Mexican Airlines Says Sorry To Sikh-American Who Turned Negative Stereotyping To A Call-To-Arms Against Racial Profiling Of Minorities!
Mexico’s flag carrier Aeromexico has apologised to Waris Ahluwalia, a Sikh-American actor-fashion designer who was barred from boarding a New York-bound flight by its officials after he refused to remove his turban during a security check. Ahluwalia accepted an apology from the airline after Aeromexico pledged to improve its training for how to screen passengers with religious headwear, the Sikh Coalition, a civil-rights group representing him, said.
NEW YORK – Mexico’s flag carrier Aeromexico has apologised to Waris Ahluwalia, a Sikh-American actor-fashion designer who was barred from boarding a New York-bound flight by its officials after he refused to remove his turban during a security check.
Ahluwalia (41) was not allowed to board the Aeromexico flight from Mexico City to New York on Monday.
Ahluwalia accepted an apology from the airline after Aeromexico pledged to improve its training for how to screen passengers with religious headwear, the Sikh Coalition, a civil-rights group representing him, said.
Aeromexico offered apology, saying it “recognises and is proud of the diversity of its passengers”. “We apologise to Mr Waris Ahluwalia for the bad experience he went through with one of our security personnel,” Aeromexico said in a statement.
The airline said it works to maintain strong security measures while respecting its passengers’ cultures and beliefs. Ahluwalia felt “great” about the long-awaited apology, but said there’s more work to be done.
Ahluwalia, who is also a designer, said those who wear turbans shouldn’t face discrimination. Travellers should be taken into a private area if they’re asked to remove their turban, he said, as required by the policy of the US Transportation Security Administration.
Aeromexico’s apology “is a brilliant first step” but “there is a lack of understanding,” said Ahluwalia. He thanked the airline for its apology, but called the gesture “past-looking” and that he wants to talk about “steps in the future.”
The actor said he would remain in Mexico until there was dialogue with Aeromexico bosses about training their staff. “Really, this is about education, education of the Sikh religion, but also of other religions, and this is not just about me or Sikhs,” he said.
Ahluwalia, who made headlines in a GAP ad in 2013, had refused to be flown home by officials of the airline chastened by the outpouring of outrage.
Ahluwalia posed a three-point demand to the airline, Aeromexico, according to the Sikh Coalition, an advocacy group, for agreeing to be put on a flight home to New York.
“I realize that this isn’t about my convenience or getting home for lunch today,” Ahluwalia told The Washington Post. “I realize that if I walk away, somebody else was going to go through this experience again.”
He added: “It doesn’t feel like a choice I can make. I don’t think I can just get on that plane.”
He wants Aeromexico to issue a public apology, give an undertaking to provide Sikh awareness training to staff and train them on how to screen passengers with religious headgear.
Ahluwalia was about to board his Aeromexico flight from Mexico City after going through the mandatory screenings when he was stopped.
Ahluwalia was put through another round of screening now. They searched his bag, patted him down and asked him to remove a sweatshirt he was wearing.
They asked him to remove his turban, which he refused. “I responded matter-of-factly that I won’t be taking off my turban,” he told the New York Times.
“And then they talked amongst themselves and they said, ‘O.K., then you are not getting on the flight.’?”
Sikh men are routinely subjected to extensive and intrusive screening at US airports, even for domestic flights. A former Indian Permanent Representative to the UN wasn’t spared either.
This has little to do with their being Sikh. Most times they are subjected to this treatment because they are mistaken for West Asians, specially men, who also use similar headgear.
A Sikh owner of a gas station became the first victim of the 9/11 backlash when he was shot dead by a man who wanted to avenge the attacks just four days after, on September 15.
Ahluwalia’s GAP ad was defaced in New York with anti-Muslim graffiti. Someone wrote on it “Make Bombs”, a take on the ad campaign’s slogan, “Make Love.”
New York congressman Joe Crowley said in a tweet, “I’d say this is unbelievable but fact is Sikhs continue to face discrimination based on how they look. This must end.”
Ahluwalia lives in New York, and is known for his House of Waris jewellery line. He also acts, and worked in Wes Anderson’s “The Darjeeling Limited” and “The Grand Budapest Hotel.