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Sikh turbans not to be searched at UK airports anymore

July 02, 2010 16:51 IST

Bowing to pressure, Britain has asked security staff at airports not to undertake humiliating search of Sikh turbans as part of the security drill.

In May, under European legislation, security staffers were told that they could pat down and unravel a Sikh's turban if the metal detector bleeped as they walked through.

But the religion's leaders in Britain branded these powers as unacceptable and the department of transport had to act quickly.

Now the department for transport has been forced to issue a memo to airports warning them to stop the searches.

Sikhs, who set off alarms at airport body scanners, will now have their turban scanned by a hand held wand, and will only be subjected to searches by hand if metal is detected in the turban.

"On Thursday, the department for transport advised all UK airports to continue using the previous methods of screening religious headwear, which eliminates the need to carry out hand searches. We have reacted accordingly," a spokesperson for the Birmingham International Airport was quoted as saying by the Daily Mail.

The decision comes after leading Sikhs branded the moves "humiliating and offensive". Dr Indarjit Singh, a British Sikh, and adviser to the Commission for Racial Equality, said that the legislation was unacceptable.

"It is considered very offensive to remove or touch a Sikh's turban, especially in public," he said.

"If there is a cause for concern, the individual should be taken into a private place where they can be properly searched, with the lightest possible touch."

Harmander Singh, principal adviser to Sikhs in England, said: "Sikhs are being unfairly targeted. As far as I'm aware, there haven't been any exploding turbans at airports yet. "Just because Osama bin Laden chooses to wear one doesn't mean that Sikhs should have to suffer."

Sikhs who set off alarms at airport body scanners will now have their turban scanned by a hand-held wand, and will only be subjected to searches by hand if metal is detected in the turban.

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