The Talking Lion

Monday, July 18, 2005

The War Against Things That People Associate With Terrorism

New York's Metropolitan Transit Administration had nothing against Sikhs and Muslism who wear religious head coverings. As long as the organization's logo is patched on there, of course.

After wearing his turban for 23 years on the job without a problem, Kevin Harrington was suspended from his job when he refused to remove the turban. Only after he agreed to wear an MTA patch was he allowed to return to his position. Now there are others claiming discrimination from the Transit Authority. From the NY Daily News:

Four more Sikh men who work at the Transit Authority plan to file discrimination charges against the agency, their lawyers said yesterday.

The legal action is expected along with the filing of a separate federal bias suit by Kevin Harrington, another Sikh worker who has long battled the TA and its parent Metropolitan Transportation Administration for the right to wear his turban on the job.

"The MTA attempted to divide and conquer [the Sikh workers] but failed miserably," said Amardeep Singh, an attorney who represents Harrison and the other Sikh employes. "All Sikhs at the MTA are standing united."

So, first things first: This is blatant discrimination that should not be tolerated. As Harrison's lawyer explains in the story:

"No one had a problem on 9/11 identifying Harrington as an MTA employee because he didn't have a patch on his turban," said Kadidal. "Saying that Sikhs should wear an MTA patch on their turbans is like saying that Sikhs who work at McDonald's should wear the golden arch on their turbans, too."

But even beyond that, this knee-jerk reaction to the tragedy in London reveals deeper problems. It is just more evidence that little has changed since the 9/11 bombings in terms of how Muslims and other "brown people" (to use Arun's terminology) are viewed by the rest of the population. This kind of discrimination would not have happened with any other ethnic group. But in the aftermath of the Underground bombings in London, the backlash is felt as far away as New York City.

So instead of actually trying to deal with the fact that we don't have the proper security in place when it comes to mass transit to prevent another terrorist attack, the Transit Authority wants to just make riders feel safer by making sure that all of their workers (even the ones who have been working there for over two decades) look nothing like the kind of person that would be a terrorist. This action, of course, does absolutely no good. Not only is it discrimination, but it takes energy away from where Americans need it most now: keeping passengers safe.

It's okay though, because now the MTA will probably just try to avoid hiring anybody who remotely resembles a Middle Eastern terrorist, so they won't have to worry about this sort of thing. I love happy endings.


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