Jasmeet Singh, better known as comedian and YouTube star Jus Reign, travels a lot for work. As a Sikh, he also wears a turban.
Normally those two details about Singh are not in conflict. But at the San Francisco airport on Monday, he was forced to remove his turban in order to board a flight back to Toronto, an ordeal he called "insensitive."
A similar issue sprang earlier this month when Sikh actor Waris Ahluwalia was also barred from a flight because he refused to take off his turban. Singh told Metro Morning this is a result of growing paranoia about travel, but also a general lack of education about what a turban is among security authorities.
'Not a hat'
It started when Singh was asked to go through an extra layer of security before boarding his flight on Feb. 22.
"I'm at the airport, and go through security and did one of those full body scans where you have to do a freeze jumping jack pose. So I went through that and did a pat-down and a metal detector was run over my turban, and everything cleared," he said.
"And then at one point, one of the security officials told me I had to go into a room to get extra search done," he said. "I said sure, we can do that. But I soon as I stepped into the private room, they told me to remove my turban."
The turban, or dastaar, is mandatory for all men in the Sikh religion. It is not appropriate to remove it in public.
So Singh respectfully declined to remove his turban, he said, and asked to speak to a manager. Some time later, when the manager arrived, he was given an option of rebooking a flight with another airline or removing the turban.
Wanting to get back to Toronto, he removed the turban.
It passed all other security inspections.
But when he asked for a mirror to put the turban back on, security directed him to a public washroom at the other side of the terminal, he said. That forced him to walk through the airport without the sacred religious headpiece.
"It's an embarrassing and really insensitive ordeal," he said, calling it like asking someone to remove their underwear in public.
"A turban is not a shoe, and it is not a hat," he said. It can take up to 10 minutes to put back on, and requires two hands a mirror to tie it into his hair.
As his alter ego Jus Reign, Singh has removed his turban in public before, when he filmed a YouTube instructional video on how to tie it. But it was still not a pleasant experience.
There are many Sikhs who would not have been able to walk in public without the spiritual cloth turban.
Turban removal more frequent
Singh said airport security asking Sikhs to remove their dastaar in public is becoming more frequent.
In fact, he said he has Sikh friends who remove their turbans when they fly in order to make it an easier process in security.
On Feb. 8, Waris Ahluwalia, a familiar face from Wes Anderson films and Deepa Mehta's Beeba Boys, was barred from boarding a flight home to New York after he refused to remove his turban in public.
Both Ahluwalia and Singh put details of their security check on social media, where they've received both support and criticism.
Singh said there is a lack of understanding about what the turban is, how it's taken on and off, and why some Sikhs refuse to be seen in public without it. He said his situation would've been avoided or at least alleviated had security at San Francisco's international airport know more about the Sikh garb.
He also blames a changing public sentiment.
"That same tension and that same paranoia that happened directly after 9/11 seems to be stemming up again," he said.
"I don't want to have to be given the option of not wearing a turban to feel more comfortable."