Sikhs travelling through British airports will no longer have their turbans unravelled by airport staff if the metal detector goes off. It is not clear how many Sikhs were actually subject to this procedure, but the changes followed a campaign against the practice:
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.
This seems a sensible compromise to me, as it eliminates the need for turban removal unless there is metal contained within the turban, which there shouldn’t be.
This ruling also drew comment from Sikhs in England, a Sikh organisation which suggested that Sikhs were being unfairly targeted (yet failed to provide any evidence of this), with the implication that security staff should focus on Muslims:
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.’
To provide a vehicle for the Sikh community to be accessed and contribute to national consultation and decision making processes.
Sikhs in England is one of a number of organisations which is attempting to establish itself as the voice of political Sikhi in the UK, in order to be the main interlocutor with the government and local councils. Recently the Sikh Channel renewed its efforts to establish a UK Sikh Council, albeit without much success (according to the Skih Channel themselves).
Nobody denies that organisations such as Sikhs in England have plenty to contribute. Judging by their webpage they promote admirable activities such as greater understanding of Sikhi and pushing for gender equality by reminding the Panth of the Gurus’ emphasis on gender equality. Where these organisations become problematic is when they purport to speak on behalf of Sikhs. Sikhs, like anyone else, have an incredibly broad range of views, and range from Guardian readers to Daily Mail readers, doctors to curtain shop owners, and the idea that the Sikhs can be represented by a single organisation is wrong. That the state and media views these groups as representative is indicative of the fact that we as a country have failed to fully escape from the colonial mindset, which sees minority (i.e. non-white/Christian) groups as homogeneous blocks which are self-regulating, rather than as a mixture of complex and diverse individuals who happen to have a particular thing in common.
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