My Luck with Airport Security and Customs

On my trip to and from England every step of the way the security pulled me aside to check my bags or grill me with a million questions. When I landed in England I finally passed my 5 minute interview with the first person….and they cleared me to go…only to have someone pull me aside right after that to start all over again. Pfhew! I think I have to make up some stories. When I say I’m teaching at a camp…they must think terrorist camp. When say I work for SikhNet which is a non-profit organization…they must think….terrorist funding. It’s like all my answers just feed them and they want more. I always seem to get grilled. Even when I went to Canada…same thing.

When I landed in the USA on my way back from England, I was waiting for my bag to come out and was watching the customs security man standing there. I was thinking how boring it might be for him…and that he must just pick people out to cure his boredome…or in hope of “catching the one”!

Then when I got my bag I walked towards the “nothing to declare” section of customs, and lo-and-behold that very security guy pulls me aside and tell me to go wait over on the side. He then tells me that he needs to search my luggage, and starts asking me questions. He brought another guy over…who starts to open my carry-on luggage and meticulously go through every single item and question it. “What’s on this DVD/CD (Pictures/Music)? What is this movie about (Miri Piri Academy video)? What is this (Nitnem)? What are these pills (Vitamins/Acidopholus)? It went on and on…..! He pulled out some of my business cards and asked about it. I told him that I run a website which connects and teaches about Sikhs. Next thing I know the other guy is taking some cards…and typing it up on his computer. I see the SikhNet home page load….and AHHH… I see the featured SikhiWiki article with the image of Baba Deep Singh. In my mind…I was like…”what is he going to think!”…a turbaned guy with a sword… “Torrorist!”. So I talked to them and explained who the Sikhs are….and what we stand for. I told them about the turban and how 99% of people that you would see in America who wear turbans are Sikhs. Etc. Etc. In then end it turned into an educational interview for them. After giving them that info…and he finished checking my carry-on luggage he seemed satisfied to let me go. I was just glad that we didn’t have to go through my other bag. I was already the last one out of customs after the 30 minute “Educational Seminar”.

So… I guess that is the price, and gift that we have as Sikhs of the Guru, to never fit in…and stand out like kings and queens. It may be inconvenient but…who wants to be normal? I for one want to be original and a leader of the pack, who does not meld to the norm to fit in. Small sacrifices compared to the Sikhs of the Gurus times.

Anyways…it’s all a fun learning and sharing adventure!

11 Responses to “My Luck with Airport Security and Customs”


    Wow!!! They sure came down on you. But I like your attitude concerning it, always in Chardi Kala!

    These kinds of things happen so often, and I am surprised that these security guard aren’t educated about different religions. They should have to go through some seminars or something to educate them on differences in religions and their beliefs. This is unacceptable.

  2. Jaspal says:

    Excellent work Singh,

    I’ve had the same grief from customs & co at JFK Airport.

    They checked everything, right down to my laptop, brushing it for sign of drugs..etc. They asked me to turn it on, and how good was I, my theme had a sound file, which is a couple of singhs saying Fateh, followed by “Jo bole so nihal”, followed by a magnum gunshot.

    Yup they were looking at me alright.

    I don’t blame them, but I agree with Khalsa Warrior, they should be more educated.

    Given 911..etc. They cannot be blamed for being suspicious.

    But its all good.

  3. isingh says:

    but what would “something to educate them on different religions do”? they’re not SUPPOSE to profile. if you’re saying that they pulled Gurumustak over because of his turban then they’re profiling.

    But it’s not even profiling. none of the terrorists had turbans, and facial hair.

    it’s ignorance and racisim and eager beavers. i find it very very hard to believe that someone working at london airports and JFK or any of the other big international airports don’t know who Sikhs are and who turbaned people are. why should you have to say “i’m not a muslim”. are muslims bad people? are sikhs good people?

    you people are better than i am. because when i get pulled over “randomly” i don’t treat them kindly. (with educational experiences). i will be whatever they fear i am. A MUSLIM!


  4. Gurinder says:

    Jaspal that’s extermely Funny!!!LOL

    OH God I can’t stop laughing…….

  5. isingh says:

    everything Gurumustak does does sound really suspecious and sends red flags for blood hounds.

    that was funny! camp, non-profit org., training/teaching…

    you used all the right words Gurumustak! you do need to get yourself a cover story! :)

    Gurumustak, since you’ll be traveling much more now, have you considered looking into being on the frequent flier/traveler list? if i’m not mistaken i thought there was a list, i don’t know if you ask to get on it or if you they put you on it automatically.

    having a Top secret clearance always helps.

  6. Sikhi Seeker says:

    These stories sound very strange to me. I have worked @ the Toronto Pearson Intl Airport for 5 yrs (although not in security). But I have n e v e r come across a situation where Sikhs were harassed. Yes, we had a couple of cases with Osama’s family members (the poor guy who was a distant relative of his, was grilled like there is no tomorrow). But I think Sikhs are spared that indifference, because 85% or more of the security is Sikhs, and most of them keep their turbans and their facial hair. Actually this airport seems more like a Punjab airport. And also the head of the security for all the terminals of this airport is also a Sardar. So complete awareness!
    Welcome to Toronto :)

  7. I wasn’t abused or harrased in Toronto… but was grilled pretty hard. I thought that since the customs person looked Indian/punjabi that I would be cool… but I guess it is the opposite sometimes.

    It was quite nice to see so many Sikhs working in the airports and other places.

  8. isingh says:

    maybe they all find you interesting (and want to know you a bit better)…Gora and a Sikh…and from what i heard you are a bit taller than average and do stand out…

    you weren’t wearing that “Gora Sikh” t-shirt at toronto were you? :)

  9. Sikhi Seeker says:

    I think Gurumustak ji might have been wearing that t-shirt!! Calling loudly for attention…:D

  10. No…I wasn’t! :) I wear kurta pajama most of the time when I travel and work. I didn’t even make the shirt till recently.

  11. DJ Singh says:

    Thank you for sharing your airport/security experiences with a touch of humor.
    I guess, we all need to play it cool when it comes to airport security. Since I wear a heavier Kara, I must always pass through a personal scanning/frisking though I do have an option of avoiding the hassle by removing my Kara. Honestly, I do not mind at all being frisked in full public view – one, my co-passengers feel safer , and second, by adapting a co-operative stance, we send out the right message.  I have never had any bad experience, TSA has always been courteous and have most of the times been curious about my religious beliefs – all we need is an “elevator pitch” that has a high recall value.
    In case of any “situations” – let us use our good sense of humor to keep us and others happy :)