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Sikhs shun San Francisco airport alleging religious profiling

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    New York: Singled out for additional screenings at San Francisco International Airport (SFO), Sikhs in the area say they avoid using the airport whenever possible.

    The Sikh Coalition, a rights group, has found in its Transportation Security Administration (TSA) report card that SFO was the "worst case scenario" for Sikh travellers.

    Almost 35 percent of all complaints about the TSA screening policy received by them from Sikhs across the US stem from SFO, a press release said.

    Sikhs, who wear turbans according to the mandates of their faith, believe they are victims of religious profiling.

    "It is pretty clear to me as a Sikh that I am being subjected to unreasonable procedures that do not apply to other US citizens," said Kuljot Singh, a Sikh passenger.

    To avoid that treatment at SFO, Sikh travellers are choosing to fly through alternative airports in Oakland or San Jose.

    In October 2007, the TSA implemented a policy giving screeners discretion to decide when to additionally search passengers with head coverings that could be deemed "bulky". The move mirrored other emerging security policies that take a host of variable factors - including facial expressions and ticket status - into account when deciding on subjecting a passenger to secondary screening.

    SFO is the only airport that chose to interpret the revision as a mandatory turban screening policy, thus creating a disproportionate and unwarranted focus on Sikh passengers, the press release said.

    "The TSA policy being applied at SFO is not keeping any American safe," said Amardeep Singh, executive director of the Sikh Coalition.

    "Targeting all turban-wearing Sikhs is profiling - a strategy that has been proven to be ineffective for law enforcement. And singling out all Sikhs in such a public way sends the very harmful message to Americans that Sikhs are somehow suspect because of their religious garb."

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