Tanenbaum Urges Religious and Cultural Competency Training for Aeroméxico

Yesterday Sikh American actor Waris Ahluwalia was denied entry onto an Aeroméxico flight from México City for wearing a turban. Aeroméxico personnel requested that he remove the turban – or purchase a ticket on another airline.

Speaking on behalf of the Tanenbaum | Center for Interreligious Understanding, its CEO Joyce Dubensky condemned the conduct of the Aeroméxico personnel. “What happened to Mr. Ahluwalia is a travesty. It is humiliating, disrespectful and unnecessary, even in these days when security is a real issue,” said Dubensky. “Sadly, this is not a unique experience.” Over an 18-month period, the Sikh Coalition found that 105 complaints (53%) filed against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security alleged religious discrimination.

Dubensky added, “From Mr. Ahluwalia’s perspective, this was a personal injustice. And for Aeroméxico, it was really bad business. In this climate of heightened security, Aeroméxico does not have to compromise safety for respect. As México’s largest airline, Aeroméxico must train screening personnel on how to respectfully screen passengers wearing religious headwear and clothing.”

One solution that Tanenbaum proposes is having screeners provide privacy for people who wear turbans or other religious coverings so they can be screened, if appropriate, by a same-sex airline employee. “In many instances, people will cooperate with airline personnel in private, as long as they are not being asked to publicly expose themselves and violate their religious beliefs,” Dubensky explained.

Like many Sikhs, Ahluwalia described how his turban and beard represent his commitment to justice and equality. “As fellow travelers, we should all encourage airlines and national security agencies to practice religious and cultural respect, while maintaining real security. Because what happened to Mr. Ahluwalia is inexcusable and it shouldn’t happen to anyone.” Dubensky said.

Tanenbaum offers a range of trainings and resources to help companies leverage religious diversity, create inclusive work environments and meet financial business goals.

Secretary Clinton Meets with Tanenbaum Peacemaker Father Sava Janjic

On Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, met with Tanenbaum Peacemaker in Action Father Sava Janjic during an official four-nation trip to the Balkans. The purpose of Secretary Clinton’s visit to the region was to encourage Albania, Bosnia, Croatia and Serbia to resolve festering political and economic disputes which continue to obstruct greater integration with the rest of Europe and their respective admission to the European Union.

During their meeting at the St. Nicholas Orthodox Church in Pristina, Secretary Clinton and Father Janjic discussed the prospect of reconciliation in Kosovo as well as the state of Serb returnees to the region, which continues to be a highly contentious issue. During the Kosovo War in the late 1990's, over 10,000 Kosovars, mostly ethnic Albanians, were killed in an ethnic cleansing campaign led by the Milosevic regime in Serbia. Throughout the war, Father Sava Janjic was a tireless advocate for peace and reconciliation and we are thrilled to see him continue this important work today.

Photos of Father Janjic and Secretary Clinton’s meeting can be found here (photos 8 & 10):