Indian minister asks Obama to end turban frisking

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NEW DELHI (AP) — An Indian lawmaker from Punjab said Tuesday she had asked President Barack Obama to put a stop to the U.S. border practice of frisking Sikh turbans.

Sikhs worldwide have long protested the American security measure as discriminatory and unnecessary in a world with machines for body scanning and metal detection.

New U.S. guidelines put into effect two weeks ago no longer require air passengers to remove turbans if doing so makes them uncomfortable, the U.S. Transport Security Administration said.

But they may still have their turbans patted down — something Sikhs say is happening increasingly amid global terror alerts. And in some cases women are asked to unpin their hair. Religious groups say it is a form of racial profiling.

The U.S. president said he would have a “close look” at the issue, parliamentarian Harsimrat Kaur Badal said Tuesday after the two spoke during an honorary dinner Sunday in New Delhi when Obama was visiting India.

“I’m very hopeful for a change. It sends a really negative message to Sikhs from the moment they step foot on American soil,” she said.

“It is a humiliating experience. For us it’s like telling us to remove our clothes,” she said.

The turban — along with a comb, a sword, a specific undergarment and a metallic wrist bangle — are part of the required dress for Sikh men, according to the religion, which is a mix of Hindu and Islam founded in the 15th Century in Punjab. Sikh women are forbidden to cut their hair.

Men have long accepted they cannot carry a sword aboard planes, Badal said, and so have modified the religious requirement by carrying pendants or blades embedded in their comb “as a symbolic symbol.”

But this can mean they do not clear a metal detector, which prompts a second security screening.

Sikhs worldwide also expressed disappointment when Obama canceled a visit over the weekend to the Golden Temple in Amritsar, the religion’s most revered shrine. The White House cited a time constraint during Obama’s tightly packed three-day visit.