Terrorism

Is That a Vial of Nitroglycerin in Your Turban, or Are You Just a Sikh?

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Some Sikhs object to a new TSA policy that allows discretionary "pat-downs" of headgear. The pat-downs, aimed at threats (such as liquid explosives) that would not trigger a metal detector, ostensibly have nothing to do with religion or ethnicity. But since the decision to feel up a passenger's hat will be left to individual screeners, many of whom may still be confusing the average bearded, turban-wearing Sikh man with Osama bin Laden, Sikhs are understandably concerned that they will be singled out for extra attention, stigmatizing them as potential jihadists and reinforcing public misconceptions. They also have religious objections to the fingering of their turbans.

If this new policy made sense as a security measure, the Sikhs' embarrassment and inconvenience might be considered (especially by non-Sikhs) an acceptable cost of protecting passengers from terrorism. But how likely is it that a terrorist would dress like a Sikh, which in the eyes of many Americans means dressing like a terrorist, so he can hide a tube of nitroglycerin in his turban? For that matter, has the TSA discovered any liquid explosives or liquid explosive components since it started focusing on this purported threat in 2006? If not, does that mean the new rules for liquids and gels are working?

Somehow I doubt it. Half the time when I travel, I forget to put my toothpaste and eyeglass cleaner in a separate "quart-size, zip-top, clear plastic bag," and typically no one notices. In performance tests TSA screeners routinely miss simulated guns and bombs. In this context, does adding hats to the list of items that require extra scrutiny, along with liquids, gels, shoes, laptops, tools, and sporting goods, make sense? If everything is the focus of special attention, nothing is. 

On the brighter side, the TSA finally has lifted its senseless ban on "common lighters," almost a year after Congress said it could. The TSA notes that the U.S. was "the only country in the world to ban lighters" and that screeners were confiscating some 22,000 a day from passengers (and probably missing at least as many), which distracted them from more significant threats. ("Torch lighters," the fancy kind often used with cigars, are still prohibited.) Also, mothers will no longer be forced to taste their breast milk.

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  1. *thinks about “pull start” joke, but can’t make it work.

    hrumph.

  2. * Flag of India1982 August 22: A lone Sikh militant, armed with a pistol and a hand grenade, hijacked a Boeing 737 on a scheduled flight from Mumbai to New Delhi carrying 69 persons. Indian security forces killed the hijacker and rescued all passengers.

    * Flag of India1984 August 24: Seven young Sikh hijackers demanded an Indian Airlines jetliner flying from Delhi to Srinagar[10] be flown to the United States. The plane was taken to UAE where the defense minister of UAE negotiated the release of the passengers. It was related to the Sikh secessionist struggle in the Indian state of Punjab.

    Air-India Flight 182 was a Boeing 747 that exploded on June 23, 1985 while at an altitude of 31,000 feet (9500 m) above the Atlantic Ocean, south of Ireland; all 329 on board were killed, of whom 136 were children and 280 were Canadian citizens.[1]

    Up until September 11, 2001, the Air India bombing was the single deadliest terrorist attack involving aircraft. It is also the largest mass murder in Canadian history. It occurred within an hour of the Narita Airport Bombing.

  3. Easier to provide the illusion of security than to actually implement policies and practices that actually work.

  4. I’m on hold with United airlines right now. I need to know if we still cannot bring things like water bottles on board. THis automoted menu really sucks. The robot is trying to sell me a ticket. Their web site says nothing.

  5. I had a Sikh friend in college. You could hide a lot in that turban, especially since Sikhs don’t cut their hair, but even more freaky for airport security is the ceremonial knife that Sikhs carry. Bah. If a few Sikhs in America lose it and attack some people on a plane, well, we collectively deserve it for some of our whackjobs attacking Sikhs after 9/11. You know, those guys who aren’t Muslims.

  6. Here is the link the TSA website — it provides the most current “guidance” for travelers.

    http://www.tsa.gov/travelers/airtravel/assistant/editorial_1012.shtm

  7. If the government REALLY cared about security, they’d close all the airports.

  8. “You could hide a lot in that turban”

    *imagines Sikh turban buffet…

  9. It’s the Sikhs’ own fault because as moderate funny headgear wearers they haven’t done enough to condemn and stop the extremist funny headgear wearers from Islam, so they should stop complaining. They bring it on themselves.

  10. *imagines taste of “belittled”‘s breast milk when served out of a Sikh turban sippie cup

  11. As if condemning something actually means anything. I bet Craig was condemning gay sex in a public restroom before he was caught.

  12. That’s what they get for attacking us on 9/11. They should just stop whining and take their just desserts.

  13. I thought those Gummint agents were tryin’ to find out what’s in my bourbon.

    Never mind, y’all.

  14. Jim Beam,

    Now that is un-American.

  15. In a related story, the TSA has received a formal complaint from a consortium of wealthy, aged dowagers, who claim that the agency’s security practices discriminate against law-abiding caftan wearers.

    Seriously, I think the TSA should leave the Sikhs alone. They’re an ethnic group you don’t want to mess with, believe me. Some of them can be real Sikh mothers.

  16. Naked Air (NSFW), the safest way to fly.

  17. No, no, officer, you don’t have to worry. I am a Sikh. See? (Pulls out knife)

    Ow! Ow! Oof! What are you – ow! Ow! I’m lying down! I’m lying down!

  18. What if we just kill osama? wouldn’t that help?

    aw what the hell. Let’s hope someone kills him, anyways.

    und zen schoot him again. und again. faster und faster. ja ja. schoot him!!!!

  19. My Sikh friend had a great sense of humor. He had–I’m not making this up–a Zoroastrian roommate, and they both used to make me do my frankly insulting Indian accent. One would think me butchering English in such a way would be offensive, but they would go into hysterics. I kept trying not to do it, but they’d threaten me with fire and knives if I refused. Weird. For some reason, saying, “My penis is fondling itself” in Indian-accented speech was good for heavy laughs for a whole school year. Go figure.

  20. As Pro Libertate and joe have both pointed out, Sikh males always carry a Kirpan (Ceremonial Dagger) for religious reasons.

    What does the TSA have to say about that? Anyone know what the official policy is?

  21. PL

    For some reason, saying, “My penis is fondling itself” in Indian-accented speech was good for heavy laughs for a whole school year.

    Actually, saying it now will still get you some heavy laughs, not to mention askance looks,

  22. They’re not lily-white and they’re wearing turbans. Clearly they are the enemy. /rolleyes

    On the other hand, if the TSA goon at the airport can demand I take off my ball cap so he can peer into it, why shouldn’t someone wearing a turban be expected to comply with the same request?

    On the third hand, though, the TSA is a clusterfuck of an organization staffed by dunderheads whose chief delight seems to be semi strip-searching grannies and expectant mothers.

  23. Some NSFW travel safety tips:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=toqQL-tejek

  24. Aresen,

    I know, I know! Beat the knife-wielding foreigner senseless. It’s our policy to oppress first and ask for forgiveness later.

    As for my previous entry, you understand that there’s a world of difference saying something with a bad Hindu accent than in saying it in standard English (whatever the hell that is). For some reason, cursing in that dialect was funny, too.

    In any case, I can’t do that voice very well anymore. Now I’m reduced to impersonating Sean Connery. Everything he says is funny.

  25. ProGLib:

    why not adjust it ever-so slightly to:

    fondling itself as it prepares to make love to your neck stump.

    (mercy!)

    “Now I’m reduced to impersonating Sean Connery. Everything he says is funny.”

    Anal Bum cover!
    Penis mightier!

  26. Actually, the Sikh religious leadership has eased off the knife-carrying thing, sort of like the meat-on-Fridays.

    Anyone ever see the old SNL skit, with the dog going to confession?

    You ate chicken bones on a Friday?!? BAD DOG! BAD DOG!

  27. They would never check an orthodox jew’s yameka

  28. Alice –

    that’s cuz the propeller might render their fingers to Dave W. pop top diabetes stumps (perfect for stump batin, of course)

  29. “fingering the turban” ought to be a naughty. If You Know What I Mean. (winkies)

  30. Show me on the doll’s turban where he touched you.

  31. But how likely is it that a terrorist would dress like a Sikh, which in the eyes of many Americans means dressing like a terrorist, so he can hide a tube of nitroglycerin in his turban?

    If there sere some religious headgear exception to the search rule, I’d say very likely. I’m sure terrorists don’t care how uncomfortable passengers are, they only care about exploiting any weaknesses in the system.

    Is what the TSA is doing stupid? Sure. But for years we stupidly allowed people to fly with boxcutters and pocketknives with small blades figuring there’s no way that would resutl in a highjacking.

  32. joe,

    I find that disappointing somehow.

  33. I am not surprised that American are the most ignorant and stupid people as is evident from the racist silly comments on such websites. These assholes have absolutely no knowledge about Sikhs their history and their unique religion which is perhaps the most universal and tolerant. I have known Sikhs and they are some of the most friendly people on the face of this earth. How far we want to go with this so called protecting ourselves from the terrorists?? Why cant we balance this with commonsense?? Our liberties are being taken away not by terrorists but by a right wing mafia which is blackmailing Americans in the name of terrorism.

  34. But for years we stupidly allowed people to fly with boxcutters and pocketknives with small blades figuring there’s no way that would resutl in a highjacking.

    And it didn’t. The 9/11 attackers sprayed a noxious chemical – probably pepper spray or mace – into the cabin and threatened the use of a bomb.

  35. the correct headline btw would be:

    “Is That a Vial of Nitroglycerin in Your Turban, or Are You Just Happy to Sikh Me?”

  36. You guys are Sikh puppies.

  37. The 9/11 attackers sprayed a noxious chemical – probably pepper spray or mace – into the cabin and threatened the use of a bomb.

    So the box cutters are what? Me mis-remembering a Tom Clancy novel as real life?

    And if a noxious chemical was the problem on 9/11, doesn’t that make the TSA’s liquid ban more sensible?

  38. “””Why cant we balance this with commonsense?? “””

    Because commonsense is the pre-9/11 mindset and pre-9/11 America was bad. So they say. Fear rules the post-9/11 America.

    Land of brave? Not anymore.

  39. Thomas Hobbes,

    I don’t know where the box-cutters thing came from, but the hijackers were reported to have stabbed people by the doomed passengers who made phone calls, in addition to the choking chemical and the bomb threats.

    And if a noxious chemical was the problem on 9/11, doesn’t that make the TSA’s liquid ban more sensible? I’d say it makes sense that such a threat should be taken into account, but that doesn’t mean it makes sense to order people to throw out their iced coffees.

  40. The hardened cockpit doors and the policy to not leave the flight deck while in the air is all that was needed to prevent use of a commercial airliner as a weapon (from a forcible cockpit entry anyhow).

    The remaining TSA precautions are to try and intercede to stop in-flight explosions or severe fires and passenger assault. There are LOTS of holes in those provisions, so many so that we should just return to a good metal detector and X-ray machine. Forget the rest, save the money/time, and accept the risk that every so often a plane may get brought down.

    Why? Because that risk has and will continue to exist. We are not reducing it with the 3-1-1, shoes off, and agressive frisking crap. This is the illusion of security.

  41. The 9-11 hijackings worked because most people passively allowed the hijackers to gt into the cockpit and fly the plane unmolested as they were told to do…

    If someone tried that stuff now, I don’t think they’d make it to their targets.

  42. The irony of the whole situation post 911 is that we are targeting the wrong people. 100% of men who wear turbans are Sikhs who had to endure all the racist hate and profiling because of the TV images of Osama Bin Laden and other Mullas from Middle east. I have never ever come across a SINGLE Muslim in USA who has ever worn a turban.
    While we are targeting innocent Sikhs who in fact are very very friendly to USA but we are sending billions of dollars worth of our modern arms to Saudi Arabia and Egypt from where all the hijackers came. The first man who was arrested and humiliated hours after 9/11 attack was a Sikh IT professional at Rhodes Island railway station. He now works at super secret war stimulation systems for US Navy. Let us fight this war smartly and not through hysteria or because of some political agenda.

  43. It’s not exactly policy to go after Sikhs, you know. Some nutcases may do so, but there’s probably people out there who can’t tell the difference between an Arab and Ricardo Montalban, so I wouldn’t make too much of that. It’s not like we’re all running around killing everyone who doesn’t look like a Viking.

  44. Americans have become terrified wimps. Of course a hijacker is going to want to remain undetected till they act, and thus would want to blend in.
    Here’s more evidence of our stupidity and inability to rationally analyze threats:
    Read it and weep for our country.

  45. So I didn’t test the link, and guess what–it didn’t work. 🙁
    Here

  46. Oops.

    /tries cpr

    /runs off to hide the bodies

  47. there’s probably people out there who can’t tell the difference between an Arab and Ricardo Montalban

    Ricardo Montalban tried to destroy the Entreprise and you want to let him onto a plane!?

  48. Pro Liberate
    I totally agree that this is not the policy but unfortunately it is the ignorance of the large majority that has resulted in a dangerous situation for Sikhs because of mistaken identity. In Mesa Arizona, a Sikh Gas station owner was shot dead immediately after 9/11 to vent their anger at terrorists who attacked the world trade center. Today the very site of a turban ( which only Sikhs wear) conjures up images of a terrorist out to blow up Americans. Americans have no idea that more than 85,000 Sikhs died as part of Allied forces in world war 1 & 2 and Sikhs were awarded maximum number of Victoria crosses for bravery. Prince Charles has asked British Government to revive the old British policy of Pure Sikh regiments in British army because of their great military traditions and loyalty.

  49. Aresen,

    True. And his brother was a Latin American dictator.

    NotSurprised,

    A large percentage of Americans may not realize that Sikhs aren’t Muslim, but I doubt that very many people at all actually intend to commit violence against Sikhs. And there was a great deal of publicity about Sikhs being mistakenly attacked post-9/11, so more people understand the distinction than once did.

  50. Read it and weep for our country.

    I’ll weep after I finish laughing. Goddamn that’s some (darkly) funny shit.

  51. That was funny. This line sums it up.

    “”You see powder connected by arrows and chalk, you never know,” she said. “It could be a terrorist, it could be something more serious.”

  52. We have a right to be scared and make you pay for it.

    I’m still laughing.

  53. Areseeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeennnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn!

  54. Hey, you never know.

    It coulda been the Moonites what drew those arrows.

  55. But how likely is it that a terrorist would dress like a Sikh, which in the eyes of many Americans means dressing like a terrorist, so he can hide a tube of nitroglycerin in his turban?

    the day after the tsa bans searching turbans, about 100%.

    i think the yarmulke analogy is close but not exact. there’s no room to hide anything under one. but a shtreyml is bigger, there’s lots of space, and i suspect that they are subject to search, too. if not, that’s wack.

  56. joe

    Thanks, joe. I needed that laugh.

  57. I am a Muslim and an American. [insert blanket condemnation of all past and future acts of terrorism in the name of Islam] I really do feel bad for the Sikhs, imagine getting mistaken for a group of people you really hate, like Sen. Widestance. Sikhs actually carry the Kirpan for use against Muslims. If you believe god mandated you to cover your head that’s fine, but as far as I can tell no one is claiming god mandated that they fly on commercial airlines. Also, I do recall reading about a group of Ultra Orthodox Jews smuggling ecstasy and diamonds in their black brimmed hats.

    Are Sikhs the only target of this new policy on pat-down of headgear?
    They are not alone in religiously mandated headgear. What about headscarves (Muslim women), nuns’ habits, Ultra-Orthodox Jewish men’s black brimmed hats, Orthodox Jewish Women’s wigs/head coverings, the pope’s episcopal mitre (an erect cloth hat), Rastafarian dreadlocks. I think some Christian women wear some sort of head gear too.

    If TSA is gonna feel up on my nuts then all funny headgear is fair game. The TSA should grope them for good measure too.

  58. So, if singling out Sikhs makes no sense because dressing like a Sikh would attract attention, then won’t terrorists dress like Sikhs because it would make no sense to pay attention? Except then we should pay attention, so they wouldn’t dress like Sikhs. So we don’t need to scrutinize them, because…

    If they know that we know that they know that we know that they know that we know….

    Somebody get a Sicilian in here to decide which flagon to drink from.

  59. Ahmet Sahin

    It is certainly unfair to characterize any group by the extremist elements. It is actually a common tactic for extremists to attempt to drive a wedge between the group and the society in which they are existing in order to force the group to identify with and give support to the extemists rather than the society which has chosen to tar the whole group with the extremist brush. In reading this thread, I can certainly see where some of us have made what could be taken as slurs. Rather than take umbrage, I would suggest you ‘serve the offenders their own sauce.’ If they can’t take it, it reveals their bigotry. I suspect the majority of the posters on this site, however, would take great delight in your barbed retorts.

  60. Jews only wear the streimel on Shabbat, when they don’t fly. Hasids aren’t required to wear wide hats and, in fact, often take them off inside or when on a plane. Most wear a yarmulke underneath for that reason.

  61. Barbed retort. That would be a beard-holder, wouldn’t it? I, for one, report that I am delighted.

  62. Somehow I doubt the Pope will ever find himself standing in a TSA security line.

  63. Jews only wear the streimel on Shabbat, when they don’t fly.

    Or bowl.

  64. Ahmet Sahin,

    Several centuries ago, Sikhs carried knives for use against Muslims.

    Today, Sikh men carry knives as a symbol of their commitment to the Sikh religion.

  65. Sikhs do not carry Kirpans to fight Muslims. Initially the Kirpan was introduced to help protect Sikhs, Hindus and Muslims from the oppression subjected by Mogul rulers. They didn’t fight them because they were Muslim. If the oppressors were Chinese, I am sure Sikhs would have done the same. Sorry Ahmet Sahin I have no clue where you got your information. A Kirpan is a tool Sikhs fall back on when protecting the civil and moral rights of humanity (not just Sikhs). In battle, a Kirpan is only used as a last resort. Never is a Sikh suppose to remove his or her Kirpan from it’s cover unless in a battle. It is not just a commitment to the Sikh religion but a consent reminder the oath a Sikh has made for the good of humanity.

  66. ALL people wearing wigs should also be subjected to additional searches. Same goes to ALL people wearing hats if ALL turban wearing people must be searched. If this isn’t racial profiling then I do not know what is. My experience has shown that Sikhs like to remain as a low key as possible. I had no clue that my community has more that 36,000 Sikhs–and more power to them. They are some of the nicest and sincere people I have met. Give the people some respect. Don’t disrespect them and their religion. Perhaps it is difficult for us non-Sikhs to grasp the significance of the turban to Sikhs. Be as it may, that should not mean we disrespect them in such a manner.

  67. “But how likely is it that a terrorist would dress like a Sikh, which in the eyes of many Americans means dressing like a terrorist, so he can hide a tube of nitroglycerin in his turban? ”

    Given the suffocating political correctness prevalent amongst those at the TSA, it’s pretty damn likely.

  68. I find it interesting how many similarities there are betweens Sikhs and Rastafarians.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rastafarians

  69. Essentially, I could tape a plastic tube to my leg and never be subjected to a pat down because I do not wear a turban. POINT IS PEOPLE — Anyone can conceal anything that is not metallic based. Therefore, why are Sikhs with turbans being targeted? If I was a terrorist, the last thing I would want to do is dress like a Sikh man because I would be subjected to more stricter security rules and regulations.

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