Rastafarianism in Her Majesty's Armed Forces

There’s been a 40 percent rise in Rastafarian recruits since 2016.

A Freedom of Information (FOI) request sent to the UK Ministry of Defense (MoD) has revealed the number of Rastafarians, commonly referred to as Rastas, serving in the British armed forces has risen the most compared among all other faith groups. The answer sent back by the MoD showed 210 Rastas are presently on active duty in the army.

Rastafarianism is a religion developed in the 1930s in Jamaica after the coronation of Haile Selassie as the King of Ethiopia. In contrast, Druids are the smallest religious group in the British army, with only ten followers serving active duty.

The present numbers are a significant increase from the 2016 figures when 150 Rastas donned the uniform. According to sources, the ministry was forced to widen the recruiting net after defense cuts a few years back led to the sacking of thousands of airmen, soldiers, and sailors.

The defense cuts have bled the army the most. Troop numbers are now in the region of 78,000 personnel. The number of recruits, however, continues to be low despite a slew of advertising campaigns targeted towards potential recruits to join the reserves and the regulars.

Rastas have rejoiced at the MoD statistics, announcing the rise in numbers equals the victory of Rasta as a faith. However, the Jamaican armed forces continue to be hesitant about the prospects of Rastas in their ranks. Sister Mitzie Williams, a previous member of the Nyahbinghi Administrative Council in the island nation, like many Rastas, has approved of the British army recruiting members of her faith, even if it contradicts the Rasta tenets. She described this development as a move towards the correct direction when it came to religious rights. Williams lamented the number of discriminatory practices the Rastas have encountered over the years.

Per the MoD website, Rastas who serve in the army may keep their dreadlocks and wear full beards but maintained in a manner that the military uniform and headdress are worn correctly. There must be no compromise to operational effectiveness, safety or health.


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