Waris Ahluwalia, a ubiquitous presence in the fashion world, was reportedly banned from a flight for wearing a turban.
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The model and designer behind House of Waris posted a selfie to Instagram on Monday morning holding up his boarding pass with “SSSS” — which stands for Secondary Security Screening Selection — circled on the ticket.
“This morning in Mexico City I was told I could not board my @aeromexico flight to NYC because of my turban,” he wrote in the caption. He also included the hashtags #FearisanOpportunitytoEducate, #humanrights, #dignity, and #lovenotfear.
Ahluwalia, who appeared in a recent Gap advertising campaign and is a regular on the New York City party circuit, initially complied with the supplemental security measures before boarding his flight to John F. Kennedy International Airport, including having an agent swab his hands and the bottoms of his feet.
But when asked by an airline worker to remove his black turban, an accessory in his signature style he is never seen without, he refused. “That is not something that I would do in public,” the Grand Budapest Hotel actor told the New York Daily News. “That’s akin to asking someone to take off their clothes.”
After abstaining from removing his turban without being brought to a private screening area, he supposedly was told, “You will not be flying Aero Mexico. You will need to book another flight.”
On his Instagram post, commenters aired their frustration with Ahluwalia’s mistreatment. “This is outrageous. Sikhism is not even related in any way to terrorist extremists,” Angie wrote. “What a sad day, a beautiful faith of love and peace is treated in such a horrible way.” Kirthan Aujlay added, “Absolutely disgusted by this. How much longer are Sikh men going to be targeted by bigots?” Many also shared similar experiences and praised Ahluwalia for publicising the discriminatory incident.
On Facebook, Sukhi Sagoo offered a counter argument: “Regardless of whether you are a Sikh or you wear any kind of headdress, I think for security reasons and for the safety of fellow passengers it’s not a bad thing to cooperate with the authorities. As long as it’s done in a private room and not in a public place. If you have nothing to hide, then why not cooperate?”
Mahtab Singh Shergill also said that a hijab for Muslim women is just as precious yet they, in general, cooperate with security checks (the same can be said for nuns). “You need to understand that it’s their job to make sure that the flight is secure and retaliation can cause serious doubts,” he wrote. “They don’t make every Sikh they see remove the turban; if he was asked he shouldn’t have denied.”
Waris, who has a runway show as part of New York Fashion Week this week, sent an additional social media note to his fans.
“Dear NYC fashion week. I may be a little late as @aeromexico won’t let me fly with a turban. Don’t start the show without me.”