Sikh Americans who wish to serve in the U.S. armed forces have never been so well positioned to do so. For decades, Sikh soldiers have had to choose between serving their country and practicing their faith. But that concern may soon be a thing of the past.
Earlier this month, the U.S. Army released new regulations stating that servicemen and women at the brigade level could now be granted religious accommodations to wear turbans, beards, and hijabs in accordance with their faith. Such accommodations have been made on a case-by-case basis since 1981 when the Army prohibited exemptions to uniform requirements for visible articles of faith.
In the first implementation of the new policy, the Army recently granted five observant Sikh American soldiers the right to serve with their turbans and beards, advocacy organization the Sikh Coalition told The Huffington Post.
“This is the largest increase in observant Sikh soldiers in the U.S. military since the ban,” a spokesperson for the organization said Monday.
There are now at least 14 Sikh American soldiers serving with their religious articles of faith in the U.S. Army, according to the Sikh Coalition.
As Private Shabaddeep Singhjammu, one of the soldiers granted an accommodation, said in a press release: “The ability to serve my country and faith has been a lifelong goal.”
Capt. Kamaljeet Singh Kalsi was granted an accommodation to go on active duty with a turban, beard and unshorn hair in 2009. For him, military service is embedded in his religious observance.
“The very first founder of Sikhism, Guru Nanak, taught us that religion is important, but service to mankind is paramount,” Kalsi said in a video produced by The Huffington Post.
Thanks to this month’s Army rulings, Sikh Americans will no longer have to choose between the two.