UPDATE: Waris Ahluwalia is standing his ground in Mexico City until Aeromexico issues a public apology.
ORIGINAL STORY: Mexican airline Aeromexico forbade a Sikh man in a turban from boarding one of their planes on Monday morning.
Waris Ahluwalia, an Indian-born actor (The Darjeeling Limited, The Grand Budapest Hotel) and designer, refused to remove his turban, prompting airline security to keep him from getting on the plane. Ahluwalia posted this to his Instagram page.
In another post, Ahluwalia holds his boarding pass, which has a clearly marked “SSSS.” In airport-speak, that means “Secondary Security Screening Selectee,” which usually indicates that you’ll be screening an additional time before boarding the plane.
Ahluwalia, 41, was prepared for the extra attention, but didn’t realize his turban would be a problem.
He told the New York Daily News that security held him back until everyone else had boarded the 7:15 a.m. flight to New York before searching his bag, swabbing him and running their hands down the bottom of his feet.
Some organizations have slammed the “SSSS” process as potentially racist or ethnically discriminatory.
“I’ve had the magic four S’s before,” said Ahluwalia. “I’m really lucky on my ‘random’ selection.”
Despite the perceived mistreatment, he obeyed all orders until security asked him to remove his turban.
“That is not something that I would do in public,” he said. “That’s akin to asking someone to take off their clothes.”
When he explained he wouldn’t be taking his turban off in a public area and asked to be taken for private examination, airline security told him “You will not be flying Aeromexico. You will need to book another flight.”
“I was shaking at first,” he said. “That’s not a nice thing to be told, that you are not allowed to fly on this plane because of something you are wearing, or because of your religious beliefs.”
Ironically, Aeromexico had invited Ahluwalia to fly first class. The airline has not commented on the incident.
Ahluwalia refuses to fly with Aeromexico again unless they offer a public apology and promise to train staff on how to work with Sikhs. “The Sikh Coalition has done that with the TSA and many other airport authorities with success,” he said. “This is a chance for growth.”
Ahluwalia just starred in Canadian director Deepa Mehta’s movie Beeba Boys, for which he received a Canadian Screen Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor.Follow @CJancelewicz
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