A Sikh-American teenager who wrote a book about the bullying faced by children of his community has spoken of his humiliation after he was forced to remove his turban by security personnel at a California airport.
Karanveer Singh Pannu, the 18-year-old author of the acclaimed book ‘Bullying of Sikh America Children: Through the Eyes of a Sikh American High School Student’, was reported subject to the search at Bakersfield Airport while he was on his way to an event to promote his book.
“I had gone to talk about my book as an inspirational speaker to address all the kids participating in the annual Sikh Youth Symposium — a public speaking competition being held in Bakersfield, California,” Pannu told NBC News.
Pannu said that after going through the metal detector at the airport, he was asked to do a self-pat down of his turban and a chemical swab test for explosive material.
After a positive swab test, he was taken to a secondary screening room to be given a full pat down and was asked to remove his turban to be further scanned.
“I refused at first but when they threatened me that I could not fly, I agreed, provided they gave me a mirror to retie my turban,” Pannu said.
“Before I removed my turban, an Agent asked the dreaded asinine question, ‘Is there anything we need to be aware of before you remove your turban?’ I politely answered that there is a lot of long hair and something called the brain underneath.”
A TSA spokesperson told NBC News that the TSA declines to comment on the specifics of any individual passenger’s screening experience, but that all TSA officers and contracted screeners are trained to treat all passengers with dignity and respect and receive periodic training regarding cultural and religious sensitivities.
When additional screening requires the removal of religious apparel, officers offer a private room.
In 2007, TSA revised its screening procedures for head coverings based on discussions with the Sikh community.
Pannu said he felt “utterly humiliated, shaken, distraught” by the experience. It’s unknown how the swab test returned positive.