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Americas

Sikh actor barred from boarding a flight for wearing a turban

American Sikh actor Waris Ahluwalia was not allowed to board a flight from Mexico to New York City after refusing to take off his turban during a security check, receiving numerous messages of support on social media.

On Monday morning, American newspapers reported that Sikh-American actor, designer and model Waris Ahluwalia was barred from boarding a flight from Mexico City to New York after refusing to remove his turban during a security check.

Ahluwalia immediately took to social media to denounce the Mexican airline Aeoromexico, which he claims pointed him out to the airport’s security services for additional searches at his boarding gate, including searching his bag and his shoes, a swabbing, and patting down, before being asked to remove his turban.

He posted a picture on Instagram describing the events, which was quickly retweeted by the Sikh Coalition, a civil rights group defending the Sikh American community.

"I could not board my Aeromexico flight to NYC because of my turban," the actor said in his post, receiving over a thousand comments of support.

On Twitter, many users expressed their support for Ahluwalia, as well as their outrage at what they think is an act of gross discrimination by the Mexican airline.

The fashion and cinema industries also rallied behind Ahluwalia, with tweets coming from from the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) and the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television, who nominated him for an award as best supporting actor in this year‘s Canada’s Screen Award for his role in the Canadian show "Beeba Boys."

In a second Instagram post, Ahluwalia blamed the incident on the lack of training of Aeromexico staff, whom he says did not know the correct security procedures for a Sikh passenger.

On social media, users supported his claim with hashtags such as #StandWithWaris and calls for an end to racial profiling and "ignorance" in security screenings.

Numerous Mexican users denounced their country’s biggest airline. One of them, Juan Gonzalez said "Aeromexico used to make me tremendously proud, with time they have become grotesque."

Joaquin Robles Mora said "what happened to actor Waris Alhuwalia, a pitiful episode by Aeromexico, reflects the racism that we Mexicans do not recognise in our culture."

Alhuwalia, who ended up staying in Mexico City following the incident, told the American press he expected an apology from the Mexican airline. He reportedly refused a return trip initially offered to him by the company.

Faced with growing outrage, Aeromexico initially published a statement on Monday afternoon saying that, though they "are committed to transporting their passengers without distinction of religion, class or gender," they were "forced to comply with federal security requirements as determined by the United States‘ Transportation Security Authority," since this was a flight to the US.

The airline later published a second statement that same evening with an apology for the "bad experience he went through,“ while also promising to have their staff "reinforce its security protocols."

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