WASHINGTON– Sikh American actor and designer Waris Ahluwalia says he was barred from boarding a flight home to New York from Mexico because he refused to remove his turban during a security check.
Ahluwalia, according to the New York Times, said Monday he checked in at the Aeroméxico counter at Mexico City’s international airport about 5:30 a.m. and was given his first-class boarding pass with a code that he said meant he needed secondary security screening.
When he showed up at the gate to board Flight 408 to New York City, Ahluwalia said, attendants told him he needed to step aside and wait for other passengers to board.
After they did, his feet and bag were searched and swabbed, he was told to remove a sweatshirt and he was patted down. Then, he said, he was asked to take off his turban.
“I responded matter-of-factly that I won’t be taking off my turban,” he was quoted as saying in an interview from the airport in Mexico City. “And then they talked amongst themselves and they said, ‘O.K., then you are not getting on the flight.'”
He said he was told by another airline security official that he would not be boarding any other Aeroméxico flight until he met their security demands.
“It is a symbol of my faith,” Ahluwalia said, explaining why he would not remove the turban. “It is something that I wear whenever I am in public.”
A statement released by the airline Monday said that Ahluwalia’s screening was in compliance with Transportation Security Administration protocol and that the airline had offered him alternatives to “reach his destination as soon as possible.”
Ahluwalia, 41, who grew up in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, is an actor and a designer based in Manhattan known for his House of Waris jewellery line and
other design work.