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Sikh Designer, Actor Says He Wasn't Allowed to Board Flight Because of His Turban

Sikh-American designer and actor Waris Ahluwalia said he was not allowed to board his Aeroméxico flight Monday morning because of his turban.
Image: Waris Ahluwahlia
Waris AhluwahliaChristopher Wray-McCann / Christopher Wray-McCann

Sikh-American designer and actor Waris Ahluwalia said he was not allowed to board his Aeroméxico flight Monday morning because of his turban, according to posts on Ahluwalia's social media accounts.

Ahluwalia, who is based in New York, was trying to fly back from Mexico City on Monday when he was reportedly refused. Ahluwalia posted a photo on his Instagram account of himself holding his ticket.

“This morning in Mexico City I was told I could not board my @aeromexico flight to NYC because of my turban. #FearisanOpportunitytoEducate #humanrights #dignity #lovenotfear," Ahluwalia wrote in the caption of his photo.

In a statement released Monday by the Sikh American Legal Defense & Education Fund (SALDEF), the organization criticized the airline's actions, writing, "We are disappointed and concerned that Mr. Ahluwahlia was asked to remove his turban prior to boarding his flight. The turban is an integral part of a Sikh's identity and removal in public is akin to a strip search. The security personnel involved in this debacle owe Mr. Ahluwahlia an apology and must be trained in cultural and religious awareness."

In a statement posted Monday, Aeroméxico said the airline "renews its commitment to transport all passengers regardless of their religion, social status or gender. The airline, however, is required to meet the federal safety requirements outlined by the United States' Transportation Security Administration (TSA) for review of selected passengers traveling to the United States. The airline regrets any inconvenience any passenger could perceive due to the application of these procedures."

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Ahluwalia was one of the faces of the 2013 Gap “Make Love” campaign, which marked the first time a Sikh model was featured in a nationwide ad. When some of the ads were defaced with racist graffiti, Gap replaced them within 24 hours and changed their Twitter and Facebook background images to Ahluwalia’s photograph.

Related: Waris Ahluwalia on Indian Identity and That Viral Gap Ad

The company's response inspired members of the Sikh community to respond with a #ThankYouGap campaign to show their appreciation for the company.

Ahluwalia's jewelry line, House of Waris, has been praised globally, and Ahluwalia has been chosen for best dressed lists for Vanity Fair, British GQ, and Vogue. He has also appeared in movies, with roles in Wes Anderson’s “The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou” and “The Grand Budapest Hotel.”

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