SIKHS in Huddersfield have launched a petition against new airport security measures which allow ‘disrespectful’ searching of their turbans.
Members of Huddersfield’s Sikh community handed the petition, calling on the Government to rescind the measures, to Huddersfield MP Barry Sheerman.
The petition has attracted about 350 signatures.
Another petition has been handed to Colne Valley MP Jason McCartney.
The measures, based on EU regulations which came into force on February 14, allow airport security staff to swab turbans to check for explosives.
In the past metal detectors have been used.
But Sikhs say inexperienced airport staff have asked to search turbans by hand – or remove them – which they say shows ‘gross disrespect’ to their beliefs.
The petitions tie in with a lobby planned for Parliament on March 22 by Sikhs from across the UK.
Manjit Singh, a spokesman for Fartown Sikh Temple, said: “Nobody should take their turban off because it is regarded as like a king’s crown.
“Security is important but they can use an X-ray machine or a metal detector. They don’t have to take the turban off.
“A Sikh would feel humiliated if he had to take off his turban or had it handled.”
Balbir Singh Kandola, a member of the British Sikh Council which has organised the lobby, said: “We are organising these petitions because we are having difficulties at airports – not everyone but some of us.”
Kirklees Council leader Mehboob Khan, who presented the petition to Mr Sheerman in London, said: “There has to be a balance struck between strict security checks and respect for people’s religious practice.
“In this particular case there appears to be a solution that meets that balance, by using electronic equipment and a swab test.
“The turban has deep significance for Sikhs, and it can be humiliating for them to have to remove it in this very public way.
“I would urge the government to clear up the guidance they are giving to airport security staff and meet with the Sikh community to establish a security check which is robust but which respects their religious rights.”
A spokesman for the Department for Transport said: “In 2010, the European Commission introduced new regulations which require the manual searching of headgear at airports.
“Recognising the sensitivities which exist in certain communities, the Government has been holding a series of constructive discussions with faith representatives.
“As a result, both parties were able to agree to a trial - approved by the EC – which aims to maintain high levels of security while offering alternative screening methods for religious/cultural headgear.
“We will be closely monitoring the outcomes of this trial as we continue working towards a permanent solution.”