Until last Tuesday (3 JAN), members of the US Army occasionally received religious accommodations on a case by case basis. On Tuesday the Secretary of the Army, Eric Fanning, propagated new regulations affecting all army personnel from the brigade level down. The accommodations allow personnel to wear turbans, beards and hijabs for religious reasons. The accommodations apply to those who express a sincere faith and do not serve in specific, concrete hazardous situations. The Army will continue to test situations where religious articles may pose hazards. The regulations do not currently apply to those working with toxic agents, nor to those enrolled in military schools.
For a number of years, the US Army has been pressured by various religious groups and individual personnel for accommodation for uniform wear and grooming. Particularly, two Sikh officers sued the Army to be allowed to wear a turban and to grow their beards. Major Kamaljeet Singh Kalsi was granted a permanent accommodation for his turban and beard in 2009. The ruling, however, only applied to the major. Captain Simratpal Singh was granted the same accommodation last APR. One of the reasons for so few members of the Sikh community in particular serving in the US military branches has been the lack of an accommodation for their religious beliefs.
Apart from religious accommodation, female soldiers now “may wear dreadlocks/locks in accordance with the guidance…for braids, cornrows, and twists. And “religious bracelets, similar in style to a medical alert, missing in action, prisoner of war, or killed in action identification bracelets, may be worn in uniform or in civilian clothes on duty in accordance with the guidance…”
Separate from the US Army, late last week, the New York Police department has issued new uniform regulations for Sikh officers. After working with the Sikh Officers Association to revise the regulations, Sikh officers in the NYPD may now wear turbans and grow their beards.
The main image, courtesy of the Sikh Coalition, is of Captain Simratpal Singh, who received permission to wear his turban & beard in APR 2016. Facts for this story were gleaned from the Huffpost. The second photo was taken by Richard Perry of the New York Times.