On May 3, 2016, S.Kavneet Singh the current President of the American Sikh Council (ASC) was invited to meet U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Secretary Jeh Johnson. This was a nearly two hour long meeting of diverse religious community leaders to gather and discuss the various issues important within each community.
S.Kavneet Singh brought up the issue of religious profiling commonly encountered especially by Sikh Americans at airports which needs to be addressed urgently. The conflation of the turban-bearded Sikh American male being perceived as a radical Arab-Muslim and the ‘other’ who can be bullied by anyone must stop. The importance of continued education about the Sikh Americans and the turban (a religiously mandated attire) to all federal employees was reiterated and stressed. S. Kavneet Singh also requested that more sensitivity and some common sense changes be made, without compromising safety protocols in order to stop the often felt humiliation of secondary screening procedures. More accurate chemical explosive testing machines should be installed. No religious faith community must be ostracized for their beliefs or the way they look but the Homeland Security employees must be educated and know the clear distinction between the religious persona of a Sikh American and a Muslim American because the continuous rise in Islamophobia and especially the recent political climate in the country is causing at least one serious assault and/or murder of a Sikh American every month across the nation.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has an unenviable task of keeping our country secure and yet be respectful to all faith communities equally. The American Sikh Council sincerely thanks Honorable Secretary Jeh Johnson and others involved at DHS to initiate these kinds of meetings across the country to bring about proactive change through a candid dialog.