Issue of granting Sikhs permission to join the military while keeping religious symbols has been an ongoing battle for years.
A fight by three Sikh men to be part of the American army has finally reached a triumphant culmination. Sikh soldiers in the US military have been finding it difficult to reconcile their love of nation with their religious beliefs because the army had been against granting permission to soldiers to leave their beards intact. For Sikhs, these articles are core symbols of their faith and giving up on them would be like compromising on their beliefs.
A lawsuit was filed against the American Defense forces last month by Specialist Kanwar Singh, Specialist Harpal Singh and Private Arjan Singh to obtain special religious accommodations for Sikhs in the army. They were backed by the Sikh coalition and the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. Their case was taken up by the law firm of McDermott & Emery. For them, their victory is not just about winning the right to wear their religious symbols without fear, but also a sign of acceptance and inclusion by the Defense.
Amandeep Sidhu, partner with McDermott & Emery, says that the accommodations for Sikh soldiers in the military have doubled in the past couple of weeks. He adds that in this period, permissions have been given that have otherwise been denied for the last 30 years. However, he adds that although the Defense is obviously making progress, it still has a long way to go before fully removing discriminatory rules that are preventing Sikhs from joining the US military.
Rules in the US military became more strict since 1974. Ever since then, the rules have prevented Sikhs from joining the army because the grooming rules were incompatible with the Sikhs’ religious beliefs. Kanwar Singh revealed that his father and grandfather have both served in the British military without having to renounce their religious symbols.
The army makes exemptions to grooming in case of medical reasons. Jewish soldiers have not been stopped from wearing their skull-cap, the yarmulke as well. Last month, Capt. Simratpal Singh, a decorated officer was given long-term accommodation to keep his religious symbols. It was only natural that the US military would eventually have to eschew its discriminatory rules and allow its soldiers to serve in the army workout having to compromise on their religious beliefs.