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Sikh actor Waris Ahluwalia barred from boarding plane after refusing to remove turban

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(DIYA TV) — Sikh movie star Waris Ahluwalia stayed the night in Mexico City on Monday night, protesting racial profiling after Aeromexico refused to let him board his New York bound flight after a dispute over his turban.

“I’d love to get home and be home and see my family,” Ahluwalia told the New York Daily News. “But if this happened to me — and I know it’s happened to many other people — what’s to stop it from happening again?”

Ahluwalia remained in positive spirits during the conversation with the Daily News, quipping that security officials at the airport had caused an “international civil rights brouhaha” — though he still refused to board any return flight until the airline issues an official public apology for demanding he remove his turban at a security checkpoint even though it had not triggered a metal detector.

“This isn’t about me,” he said. “This isn’t about one person or about religious tolerance. This is about civil rights and racial profiling and if I have to be a part of that dialogue, I will be.”

Early Monday morning, as Ahluwalia, an actor and fashion designer, attempted to board his return flight to New York, airport security singled him out for special screening, he said. A picture posted to his Instagram profile, reveals his boarding pass was labeled “SSSS,” a special designation which indicates a passenger should be selected for an enhanced pat-down: having their possessions swabbed for explosive residue, and being wanded by a hand-held metal detector. Such selections are supposed to be made at random.

Ahluwalia went through the security’s metal detector, and nothing was triggered, though he was still asked to remove his turban, he said. He asked to be taken to a private area, but was denied the privilege. “(Removing the turban) is not something that I would do in public,” he said. “That’s akin to asking someone to take off their clothes.”

The “SSSS” designation was no surprise to Ahluwalia, he’s used to the random selections. Though it’s supposedly random, he’s been selected so often, he knows it’s false advertising.

“I’ve had the magic ‘SSSS’ before,” he said. “I’m really lucky on my ‘random’ selection.”

Aeromexico has since denied allegations it denied Ahluwalia of his civil rights, claiming it was operating “in strict compliance with TSA protocol.” Security officials say that the rules do not require Sikhs to remove their turbans — religious headwear that symbolize one’s commitment to the 15th-century monotheistic faith. While he waits, Ahluwalia has filed a discrimination claim with Mexican officials, but is yet to hear back from the government. He also wants Aeromexico to apologize and retrain its security employees to be more sensitive of turban-wearing consumers.

A rather ironic experience for the 41-year-old actor, he could possibly be best remembered for this scene in the Denzel Washington and Clive Owen hit “Inside Man,” where he is roughed up by police because of his turban.

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