A turban cannot be simply removed like a hat, because it is a symbol of a man or woman’s commitment to their faith.
“Wearing a turban is not optional. We don’t put it on and take it off when we please,” explains Simran Jeet Singh, senior religion fellow for the Sikh Coalition to the NY Daily News about Ahluwalia’s refusal to remove the article of clothing. “The turban represents our commitment to justice, to service and to faith.”
In Ahluwalia’s initial photograph he presents his plane ticket, which is demarcated with an “SSSS”, meaning “Secondary Security Screening Selection,” which indicates to security personnel that the traveler has been flagged for enhanced security checks. The “SSSS” selection is supposedly random, but likely that’s a front. “I’ve had the magic ‘SSSS’ before. I’m really luck on my ‘random’ selection,” says Ahluwalia.
Ahluwalia has sought to use the experience as an opportunity to make progress and educate others.
PHOTO: On this GAP subway ad featuring a Sikh man…Vandals have written “Make Bombs” & “Please stop driving taxis” pic.twitter.com/yvw2vhfexW
— Arsalan Iftikhar™ (@TheMuslimGuy) November 25, 2013
Ahluwalia is no stranger to dealing with controversy over the way he looks. In 2013 he became the first Sikh man to model in a Gap campaign, turban and all. Many of the posters were graffitied or tagged with phrases like the one above: “make bombs” and “Please stop driving taxis!”
But Ahluwalia’s themes while communicating to his fans through this experience have been extremely positive. His #FearisanOpporunitytoEducate and #lovenotfear hashtags accompany each post, and he’s not angry nor does he rant. Instead he posted a picture with a simple heart drawn on a piece of paper and wrote, “On this day, and each day hereafter we must remember that our struggle against fear and ignorance is fought with love. That is the only way forward for humanity.”
Aeromexico finally published an apology…
Will Ahluwalia find the education and change he’s looking for?
“We apologize to Mr. Waris Ahluwalia for the bad experience he had with one of our security elements in addressing your flight to New York in the Mexico City International Airport,” reads the apology on the airline’s website. “This case motivates us to ensure that security personnel strengthen its care protocols, always respecting the cultural and religious values of customers.”
Ahluwalia will continue to push for international tolerance as he holds the spotlight over the subject. Chances are this won’t be the last time he’ll face discrimination, but if each time he does he’s able to parlay it into a moment for positive social change, at least he’s making a difference.
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