Indian-American actor Waris Ahluwalia was barred from boarding an Aeromexico flight from Mexico City to New York because he refused to remove his turban.
The 41-year-old actor and model who runs the House of Waris is a known face amidst the fashion circles was headed for the New York fashion week as mentioned in his Instagram post that read- “Dear NYC fashion week. I may be a little late as @aeromexico won’t let me fly with a turban. Don’t start the show without me.”
As an actor, Ahluwalia appeared in the Oscar-nominated film The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou and the US television series The Carrie Diaries. He also became the first Sikh man to model for GAP.
He posted a picture of himself holding his boarding pass in front of the Aeromexico customer service desk stating that the airline had asked him to remove his turban in full public view, citing security reasons and compliance.
For Sikhs, the turban is a symbol of their commitment to their faith. As part of their religious scriptures, taking off their turban is akin to asking them to take off their clothes.
Waris claimed that this isn’t the first time he has been subjected to such insensitivity towards his religious headgear. He reportedly asked for a separate room to have his turban removed but the airline staff refused.
The Mexican airline issued a statement saying that they were bound by obligation to follow “federal requirements in terms of security determined by the US Transportation Security Administration to review passengers.”
The code ‘SSSS’ on the face of the ticket indicates that Ahluwalia had been randomly pre-selected for a secondary security screening.
Time and again stories like these seem to crop up just to remind us that we live in a world that is yet to be sensitized towards ethnic and religious diversity.
It doesn’t matter if religion is a personal choice. What matters is that people, especially the ones in the service sector dealing with people of various religions and cultures; it becomes imperative for them to be educated about such concerns.
It isn’t all that difficult to provide specialized training and awareness for different ethnic minorities so that they do not feel threatened, vindicated or insulted at times like these.
We wholeheartedly share the concern of the rising climate of terrorism around the world and hence understand the need to be vigilant and on top of security, but not at the expense of someone’s sentiments.