If you’ve ever seen a young Punjabi man, you’ve probably noticed his turban. Aside from being stylish, it’s a religious sign of spirituality and holiness in the Sikh faith. The Punjabi Sikh culture is one of pride, and the pagri is a sign of respect and honor.
Unfortunately, last Sunday, Transportation Security Administration officials at San Francisco International Airport didn’t get the memo when they asked popular Punjabi YouTube star and comedian Jus Reign – whose real name is Jasmeet Singh – to remove his turban, and then didn’t provide him with a mirror to put his turban back on, according to CBC. Asking a Sikh man to remove his pagg is already disrespectful, but to not even provide the proper accommodations to put it back on is equatable to a slap to the face.
Sikhs from Punjab, India wear turbans and they refer to it as a pagri or pagg. Most Punjabi men wear their pagg as a sign of honor and respect. It’s how they identify themselves and their strong passionate heritage.
Singh was in the Bay Area performing a show at UC Berkeley over the weekend. Late Sunday, when Singh was on his way to Toronto, Canada from SFO, TSA officials pulled him aside for a “random” screening and escorted him to a private room, according to Singh’s Twitter account.
The issue at hand is not only that Singh was racially discriminated but also the level of insensitivity shown by SFO TSA. They had given no thought to what the implications would be for a Sikh man to walk around with his pagri off, to the level of embarrassment and shame it would bring.
Singh politely and without any complaints did as the TSA asked, up until they asked to remove his turban. He complied because he wanted to board his flight, but when Singh asked for a mirror to put his pagg back on, the TSA suggested he walk to the nearest bathroom, according to his Twitter.
Earlier in February, actor and model Waris Ahluwalia, was barred from boarding his Aeromexico Flight because he refused to remove his pagg, according to The Guardian.
The question remains: would the same treatment be applied to a muslim woman? What if they asked her to remove her hijab and walk around the airport with her hair uncovered. The level of embarrassment is the same. Most people who wear a religious head garb are not supposed to be seen without it. It’s like being naked for them.
A turban is not something a person can just remove and put back on without any issue.
SFO TSA probably has no idea what the difference between a muslim and sikh is. All brown people have been grouped together with no respect and acknowledgement of their unique cultures. I guess TSA at large is hinting at Sikhs leaving their turbans at home.