Connecting over 25 millions NRIs worldwide
Most trusted Name in the NRI media
Tom Lantos Warns TSA for religious discrimination and profiling against Turban


Tom Lantos, chairman of the House Committe Warns TSA
to stop forcing sikhs to take off their turban during security screening at airports.


Washington, DC, Aug. 13, 2007
Sunil Sharma

The new policy was instituted on August 4, 2007 and this revision of the Transportation Security Administration policy said any head covering must be removed if TSA agents believe it could contain a threat to security. The officials were incorrectly informed TSA employees that screening was mandatory for any passenger wearing a turban or wearing religious head coverings.

The 12th Congressional District of California, Congressman Tom Lantos (D-CA), chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, warns TSA Against Religious Profiling, Insensitivity and wrote today to Administrator Kip Hawley of the Transportation Security Administration to express deep concern about a new policy encouraging TSA screeners to pull aside and search airline passengers wearing religious head coverings.

“I have the greatest respect for your mission to secure our nation’s transportation systems,” Lantos wrote. “But unfortunately, it seems that this policy change has prompted TSA employees to engage in rampant religious discrimination and profiling. I hope you agree that such practices are not only illegal and inconsistent with American values, but also ultimately detrimental to national security.”

Lantos contacted Hawley after being alerted to several incidents involving the civil liberties of Sikh American travelers at San Francisco International Airport, which is in his congressional district. Travelers reported that TSA employees incorrectly informed them that secondary screening was mandatory for any passenger wearing a turban. Sikh Americans were ordered to remove their turbans, which represent a fundamental article of their faith, in full public view. More than 50 such incidents have been reported nationwide since the new policy was instituted August 4.

“It is apparent to me that these incidents demonstrate how the inconsistent application of this flawed policy has led to religious profiling and discrimination and the humiliation of ordinary Americans,” Lantos’ letter reads. “Furthermore, such practices feed public stereotypes that erroneously equate members of the Sikh American community with terrorism. Provoking a sense of fear against innocent American citizens simply because they wear turbans is a dangerous precedent that our government should take extensive care to avoid.”

Lantos complimented the TSA for its work with religious and community groups after September 11, 2001, and raised questions about how the agency could apply a discriminatory policy toward members of a group it had worked so closely with just six years ago. He requested a formal reply from Administrator Hawley, including information about actions that will be taken to inform TSA employees about accurate implementation of security policies and the possibility of trainings to prevent religious discrimination.

“As a victim of religious persecution myself, I abhor the idea that a U.S. government agency is engaged in a practice that isolates and humiliates ordinary Sikh Americans solely because they choose to wear the turban as an article of their faith,” Lantos said. “I hope that TSA will act quickly to enact changes which will ensure no future discriminatory practices are imposed on travelers.”

Lantos is the only Holocaust survivor ever elected to Congress. He is the founding co-chairman of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus.






Tom Lantos, The 12th Congressional District of California and Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said the abuse of a "flawed" policy, which "humiliates" Sikh Americans because they wear the turban, as an article of faith is "ultimately detrimental to national security".