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Oct 27, 2001

More than a month after the WTC terror attacks, the American backlash continues. And once again, their mistaken target are the turbaned Sikhs. As US airlines resume flights, more than a dozen turbaned Sikhs have been stopped from boarding planes. The ultimatum: either remove your turban or stay off. Harassed, Sikh leaders met transportation secretary Norman Mineta on Friday and are also planning to meet the newly appointed internal security secretary Tom Rich and House minority leader Richard Gephardt next week, according to New York-based hotelier Sant Chatwal.

Even as Sikh leaders were meeting Mineta, another incident came to light in New York when Judge Tejinder Singh Kahlon was disallowed from boarding a South-West Airlines flight to South Carolina. Speaking to the Sunday Times of India from New York, Kahlon, who has been a family court judge on Long Island for 16 years, said, "After checking in my luggage, I went for a security check. Two National Security Guards asked me to come out of the queue. They took me to a separate room and asked me to remove my turban. I told them, scan it. If you find something, I will remove it. Otherwise not. The turban is part of my religion."

Kahlon was asked to meet the airport supervisor who told him bluntly: "If you don't remove the turban, you cannot take the flight." When Kahlon asked him to show the rules under which he was being asked to remove his turban, the supervisor cited Federal Aviation Authority regulations. When he persisted, they said he could contact the FAA. Exasperated, Kahlon left to retrieve his baggage at the check-in counter. Whe he was about leave the airport, the airlines station manager came out running. "He said he was sorry and could book me for a later flight. But it was 8.30 p.m. So I said no. Then he said he is booking me for tomorrow morning and promised to put me on the plane."

On Friday morning, when Kahlon reached the airport, he was again asked to remove his turban. "The same station manager said that his airline has no problem. Airport authorities are to blame. He took me to the chairman of the airport authority. That man said bluntly: No journey till you remove your turban. I am the final authority." The South-West Airlines chairperson has personally apologised to Kahlon. Kahlon now says he will take up his case with the US attorney general this week.



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