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Washington - Sikh U.S. Army Captain Allowed To Wear Beard, Turban In Uniform

Published on: April 1, 2016 04:41 PM
By: Reuters
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FILE - Capt. Simratpal Singh, who won the long-term ability to serve with his Sikh articles of faith intact on March 31, 2016. Jovelle Tamayo / The Sikh CoalitionFILE - Capt. Simratpal Singh, who won the long-term ability to serve with his Sikh articles of faith intact on March 31, 2016. Jovelle Tamayo / The Sikh Coalition

Washington - A Sikh U.S. Army captain has been granted a long-term religious accommodation to wear a beard, turban and uncut hair in uniform, a decision supporters hailed on Friday as a landmark that could help other religious Sikhs to serve in the military.

Captain Simratpal Singh received the religious accommodation in a memorandum from Assistant Army Secretary Debra Wada dated March 30. The memo spelled out certain limitations and said the Army was working to develop uniform standards for soldiers who receive such waivers.

The accommodation for Singh is the first for an active-duty Sikh soldier since the Pentagon took steps two years ago to give individual troops greater latitude to wear turbans, head scarfs, yarmulke and tattoos as part of their religion.

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The Pentagon’s move sought to make it easier for Muslims, Sikhs, Jews, Wiccans and others to follow the tenets of their faith while serving in the U.S. military. But advocacy groups say the process remains difficult.

The accommodation for Singh, a West Point graduate and Army Ranger, was granted only after he sued to prevent the service from requiring him to undergo extensive testing to ensure that his beard and hair did not interfere with his helmet or gas mask.

Even as his court case was pending, Singh passed a routine gas mask test with his unit.

In barring the extensive testing, U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell said it made little sense since more than 100,000 soldiers had been allowed to have beards for medical reasons.

Sikhs have served in the U.S. military in small numbers for years, but it became more difficult for them to dress according to their faith when the military instituted rigorous uniform standards following the Vietnam War.

Advocates say Singh is the first active duty Sikh soldier to be permitted to begin wearing a turban, long hair and beard even though he had previously served without them. Singh bowed to Army grooming standards when he entered the military academy at West Point but regretted the decision and sought an accommodation last year.

Amandeep Sidhu, Singh’s attorney, called the Army decision “a step in the right direction” but added “we are not satisfied with the U.S. military’s arduous, piecemeal approach to this issue, which forces all observant Sikhs to seek individual religious accommodations.”

Sidhu filed a federal lawsuit earlier this week on behalf of three other Sikh service members who are seeking a religious accommodation.



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Read Comments (10)  —  Post Yours »

1

 Apr 01, 2016 at 05:41 PM Anonymous Says:

Love the cammo turban. Good luck, Captain Singh.

2

 Apr 01, 2016 at 06:41 PM bennyt Says:

so can a chassishe army member wear his shtreimel in uniform?

3

 Apr 01, 2016 at 06:43 PM OscarMadison Says:

That camo turban is fantastic.

4

 Apr 02, 2016 at 09:08 PM Yankl' Says:

Sure you can wear a striemel, first find a camo one

5

 Apr 02, 2016 at 09:35 PM Anonymous Says:

To No. 2- Regarding your sarcastic comment, kindly be advised that there is a Chassidic U.S. Army Chaplain, who was allowed to keep his beard; secondly, in the early 1980's, Congress passed "The Yarmulke Bill", which allowed Jewish soldiers to wear kippahs, if they wished. Therefore, a big tsimmis should not be made of this Sikh soldier, wearing his turban.

6

 Apr 02, 2016 at 09:36 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #2  
bennyt Says:

so can a chassishe army member wear his shtreimel in uniform?

And when was the last time a shtreimel wearer volunteered to serve this country?

7

 Apr 02, 2016 at 09:39 PM Moose Says:

As opposed to the Jewish army that makes frum people shave their beards.
Maybe the Yoillys have a point.

8

 Apr 02, 2016 at 10:11 PM kenyaninwhitehouse Says:

He knew the requirements when he joine or is he a Baal teshuva?

9

 Apr 02, 2016 at 11:07 PM Anonymous Says:

So can a Arab woman wear a full Burkah in the military?

10

 Apr 04, 2016 at 02:02 PM Anonymous Says:

how does he hear with that turban fully covering his ears?

11

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