US lawmakers urge Pentagon to end ban on Sikhs serving in army

Mar 11, 2014, 08:03 IST | Agencies

A group of 105 US lawmakers urges Pentagon to lift ban on Sikhs serving in the military 

Washington: A group of 105 US lawmakers has urged the Pentagon to lift the presumptive ban on the Sikhs serving in the military by easing restrictions on beard, turbans, and other religious accoutrements.

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"Given the achievements of these soldiers and their demonstrated ability to comply with operational requirements while practising their faith, we believe it is time for our military to make inclusion of practicing Sikh Americans the rule, not the exception," the lawmakers said in a letter to US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel.

Led by Congressmen Joe Crowley, vice chair of the Democratic Caucus, and Rodney Frelinghuysen, Chairman of the House Defence Appropriations Subcommittee, the 105 members of the US House of Representatives requested that the US armed forces update their appearance regulations to once again allow Sikh Americans to serve while abiding by their articles of faith, such as wearing a turban or beard.

They said the Sikhs have served in the US army since World War I, and are permitted to serve in the armed forces of Canada and the UK, as well as key partner India.

The three Sikh Americans who have been granted individualised accommodations to serve in the US army wear turbans and maintain beards in a neat and conservative manner, both in accordance with operational requirements and their Sikh religious beliefs.

They are also able to wear protective equipment, including helmets and gas masks, in conformity with safety requirements. Sikh Coalition applauded lawmaker's move calling for an end to the presumptive ban on devout Sikh service in the US military.

"Today's letter from Congress is a big step forward in our campaign to ensure equal opportunity for Sikh Americans in the US military," said Rajdeep Singh, director of Law and Policy for the Sikh Coalition.

"Sikhs have proven time and again around the world that they are excellent soldiers. It's time for the Pentagon to realise that Sikh Americans are here to stay and that policies of exclusion are inevitably going to fail," Singh said.

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