U-turn on ‘humiliating’ turban airport security searches for sikhs

U-turn on ‘humiliating’ turban airport security searches for sikhs

By Daily Mail Reporter
Last updated at 11:13 AM on 1st July 2010

  • Dr Indarjit Singh CBE

Dr Indarjit Singh CBE: ‘There are different ways of upsetting people’

Sikhs travelling through Britain’s aiports will no longer undergo ‘humiliating’ searches of their turbans following fierce criticism of the policy.
Just two months ago security staff were told they could pat down and unravel a sikh’s turban if the metal detector bleeped as they walked through.

But these powers – given under European legislation – were branded as unaccpetable by the religion’s leaders in Britain and the Department of Transport has had to act quickly.

‘It is considered very offensive to remove or touch a Sikh’s turban, especially in public,’ said Dr Indarjit Singh CBE, advisor to the Commission for Racial Equality.

‘It’s the equivalent of asking someone to undergo a strip search in public in western culture.

‘Different things are considered insulting in different cultures – there are different ways of upsetting people, and we should try to keep that to a minimum.’

A spokesperson for Birmingham International Airport said: ‘On Thursday the Department for Transport advised all UK airports to continue using the previous methods of screening religious headwear, which eliminates the need to carry out hand searches. We have reacted accordingly.’

Sikhs who set off alarms at airport body scanners will now have their turban scanned by a hand held wand, and will only be subjected to searches by hand if metal is detected in the turban.

Harmander Singh, Principal Advisor to Sikhs in England, added that the security measures were ‘ludicrous’.

He said: ‘Sikhs are being unfairly targeted. As far as I’m aware, there haven’t been any exploding turbans at airports yet. Just because Osama Bin Laden chooses to wear one doesn’t mean that Sikhs should have to suffer.’

The turban is worn by all Sikhs and is a key symbol of their faith, which shares some values of Hinduism and Islam.

Dr Singh conceded that searches at airports are a vital security precaution, but said: ‘Security staff at airports must understand the particular significance of touching the turban.

‘Sikhs do live in the real world, but we don’t want to be subjected to constant searches at airports.’

A spokesperson for the Department for Transport said: ‘We will work with the airport industry and religious communities to find an acceptable long-term solution to this issue.’

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