United States Army Capt. Simratpal Singh

United States Army Capt. Simratpal Singh

The U.S. Military now permits soldiers to wear religious hijabs, turbans and beards.

A new U.S. military guideline will make it easier for military men and women to gain permission to wear a hijab, turban or beard for religious reasons. This matter has been debated in the U.S. military, and the alterations to the rules pertaining to the dress code will help Muslim and Sikh members of the military to observe their religious injunctions even while they serve the nation.

The ban on sporting beards and turbans caused a lot of problems for Sikhs, as they aren’t allowed to cut their hair or beards as per their religious laws. In March, military personnel could leave their hair and beards uncut only for medical purposes. When the military maintained that allowing beards and turbans for religious reasons were not allowed, Sikhs felt it was a discriminatory move against them.

Army Secretary Eric Fanning said the army conducted a lot of research and evaluation before they made the alterations to the guidelines. He said the goal of the rules is to ensure personnel safety and readiness. However, he agrees it is also important to allow the soldiers to practice their faiths freely, and after a careful analysis, the army has come up with solutions that can help servicemen maintain their religious laws without putting compromising on safety.

In 2009, Jews were allowed to wear yarmulke when no other military head gear was required. Since that year, the army received a number of requests from Muslim women seeking to wear hijabs and Sikh men asking to be allowed to have a beard and wear a turban. However, it was only after Capt. Simratpal Singh, West Point Graduate and recipient of the Gold Star, filed a lawsuit against the Defense Department in 2016. Eric Baxter, co-counsel for Singh’s case reveals that military experts have always wondered why not many Sikhs are allowed to join the army. Now that Sikhs will be allowed to maintain their religious gear, he believes that the army will be stronger.

The army directives regarding the new rules states that the hijabs that are worn should be of “subdued material,” flame-resistant and of a color that matches the prescribed uniform. The length of beards permitted is two inches maximum. Beards that are longer should be rolled up or tied so that the mandatory two inches is achieved.

Soldiers will still have to wear protective coverings and helmets as and when they are directed to do so.

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