(Washington DC) January 8, 2010 - Since the December 25, 2009 terrorist incident aboard a US airliner, we have witnessed heightened national debate about a longtime Sikh problem - airport security screenings that in effect amount to profiling by the US Transportation Security Administration (TSA).
In the wake of the attempted attack, the Sikh Coalition is more concerned than ever about screenings of Sikh passengers at US airports. We have reached out to the Department of Homeland Security and the White House to caution them against profiling Sikh travelers. We are also trying to gain information on how any enhanced screening procedures may affect our community.
In the meantime, we are also asking each of you, the Sikh traveling public, to bolster our work by telling us about your screening experience --- good or bad --- each time you fly.
In a letter to Secretary Janet Napolitano, the Coalition stated that our civil rights should not become a casualty of national security. We urged her to ensure that the TSA is not allowed to employ racial, religious or national origin profiling as a law enforcement technique and that the TSA employ better systems to protect against profiling.
At several US airports, this was interpreted as requiring all Sikh turbans and patkas to be screened. In effect, the TSA was profiling every Sikh at some airports, whether the policy intended it or not. The Coalition has been tracking this form of profiling with the help of the community in our periodic report cards.
After the Christmas attack, we now know that dangerous items can fit in garments much smaller and tighter than a turban. To our knowledge, not a single Sikh who suffered the indignity of secondary screening was ever identified as having engaged in terrorist activity. We hope that the administration will understand this new truth and work with us to ensure that Sikh turbans are not targeted.
Self-reporting by Sikh passengers is the only mechanism we have had to document religious profiling by the TSA since 2007. Since we now know even less than we did before about what Sikhs should expect at our airports, we need your help to keep track of what is happening.
We will update all of you as soon as we get more information from the TSA. In the meantime, please report your screening experience every time you fly and help strengthen our fight against religious profiling by the TSA.