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  • No turban searches at airports

    by Rumbold
    2nd July, 2010 at 4:14 pm    

    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.’

    Sikhs in England, the organisation which Mr. Singh represents, appears to be trying to position itself as the Sikh version of the MCB. One of its stated objectives is:

    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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    1. Kulvinder — on 2nd July, 2010 at 4:49 pm  

      My dad regularly goes/went through airports without his pagh setting off any metal detectors. He has a problem taking his turban off in public as its intrinsically linked to ‘modesty’ from his point of view, but if ever needed hes always been willing to take it off and have it examined in a side room (ie without the public gawping).

      Its never been an issue of having his turban examined; rather his main concern has always been the method in which he could be asked to let it be examined.

      If its not in a public place he doesn’t see the problem with taking it off. So im not really sure - from a personal point of view - what the problem with the original directions were or how the new directions supposedly ‘solves’ the issue of sikhs not ‘wanting’ their pagh examined; its not a question of wanting or not wanting, rather whether its done in a public place or not.

      I agree with you regarding ‘Sikhs in England’; id never heard of it before now and i doubt most sikhs in england will take any notice of its existence.

    2. Jai — on 2nd July, 2010 at 7:09 pm  

      Nobody denies that organisations such as Sikhs in England have plenty to contribute.

      Incidentally, they also formally reported the BNP’s Rajinder Singh to the Akal Takht in Amritsar because of his vocal anti-Muslim propaganda, as I recently mentioned in one of my own PP articles. I believe the Akal Takht are currently in the process of formally investigating Rajinder’s activities.

      Regarding various UK-based Sikh organisations, the British Sikh Consultative Forum (headed by “Bhai Sahib” Mohinder Singh) does a particularly good job and, thanks to its outstanding leaders, is very much in the spirit of the Khalsa as per the ideals of Guru Gobind Singh. There have been some recent positive developments involving the BSCF and I’ll be writing a separate PP article about that sometime next week.

    3. Golam Murtaza — on 7th July, 2010 at 9:55 am  

      I’m not a Sikh but I imagine that if I was a practising one having to remove my turban at airport security would be a real nuisance. Especially If I was running late for the flight.

    4. Jaggi — on 27th July, 2010 at 2:28 pm  

      I think you don’t have to take off your Turban to show ‘respect’ to the country law.Turban is very different from any ‘hat’ or any ‘headgear’.

      As a Sikh the following is FULLY acceptable to me:-

      1.Use a metal detector to scan the Turban.
      2.If it beeps security can check by any scanner available.
      3.If scanner not available then Turban can be checked by hands.
      4.In extreme cases the Turban can be taken off by the Sikh himself but in a private checking area.

      This is the BEST possible solution.I hope Sikhs and all the Authorities related to Security and Law and Individuals would agree with it.

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