Since 9/11, Sikh-American groups say members of their religion have faced discrimination and abuse because their long beards and turbans have led them to be mistaken for Muslims.
In a statement, the Sikh Coalition, America’s largest Sikh civil rights group, said that Sikhs are often targeted for hate crimes in part “due to the Sikh articles of faith, including a turban and beard, which represent the Sikh religious commitment to justice, tolerance and equality.”
Devout Sikh men don’t cut their hair or shave because they believe you must maintain your body in the way that God created you. Turbans are worn as a way to keep heads covered out of respect when in public and in religious spaces.
Sikh women often cover their heads with a long scarf called a chunni or dupatta.
“The threat of hate and racism has become a part of our daily lives,” lawyer and activist Valarie Kaur said.
Ahluwalia said Aeromexico staff and security screeners told him to buy a ticket for a different carrier after he refused to remove his turban.
“I was upset, I had anxiety, I was shaking, I did not speak. And then I realized, clearly, they have not been trained properly. I knew yelling will not do anything. It is about education and the policy,” Ahluwalia told CNN at the time.
During his first address to Congress last week, Trump said the violence was a reminder that “while we may be a nation divided on policies, we are a country that stands united in condemning hate and evil in all its very ugly forms.”
But it’s not enough for some.
Sikh-American leaders have called on the President to address the attack in Washington, while others have warned that his words may lead to violence.
“What (Trump) says goes short of being defined as hate, but in the hearts and minds of the lay person is translated as hate,” Mejindarpal Kaur, international legal director of global advocacy organization United Sikhs, told CNN.