Amritsar, Feb. 9 (ANI): Indian-American actor and designer Waris Ahluwalia, who was barred from boarding an Aeromexico flight from Mexico City to New York because he refused to remove his turban, said on Tuesday that this incident has resolved him to take a stand on the matter and called for spreading awareness among airlines on customs of the Sikh community so that such incidents don’t occur again.
“Got a massive response from the media and the social internet and have been getting great support globally, including from Mexico and India. Please keep the support coming. I’m not angry at Aeromexico as I am a human too and I make mistakes all the time, but how you react to the mistakes is what matters. Their slow response was inconsiderate and disappointing. They should train their staff about Sikh customs,” Ahluwalia told ANI in a telephonic conversation.
Narrating his ordeal, he told that he was made to undergo security check twice and despite clearing them all, he was denied entry into the flight which was heading to New York, where he was scheduled to appear for the NYC fashion week.
“I went through the secondary screening, which they say is a random selection but I’ve received it way too many time for it to be random, where they patted me down, went through my bag and used a metal wand and metal detector. Later, I proceeded to the gate and when I was about to board I was asked to step aside, even though I told them that I have cleared all the security checks,” Ahluwalia said.
He was made to wait until all passengers boarded the flight after which he was made to undergo security check where they checked him for explosives and even told him to get down on his hands.
The issue rose when he was asked to take off his turban and Ahluwalia denied doing so publically.
“At that point, the officials went back and spoke amongst themselves. One of them came back and said that I will not be flying Aeromexico and that I have to book another airline. At that point, I posted on Instagram notifying that I was barred from the plane,” he added.
Later, an Aeromexico executive tried to put him on another flight and at that point the House of Waris owner decided to take a stand.
“I realised that I can’t board the flight because if I walk away from this now, this could happen to anyone else, any other Sikh, Indian or anyone that doesn’t fit their criteria of look. As much as I wanted to go home, I knew that this issue was bigger than myself and that I had a responsibility,” Ahluwalia said.
Aeromexico later released a statement, saying that the incident was not their fault and added that they were just following Transportation Security Administration (TSA) protocol, but Ahluwalia shrugged it off saying that if they wanted him to take his turban off then they should have offered him a private room.
“If they put the metal wand over my turban and if it had beeped only then could they have asked me to remove my turban. None of that happened, they just asked me to remove it. I am against this idea of profiling and targeting. It happened because there is lack of education and awareness in this case,” Ahluwalia said.
Asserting that he was not trying to attack the Aeromexico staff, he added that the ‘ignorance’ needs to be fought with educating people about the issues and teach them to be sensitive regarding practices by other religions.
Reacting to the incident, Akal Takht jathedar Giani Gurbachan Singh said that it was a very unfortunate incident.
“Sikh’s identity is distinct and can be recognized in the crowd, it is very unfortunate that these incidents are still happening and causing humiliation and harassment to the fellow community members,” he told ANI.
While condemning the incident of barring Waris from boarding the plane, American Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (AGPC) has offered the US administration all help to generate awareness about the identity of the Sikhs.
“Sikhs often becomes victims of mistaken identity,” said AGPC coordinator Priptal Singh.
Former president of Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee president Paramjit Singh Sarna said, “We condemn the incident in strongest of words and also appeal to Sikhs living around the globe especially in US to initiate a nationwide movement to make Americans aware of Sikh’s distinct identity.”
Sarna said that he would also take up this issue with the concerned authorities at party-level and would send a delegation to aggressively take up the issue of the distinct identity of the Sikhs with the US bodies. (ANI)