The United States army has issued new regulations, allowing servicemen and women sporting turbans, beards or hijabs to enrol in the military effective immediately.
The new sets of rules, which have been issued by the Secretary of the US Army, Eric Fanning, are more inclusive of minority religious traditions, especially Indian ones. They will allow military men with unshorn hair, beard and turbans to enrol in the army unless they are not sincere in their beliefs. They will also allow religious accommodations to be approved at Brigade-level. Previously it was approved only at the level of Secretary.
According to Joe Crowley, sitting Congressman from New York, this progress is not only major for the Sikh- American community but also for the nation’s military. He further added by saying that this move will give the Sikh Americans equal opportunity to serve America.
The decision was welcomed by the Sikh Americans and the US lawmakers, who had been campaigning for the same right since the past few years.Up until the recent announcement, Sikh Americans and others facing this challenge had to be granted a restricted permission to serve in the army while maintaining their religious faith. Such permissions were not permanent and had no guarantee and were required to be renewed after almost every assignment.
In some cases, service members were also required to remove their articles of faith while their accommodation request was pending, forcing them to choose between their religious faith and job.
The campaign to liberalise the rules of the US Army was headed by the Sikh American Coalition. Though they welcome the current move, they feel that it is still short of what they had been requesting for.
The coalition’s legal director Harsimran Kaur said that while they are pleased with the progress this new policy represents for religious tolerance by the nation’s biggest employer, their plea for a permanent policy change enabling all religious minorities to serve freely without exceptions remains.