Indian American entrepreneur Gurinder Singh Khalsa was presented with the Rosa Parks Trailblazer Award for his campaign that pushed US authorities to alter their policies towards Sikh headgear, reports NDTV.
In 2007, 45-year-old Sikh was not allowed to board an airplane because of his turban. He was then motivated to take action and mobilized more than 67,000 people nationwide for petitions, eventually taking the issue to Congress, which forced changes in policy by the Transportation and Security Administration (TSA).
Thanks to his work, Sikhs are now allowed to wear their turbans through airport security in the US, and as long as they do not set off any alarms, security agents cannot force them to remove their turbans, according to The Times of India.
“I was prevented from boarding the flight because I refused to remove my turban,” said Khalsa, who heads Sikhs Political Affairs Committee in Indiana. “I took this stand for all those who believe in religious liberty and freedom of faith.
“This award is not about me. Change does not exist without the support of a community. I dedicate this award to more than 67,000 individuals from all walks of life across America, and to one of the largest Sikh advocacy group, Sikh Coalition. Without their countless efforts change in the TSA Turban policy would not exist.”
Attendees of the award ceremony included state officials and community leaders, according to The Tribune.
“Sometimes those who bravely protest for civil rights are stereotyped as somehow threatening figures – perhaps simply because of the raw courage required to fight for justice,” said Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill. “But in the personalities of both Gurinder and Rosa, we see the great power of quiet resolve.
“I know that Gurinder in his lifetime has experienced and witnessed certain perceptions and situations that have been unjust. But in his cheerful and dignified manner, he has stood for justice and free speech and freedom of religion and for so many truly American principles that make our nation great.”
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