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US-based Sikh actor Waris Ahluwalia denied boarding due to turban

Source: PTI
Last updated on: February 09, 2016 12:43 IST
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A Sikh-American actor has been barred from boarding a New York-bound Aeromexico flight after he refused to remove his turban during a security check.

Waris Ahluwalia, 41, who had been on a trip to Mexico, took a photo of himself and his boarding pass for an Aeromexico flight back to NYC, explaining in a caption that he had been prohibited from boarding.

Ahluwalia said he checked in at the Aeromexico counter at Mexico City's international airport about 5:30 am on Monday and was given his first-class boarding pass with a code that he said meant he needed secondary security screening.

'This morning in Mexico City I was told I could not board my @aeromexico flight to NYC because of my turban," Ahluwalia wrote on his Instagram account, uploading a photo of himself holding up his now-useless Aeromexico plane ticket.

When Ahluwalia 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, New York Times reported.

Then, he said, he was asked to take off his turban.

"I responded...that I won't be taking off my turban," he said in an interview Monday afternoon from the airport in Mexico City.

"And then they talked amongst themselves and they said, 'OK, 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 Aeromexico 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 said it "renews its commitment to transport all passengers regardless of their religion, social status or gender.

"The airline, however, is required to meet the federal safety requirements outlined by the US' Transportation Security Administration (TSA) for review of selected passengers travelling to the United States. The airline regrets any inconvenience any passenger could perceive due to the application of these procedures."

Ahluwalia, who grew up in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, is an actor and a designer based in Manhattan known for his House of Waris jewelry line and other design work.

He was recently nominated for best supporting actor by the 2016 Canadian Screen Awards for his role in a Canadian thriller 'Beeba Boys'.

Ahluwalia is also a social activist who has campaigned for greater awareness of the Sikh religion.

In 2013, he appeared as a model in a Gap 'Make Love' advertisement that was posted in New York City subways and later defaced with racist graffiti.

The letter 'S' was printed on it four times and encircled with a marker -- symbols he said were meant to alert airline crew that a passenger must go through an extra security check.

He was still at the airport more than 12 hours later. Ahluwalia said he planned to remain there as lawyers from the Sikh Coalition, a civil-rights group, and Aeromexico discussed the matter by telephone. He said he had no immediate plans to board another flight.

Photograph: Waris holds up his boarding ticket in this Instagram upload

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