US Sikhs to report airport abuse by app

November 26, 2013
Holiday travelers line up for one of the TSA security checkpoints at Ronald Reagan National Airport in Washington on November 26, 2013 as air traffic increases for the Thanksgiving holiday

Sikh activists, fed up with being singled out at US airports, on Tuesday launched an updated smartphone application to make it easier for passengers to file complaints.

The free, downloadable app called FlyRights lets travelers instantly send their concerns to the US Transportation Security Administration, which would then respond through its own channels.

Launched ahead of Thanksgiving, one of the busiest travel periods in the United States, the updated "FlyRights 2.0" also allows passengers to send copies of their complaints to their members of Congress, and it features maps that show which airports have the most troubling records.

An initial version of FlyRights has been downloaded 18,000 times since it was launched in April 2012, according to the Sikh Coalition, the advocacy group that released the app.

Amardeep Singh, director of programs at the Sikh Coalition, said that many travelers did not trust the Transportation Security Administration's own response to complaints and called for an independent review of its screening practices.

"Until that happens, we call on the public to hold the TSA accountable by downloading and using FlyRights," Singh said.

Singh addressed a news conference that included rights activists for African Americans and people with disabilities, who said that they also found the app useful to address concerns about profiling.

"The rights of every individual deserve to be protected, and they can be protected. And we can be safe without violating the rights of individuals," said Wade Henderson, president of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.

The Sikh faith, founded five centuries ago in South Asia, requires men to wear turbans and maintain beards. The Sikh Coalition says that some US airports pull aside virtually all Sikh men, stigmatizing them and leading outsiders to associate turbans with danger.

Sikhs in the United States have faced a wave of violence since the September 11, 2001 attacks, with assailants sometimes falsely believing they are radical Muslims. In the worst incident, a white supremacist shot dead six Sikhs after barging into their temple in Wisconsin in August 2012.

Singh said that the Sikh Coalition hoped eventually to expand FlyRights beyond airports to include schools, where Sikh children report widespread bullying, and other areas.

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