Toronto YouTube comedian Jasmeet Singh—better known as Jus Reign—says he travels at least once or twice a month, but up until this past weekend, he's never been asked to remove his turban.
In what he describes as an "embarrassing ordeal," Singh, who is Sikh, was asked to take off the turban while clearing security at a San Francisco airport. He told VICE he had finished going through a body scan, metal detectors, and a swab test—where (TSA) staff swab your hands to test for traces of explosives—when he was asked to step into a private room for "an extra screening."
After patting Singh down again, "one of the officers was like 'We're going to need you to remove your turban so we can check that as well.'" Singh asked if it would be possible for them to pat down his turban, and when he was refused, asked to speak to a manager.
After taking "her sweet time getting there," Singh said the manager gave him two choices.
"She was like… 'You can take your turban off and we check and we'll let you go to your flight or you can keep it on and we'll just walk you out to the public space and you can book a flight with someone else or go to another airport.'"
He took off the turban, which they put in a tray and sent it through the X-ray machine, finding nothing.
Singh then asked for a mirror with which to re-apply his turban but was told there were none available.
"They [said] 'We don't have mirrors and we don't necessarily provide mirrors for that kind of stuff so sorry.'"
He asked how he was supposed to tie his turban.
"It's not like a hat issue where I can just flop it on. I gotta make sure it looks crisp, it's right, all the angles are neatly lined up, you know… I gotta look good."
He was instructed to walk down the hallway to the nearest bathroom.
"It was really not cool of [them] to say that. Especially them taking me into a private screening room and undressing me and telling me in order for me to… dress myself again, I gotta walk out in a public space without my turban."
Singh told VICE his turban has "huge cultural significance" for Sikhs.
"It represents dignity and courage," he said, noting that asking someone to remove a turban is akin to asking someone to remove their underwear. "It's that same level of humiliation and embarrassment."
He said he felt disrespected the TSA, especially in light of how cooperative he'd been with their demands and that he's never been treated this way in Canadian airports.
However, he said "being a brown man going through airports" he often gets extra screenings.
He believes the turban incident could have been triggered by the "the hate that's being spewed" given the current political climate in the US.
"There's never been a case where anybody has ever hidden anything in their turban."
Singh said he has not received an apology from the TSA and will be filing a complaint with them.
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