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Sikh musician claims he was racially profiled at US restaurant

Neelamjit Dhillon was having lunch in Orlando, Florida, when police responded to a call about a suspicious container at the restaurant.

world Updated: Jul 01, 2016 20:12 IST
Neelamjit Dhillon
Sikh musician Neelamjit Dhillon has claimed that he was having lunch at a restaurant in Orlando, Florida, when he was racially profiled. (Twitter)

A Sikh musician has claimed he was racially profiled while having lunch at a restaurant in Orlando when a “concerned citizen” called police to investigate him for carrying a “suspicious container” which just contained his bamboo flutes.

Neelamjit Dhillon was having lunch in Orlando, Florida, when police responded to a call about a suspicious container at the restaurant.

“A concerned citizen called the police to investigate me while having lunch because of my suspicious container. Just my bamboo flutes,” Dhillon wrote in an Instagram post about Tuesday’s incident.

Dhillon -- who moved to the Orlando area from Los Angeles to work on Disney’s Animal Kingdom show -- ‘Jungle Book Alive’ as a performer and Indian music director -- was having a late lunch at a local restaurant with a friend.

While outside on a phone call, Dhillon says a smiling and apologetic police officer approached him.

“A police officer was walking towards me, put out his hand and shook my hand, and right away he said, ‘I need to have chat with you. Can we have a discreet conversation back at your table?’” Dhillon was quoted as saying by BuzzFeed News.

Confused, Dhillion complied. Back at the table, the officer explained that someone unaffiliated with the restaurant had called police to report a suspicious man carrying a “suspicious container”.

As it turned out, the suspicious container was a carrying case for his bamboo flutes -- one of the many instruments Dhillon plays professionally.

Dhillon, who carries his flutes in a case designed to hold blueprints, showed the flutes to the officer, who apologised for the trouble and left.

Dhillion said it was not the first time a member of his community has been judged or profiled as a possible Muslim terrorist based on his experience as a Sikh.

“We always joke that we get randomly selected for security 100 per cent of the time,” Dhillon was quoted as saying.

“If someone just asked a question, and if someone didn’t come to conclusions based on appearances, they might just learn something about people,” he said.

“Sikh-Americans, we wear these articles of faith to represent justice, equality, and tolerance for all, and these are also American values. After the tragedy in Orlando, all I know is that more that bigotry and hate will never be the solution,” Dhillon said of his experience.

The incident comes months after Waris Ahluwalia, a Sikh model and actor living in New York, was prevented from boarding an AeroMexico flight because of his turban.