There’s a set of photos going around on Facebook and Twitter right now of a older man wearing a turban on an airplane. The pictures were taken and shared via Snapchat by another passenger on the flight, who edited them to highlight the man’s headgear, and added captions saying he might not make it to his destination, appearing to imply that the man might be a terrorist intent on hijacking the plane. The man wearing the turban does not appear to be aware that he was being photographed during the flight. (In one of the images, he is asleep.)
Simran Jeet Singh, a professor of religion at Trinity University in Texas and a Sikh activist, posted the screenshots to Twitter after he spotted them on Facebook, where a fellow Sikh friend of his had posted them. The friend, Singh told Select All, had seen the images on Twitter in a now-deleted tweet. The screenshots, he said, came from a personal Snapchat account of a high-school student. Singh doesn’t use Snapchat, but told Select All that he located the teen on Twitter. “I tracked his Twitter account for a little bit, and he was tweeting about the photo,” he said. “When they [the plane screenshots] were going viral, he was sharing similar messages about why he stands by what he said.” (Select All has confirmed that the teen who allegedly posted the images to Snapchat has been tweeting about them and appears to claim responsibility for taking them. He’s a minor, so we won’t be linking to his Twitter account.) Singh also said he’s been “getting a lot of messages from his [the teen’s] supporters, saying things like, ‘Great job [name redacted].’”
“It hits close to home because he’s an older man. He’s clearly harmless, and he could very well be my father or my grandfather. So that just hits close to home, because if this individual is receiving this kind of messaging from a fellow passenger, it could have been any one of us,” Singh explained, noting that he frequently experiences racial profiling, secondary TSA screenings, and people “choosing” not to sit next to him while traveling. “Really, you never know the line between hateful thoughts and speech and hateful actions. It could easily cross over into violence, and that could affect any of us at any time.”
“I just think that in this political climate, we all have a responsibility to stand up against racism whenever we see it. So I just felt, when I saw these photos, that it was just a responsibility I had to my community — and to other minorities in this country — to bring light to the fact that these are the kinds of sentiments going around,” Singh said, explaining his Twitter thread. Earlier on Monday, a watered-down version of Trump’s Muslim travel ban was put into effect, while the Supreme Court announced it will hear the Trump administration’s appeal case over the blocked executive order later this year.