AeroMexico has issued an apology for the incident:
“We apologize to Mr. Waris Ahluwalia for the unfortunate experience he encountered with one of our security guards during the boarding process on his flight to New York at the Mexico City International Airport,” the statement says. “This incident inspires us to make sure that our safety personnel strengthens its customer service protocols, with full respect for the cultural and religious values of our customers.”
Waris Ahluwalia , a well-known Sikh American actor, designer, and celebrity, was profiled and stopped from boarding a plane on Monday after refusing to remove his turban in public.
Ahluwalia—who has been in films such as “The Grand Budapest Hotel” and “The Darjeeling Limited”—posted on Instagram about the incident as he attempted to board a flight from Mexico City to New York City via AeroMexico airlines.
In an interview with ThinkProgress, Ahluwalia stated that officials came to him after he passed through security, just moments before he was about to board: “I was about to board, and they asked me to remove my turban. That’s not something I’m willing to do in front of everyone. It’s like asking someone to remove their underwear in public.”
When Ahluwalia did not comply with the order, he was barred from boarding the flight.
A spokesperson for AeroMexico told the Huffington Post that, “he was asked to submit to screening and inspection before boarding, in strict compliance with TSA protocol. We have offered the passenger to alternatives to reach his destination as soon as possible. We sincerely regret any inconvenience caused by this incident."
The accepted protocol in the U.S. is to move Sikhs into a private screening room if officials intend to pat down turbans, rather than force them to remove the religious headgear in public.
With Islamophobia on the rise, occurrences like these are becoming more frequent—there have been numerous stories of Sikh individuals who have faced discrimination and profiling, both in airports and in public, despite the fact that Sikhs are not Muslims.
Ahluwalia rose to prominence when he became the first Sikh male model in a Gap campaign in 2013, although this also sparked backlash, as he proudly wore his turban in his print ads.
He hopes giving significance to this incident will allow for change. “It’s okay to make a mistake — we’re human,” he said. “But it’s about what you do after that. It’s about how you deal with that. It is a larger conversation. It’s just a chance to make the world a better place.”