US army rules Sikh officer can keep turban, beard on active duty

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| United States | 2 April 2016 | Asia Samachar |
US Army Capt Simratpal Singh
US Army Capt Simratpal Singh

Beard must be rolled and tied to a length not to exceed two inches while in garrison.

This is one of the instructions given to US Army Captain Simratpal Singh who has won the right to continue serving on active duty while maintaining his uncut hair and beard, and wearing the turban.

Capt Simratpal, who sued the US military in March, has served with distinction for the US army in Afghanistan.

The decision on the “religious accommodation” for Capt Simratpal was related in a two-page letter from US Assistant Army Secretary Debra Wada dated 30 March 2016.

Among others, the letter outlines the colour of the turban he is allowed to wear and that the ‘beard must be rolled and tied to a length not to exceed two inches while in garrison’.

In the letter, it is stated that the Army intends to gather information to develop uniform standards for religious accommodations.

“I have considered your request for a religious accommodation to permit you to wear a beard, turban , and uncut hair in observance of your Sikh faith, along with the recommendations of your chain of command.

“I grant you the request for an exception to Army personal appearance and grooming standards, subject to the limitations described below,” writes Wada.

After years of cutting his hair and shaving his face, Simratpal was finally granted a temporary accommodation in December. Wada ordered tests in March to determine whether Capt Simratpal could safely wear a helmet and gas mask if he had a turban, uncut hair and a beard. Thursday’s decision by the Army states that Singh will not have to reapply for accommodation in the future, reports The Huffington Post.

In a press release quoted in the same report, Capt Simratpal said: “My military service continues to fulfill a lifelong dream. My faith, like many of the soldiers I work with, is an integral part of who I am. I am thankful that I no longer have to make the choice between faith and service to our nation.”

In the letter from the Department of the Army, Wada said the army intends to develop a clear uniform standards applicable to soldiers who have received a religious accommodation due to the ‘Army’s strong interest in maintaining good order and discipline’. See letter here.

Permission granted: Letter from US Assistant Army Secretary Debra Wada dated 30 March 2016 granting Capt Simratpal Singh the right to continue serving on active duty while upholding his religiously mandated turban and beard. - PHOTO / ASIA SAMACHAR
Permission granted: Letter from US Assistant Army Secretary Debra Wada dated 30 March 2016 granting Capt Simratpal Singh the right to continue serving on active duty while upholding his religiously mandated turban and beard. – PHOTO / ASIA SAMACHAR

“Until such standards are published, you may wear a black turban (or under turban, as appropriate) with the Army Service Uniform (ASU), the Army Physical Fitness Uniform, and the Army Combat Uniform (ACU). While wearing ACU outdoors, you may wear a turban (or under turban, as appropriate) of a matching camouflage pattern,” said Wada.

“Unless your duties, position or assignment require you to wear the Army Combat Helmet (ACM) or other protective gear, you are not required to wear military headgear in addition to your turban.

“Your beard must be rolled and tied to a length not to exceed two inches while in garrison and a length not to exceed one inch while in the field, during physical training, or in a deployed environment not covered by paragraph 5 below. Your hair may not fall over your ears or eyebrows or touch the collar of your uniform. You may display your rank on your turban, provided you remove the rank in circumstances where military headgear is not customarily won.”

The memorandum was sent to the Commanding General of the US Army Corps of Engineers and the Commander of the 249th Engineer Battalion based in Fort Belvoir.
In 2014, the U.S. military began taking steps to give individual troops greater freedom to wear turbans, head scarfs, yarmulkes and other religious clothing with their uniforms.

In an interview with The Huffington Post, Capt Simratpal said: “In a political context where minorities are being marginalized and attacked routinely, it is critical that our nation’s largest institutions and employers — like the U.S. military — show the country that America embraces diversity,” Simran Jeet Singh, the Senior Religion Fellow for the Sikh Coalition, told The Huffington Post.

The Sikh Coalition seeks to end the ban against Sikhs serving in the military with their articles of faith (e.g., turbans, unshorn hair/beards), it said in a FAQ on its military campaign.

“Currently, observant Sikhs must cut their hair, shave their beards, and remove their turbans to serve. Since 2009, the Sikh Coalition has obtained individual exceptions for three observant Sikhs with specialized skills to serve in the U.S. Army. Although we cracked open the door, we are still fighting to change the military’s presumptive policy, which continues to bar observant Sikhs from serving,” it adds.

 

[ASIA SAMACHAR is an online newspaper for Sikhs in Southeast Asia and surrounding countries. We have a Facebook page, do give it a LIKE. Follow us on Twitter. Visit our website: www.asiasamachar.com]

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1 COMMENT

  1. Are we Sikhs living in a different universe?
    BY,
    SIKHISM CHARITY OF AMERICA.

    THE MAN SEARCHING OF RIGHT PATH-1
    We pray to god, therefore, god able to save completely us, we have to come recite god’s name through (GURU IS WORD, WORD IS GURU). So we don’t fear GOD with us, and we do not be dismayed that ( SPIRITUAL HOLY BOOK OUR GOD).
    We utter guru’s name from our soft heart, but soft and kind people not fools, they know what the political and preachers people did to them. but they forgive them again and again because they have beautiful hearts. but god not forget kind hearted, but they do not wail, wait a bit and have patience for their wish.
    Since so long we are all your disciples have been inviting you (SRI GURU NANAK DEV JI), but it seem that you are so busy in some important work. Sikhism need your guidance once again.
    Other words people have forgotten your teachings and follow five words; ( RABBIT, HATE, GREEDY, RELATIONSHIP, SELFISHNESS) and forgotten your three golden messages ( WORK, WORSHIP, and SHARE). Though it is easy to worship through spiritual scripture teachings our(EVERLAST GURU SRI GURU GRANTH SAHIB JI). But preaching and implementing is one’s life is the hard thing. in new scripture books, life stories different meanings developed and associated with Sikhism and our (holy book) teachings.
    O, Lord you would be glad to see a lot of Sikh temples here categorized as per the different caste name structures.
    Now these black time one side people destructing Sikhism’s holy book and other side celebrating with full passion bursting fire crackers, delicious free kitchen and the long line of Sikh parades. it is only advertising their businesses not show the SIKHISM. So we missing here the real teaching of(SRI GURU GRANTH SAHIB JI).
    So many Sikh temples, Sikh Schools, Hospitals and Shops and Non – Profits Org or Coop etc have been opened on behalf of under your FAITH. But when it comes for internal account report we would find that most managements, preachers, and political peoples using their family, personal and political party advantages.Though the followers are keeping proper five SIKHISM signs which are gifted by tenth (GURU SRI GURU GOBIND SINGH JI); ( HAIR, BRACELET, SWORD, SIKHI DRESS and TURBAN). Keep pure disciples be photogenic. But still they are hatred and ready to kill each others on the issue like preachers preaching wrong meaning of (GURU IS WORDS AND WORDS IS GURU) rather than your philosophy.They give the satisfaction to disciples them spiritual scripture as their own instincts.
    Materialism has taken over the spiritual life. The preachers of our HOLY BOOK change their name preacher to (SAINT). And political in Sikh temples are on the peak. Sikh Temples Donate Boxes is not for the mouth of needy peoples.But Donate Boxes is for the management, political and Holy Book preachers personal use.
    Ceremonies of marriages which leads the people to follow the SIKHISM path unless customs. People showing their high qualities with which wastage of money with more quantities.They are not following our Holy Book teachings. Old people more suffering from the new generation wrong guidance. Divorces cases are increasing these days. SIKHISM is facing the tremendous amount of internal and external disturbance. Nobody meditates in SIKH TEMPLES and make only conference rooms and meeting halls. They talk on a phone or chat on the internet from the workplace and home always make the plan to meet in Sikh Temple for discussing matters not come to meditate or pray GOD.
    WE know at the end of our life only GURU’S WORDS go with us.At the time of our death, our body is only an identification. But family members and other people will say take care of this body AS SOON AS POSSIBLE to a funeral home. Family members and people do not call your name instead DEAD BODY whom you tried to impress them your whole life.
    O, GOD we are praying to give us sympathy to live to impress the CREATOR, not the CREATIONS.
    We all know that you never left us alone. You are still present among us in the form of ONE GOD through the light of teaching OUR EVERLAST GURU SRI GURU GRANTH SAHIB JI). However, we are the only ones who are following your teachings every day you open your door show us signs through ( GURU IS WORDS AND WORDS IS GURU).But we willingly ignorant to your to your teaching.
    With your blessing we hope would find the right path with your kindness teachings.
    WHERE IS KINDNESS, THERE IS SERVICE!
    WHERE IS SERVICE, THERE IS RELIGION!
    WHERE IS RELIGION, THERE IS SATISFACTION!
    WHERE IS SATISFACTION, THERE IS MEDITATION!
    WHERE IS MEDITATION, THERE IS GOD HIMSELF!
    This is not a guidance this is the only proposal to find a right path of LORD.
    By,
    Sukhdev Singh Minhas,
    For,
    SIKHISM CHARITY OF AMERICA.

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