 PM
Subject: TSA Confirms New Airport Turban Search Policy