TSA Allows Turbans, Continues Ban on Shoes
Bowing to organized outrage from religious groups, the TSA has reversed itself and will allow passengers to keep their turban on while going through airport security.
Air passengers will no longer have to remove bulky headwear such as turbans at screening checkpoints if doing so makes them uncomfortable. A revised federal guideline, effective Oct. 27, gives airport screeners the option to pat down headwear at the metal detector if a passenger does not want to remove it for personal reasons.
In August, the Transportation Security Administration changed its guidelines and subjected travelers to secondary screening at security checkpoints if they were wearing head coverings, such as cowboy hats, berets or turbans. The screenings could have included a pat-down search of the head covering, if the screener found it necessary.
But some religious organizations were outraged at the new rule and felt it was a form of racial profiling. For instance, in the Sikh religion, the turban is considered private, and removing a turban would be like removing a woman’s blouse, according to the New York-based Sikh Coalition. Since 2001, federal policy has required screeners to search turbans only if they do not clear a metal detector.
So far as I’m aware, neither the 9/11 hijackers nor the would-be shoe bomber was wearing a turban, let alone a cowboy hat, so this is reasonable enough. These people still have to pass through scanners and possible pat-downs, after all.
This ruling is absolutely bizarre, though, in contrast to other TSA policies. When we traveled to Dallas this past weekend, my wife had to remove her flip-flops and place them on the conveyer built. I also had to leave my shaving gel at home, since it was in a larger-than-three-ounce container and we didn’t want to tack on additional time to our trip on both ends checking in luggage and waiting to retrieve it on the other end. As a matter of comparative risk, it’d be a lot easier to hide something in a giant turban than in a pair of flip-flops or a four ounce bottle of lotion.