Crowley urges TSA to elevate Sikh turban protocols

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After an incident in which a Sikh government official from Canada was forced to remove his turban by TSA, U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights) issued a letter to the federal agency asking them to re-assess their protocol for screening members of the Sikh community.

Navdeep Bains, the Canadian Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, was asked to take off his turban twice by an agent of the Transportation Security Administration in Michigan as he was traveling on state business, once at security and another time at the gate upon boarding.

“I appreciate the hard work that TSA carries out every day in protecting the American people,” Crowley said. “At the same time, Sikhs and Sikh-Americans have informed me that situations like this are emblematic of their ongoing concerns regarding screenings. In light of these concerns, I would appreciate any information you can provide with respect to how issues affecting the broader Sikh and Sikh-American communities are approached by TSA, including what standards warrant secondary screening.”

Queens has a large Sikh population in Richmond Hill.

According to Crowley, Bains was also subject to swab tests and other screenings, which he passed, and TSA will be providing additional training to the agent who broke with procedure in his actions.

“[It’s] clear that the Transportation Security Administration requires cultural competency training and review of its procedures and policies, given the incidents of TSA discrimination against observant Sikhs,” said Sikh Coalition National Advocacy Manager Sim Singh. “Profiling travelers on the basis of their race, gender identity, ethnicity, religion, or nationality makes our country less secure by diverting resources and attention away from actual threats.”

TSA protocol was updated in 2007 to allow passengers with turbans to keep them on when passing through security checkpoints, according to Crowley.

“I also understand that what happened with respect to Mr. Bains wasn’t carried out according to normal protocols and I am interested in knowing the steps that TSA has already taken or could take to expand education with an aim toward preventing these situations from occurring in the future,” the congressman said.

Crowley has long advocated for Sikh rights to their religious garb and in January 2017 celebrated the NYPD adjusting regulations to allow officers to adhere to religious observances while serving.

Although uniform code allowed for the turban to be worn, beards had to trimmed to a certain length, going against the Sikh doctrine that facial hair must remain unshorn.

Nonetheless, Sikhs in the city were no longer forced to choose between becoming a police officer and their religion, which Crowley said can only strengthen relations between NYPD and the communities they serve.

Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at or by phone at (718) 260–4564.

Posted 12:00 am, May 22, 2018
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Reader feedback

Dwayne from Queens says:
Crowley trying (again) to reassert himself. All must follow the rules and regs and if not, then leave. Simple as that.
May 22, 5:45 am
Bob from Glen Oaks says:
Be like me. Bald and hairy free. Shave shave shave.
May 22, 6:14 am
David from Glen Oaks says:
We must come together as a community to understand that people do things a little differently than others. Asking a Sikh to simply shave or to take his turban off is like asking a nun to remove her habit, or simply asking someone of great religious faith to remove their articles of clothing because they need to assimilate into Western culture. Each of us is unique, and that's great!
May 22, 3:26 pm
THINK from QUEENS says:
NO ONE is saying that you cannot wear religious clothing, but when we are talking about going through airport secuirty or other types of security, you have to remove certain things, like hats, sun glasses, etc. IT IS NOT BIG DEAL, this is what we do.

Crowley is playing once again IDENTITY POLITICS, which is one thing that caused Democrats to lose the elected and put an idiot in the White House.

AND if you are that offended for having to remove something that needs to be removed from going through security, GET OVER IT.

Amazing how laws in this country have to be changed for each and every group of people. When American woman go into say, a Muslim country like Iraq or Saudia Arabia, they have to cover their heads. AND what we are talking about here is going through security, not that you cannot ever wear a turbin.

May 23, 5:24 am
Venerable Stan from Flushing says:
I'm all for allowing peaceful law abiding Sikhs to wear whatever they like & keep their turbans on, IF someone will tell me how to differentiate between a peaceful law abiding Sikhs, & a terrorist dressed up like a peaceful law abiding Sikh. Until then Sikhs should just line up with the shoeless multitudes, take off their turbans and grin & bear it like the rest of us. (The pun is coincidental.)

A second turban removal does seem over the top, & that goes for any repeated search. If TSA folks can't get it right the first time, they should seek employment elsewhere.
May 23, 8:54 am
chattenx from Staten Island says:
I can see that Hon. Joe Crowley would like to comfort all his constituents in his district and see ways to avoid any particular set of people
from being put upon by regulations and rules that could possibly be reset to cause the least discomfort. But in this airline safety incident
I must say anyone could pretend to be a law abiding Sikh and conceal something dangerous under that turban, if it does not get checked!

I have seen on my foreign trips the airline safety workers require muslim ladies who were covered up all over their face asked to show their face by lifting the cover; Im sure they the ladies did not relish it, but it still was necessary for the authorities to identify that passenger for safety.
May 25, 4:32 pm

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