Sikhs can keep their turbans on in America, especially during airport security checks

San Francisco, Nov.8 : In a significant development, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) in the United States has announced new guidelines that permit Sikh air passengers to retain their turbans at US screening checkpoints.

The TSA has also announced plans to recruit Sikh youths for airport security assignments to screen Sikh passengers.

The new policy is a direct response to Sikh concerns that were raised after the TSA decided that "bulky" headwear like cowboy hats, berets or turbans would be patted down as a screening measure.

According to the new TSA guidelines, airport screeners will no longer "pat down" people wearing religious head coverings and travellers will have the choice of going through alternative security measures.

Officials said that such alternatives may include walking through a machine that detects explosive chemicals or wearers could agree to pat down their own turban, and then have their hands swabbed with a cloth that is tested for chemical residue.

Talking to ANI, Edward W.Gomez, Federal Security Director, US Department of Homeland Security, San Francisco, said that to resolve the turban issue at airport security checkpoints in the US, "we have met with different Sikh organisasations and decided to recruit Sikhs in the TSA security system so that they themselves screen their community men."

The New York-based Sikh Coalition, a leading US Sikh civil rights organization, has welcomed the change, saying it protects national security and ensures respect for religious pluralism.

However, it asked the TSA to introduce safeguards that provide better protection against religious profiling.

Parbjot Singh, the chairman of the outfit, said: “This is a welcome change and we also appreciate that the TSA has decided to recruit Sikh youths to meet with the language problem. They would screen Sikhs at airports while respecting their religious sentiments."

Dr. Pritpal Singh, Convenor American Gurdwara Parbhandhak Committee (AGPC), said: "This is a great step in the right direction and we understand that the TSA desires to resolve the issue.We hope the TSA will continue to make best efforts to train and educate its staff about Sikh sensitivities regarding the turban”.

"We feel Sikh officers would better understand the religious importance of turban than any other,” he added. (ANI)