Sikh teen who penned book on ‘bullying’ forced to remove turban at US airport
San Francisco: A Sikh-American teenager, who penned a book about bullying of children from the community, was forced to remove his turban by airport personnel in the US state of California, according to a media report.
Karanveer Singh Pannu, an 18-year-old high school student from New Jersey, had gone to talk about his book ‘Bullying of Sikh American Children: Through the Eyes of a Sikh American High School Student’ as an inspirational speaker to address the kids participating in the annual Sikh Youth Symposium in Bakersfield, California.
“After going through the metal detector at the airport, I was asked to do a self-pat down of my turban and a chemical swab test for explosive material. After a positive swab test, I was taken to a secondary screening room to be given a full pat down and was asked to remove my turban to be further scanned,” Pannu was quoted as saying by NBC.com.
“I refused at first but when they threatened me that I could not fly, I agreed, provided they gave me a mirror to retie my turban,” he added.
“Before I removed my turban, Agent Hernandez asked the dreaded asinine question, ‘Is there anything we need to be aware of before you remove your turban?’ I politely answered that there is a lot of long hair and something called the brain underneath.”
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) declined to comment on the specifics of any individual passenger’s screening experience, but that all TSA officers and contracted screeners are trained to treat all passengers with dignity and respect and receive periodic training regarding cultural and religious sensitivities, A TSA spokesperson told the network.
When additional screening requires the removal of religious apparel, officers offer a private room. In 2007, TSA revised its screening procedures for head coverings based on discussions with the Sikh community, the spokesperson said.
Pannu said he felt “utterly humiliated, shaken, distraught” by the experience.