Sikh Religious Musicians Settle with US Airways

Printer-friendly versionSend by email
December 14, 2009
Share this

Three internationally renowned Sikh religious musicians reached a settlement with US Airways one year after they were removed from a flight at the Sacramento International Airport in an incident of racial and religious profiling and discrimination. After the removal, the trio filed a formal complaint with the Department of Transportation. The musicians, Davinder Singh, Gulbag Singh and Iqbal Singh, are classical religious performers who perform in Sikh Gurdwaras (houses of worship) around the world. Sikhs wearing turbans, as the musicians do, have increasingly been subject to harassment and discrimination after September 11, particularly at airports, as have many other ethnic and religious groups.

Despite federal law prohibiting airlines from targeting and removing passengers based on their religious or ethnic appearance, the trio was subjected to biased treatment from US Airways after passengers expressed baseless concerns about the musicians’ appearance.

Shortly after passing through TSA screening without incident and peacefully boarding a US Airways flight, the men were ordered to leave the plane. They complied with the removal. However, airline employees did not provide any explanation as to why they were being removed, but they were told, through a Panjabi interpreter, that the pilot would not fly with them on board. After suffering humiliation in front of other passengers, the musicians were each handed a $5 meal voucher and forced to delay their travel until the next day. They experienced no problems boarding the Delta flight on which they were rebooked. 

The airline did not provide any legitimate security concerns justifying the removal. As terms of the settlement, the Chairman and CEO of US Airways issued an apology to the musicians. The musicians also received an undisclosed amount in compensation for the incident.

This settlement comes just after US Airways' recent settlement in a federal lawsuit in which six Muslim relgious leaders alleged that they had been removed from a flight based on their religious and ethnic backgrounds.

In 1994, the school district in the Central Valley town of Livingston suspended three Sikh children for wearing a kirpan, a small ceremonial knife which baptized Sikhs must wear at all times. After negotiations with the school district failed, the Sikh family sued. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the school had to make all reasonable efforts to accomodate the religious beliefs and practices of the children. The district ultimately allowed the children to wear kirpans that had been blunted and firmly sewed into their sheaths.

Learn More