Last Sunday, at a San Francisco airport, Jasmeet Singh was not allowed to board a AeroMexico plane because he refused to remove his turban.
Before you ask the redundant question, no, he is not my brother or cousin, and I am no relation to him. The last name Singh happens to be a common and esteemed family name that dates back centuries.
It is clear that the effects of 9/11 continue to reverberate in the United States. The increasing media attention given to ISIS isn’t helping matters either. It makes you wonder, if racism and xenophobia are the pillars of U.S national security.
People fear what they don’t understand, and sadly that’s the case for Singh, also known as Jus Reign, a Toronto YouTube comedian. The U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) stopped Singh for further screening that included a full body search, an added measure after Singh had already gone through a body scanner, metal detector and been patted down.
Singh opted to have a pat down but the TSA instead took him to a private room. The officers asked Singh to remove his cloth turban where he was told if he did not comply he would not be permitted to catch his flight. His turban was then put through an x-ray. The results showed nothing nefarious.
After this ordeal, Singh asked if there was a mirror so that he could retie his turban and was told to walk to the nearest rest room to do so. In public. Without his turban—a powerful symbol of faith in Sikh culture. As if the experience did not already reek of cultural insensitivity!
In Sikh faith, a turban is similar to wearing underwear and it’s not appropriate to remove it in public. It’s important that it is put together properly and neatly wrapped.Singh tweeted, “the turban is a sign of royalty, respect, dignity, courage and has a huge cultural and spiritual significance for many Punjabis and Sikhs.”
It’s important to note that Singh travels back and forth between Toronto and San Francisco frequently without incident. This was the first time he was forced to remove his turban.
Considering this, it would appear there was no precedence to warrant Singh’s treatment.
Racial profiling should not be the means to detect threats to national security. Countless Muslims, Sikhs, Hispanic and Blacks have been put under heavy scrutiny crossing American borders. This is a systemic issue. But it’s continued prevelance makes you wonder, is there is an end in sight?