US Army should let Sikhs serve, turban and all (COMMENTARY)

Print More
Army Maj. Kamaljeet Singh Kalsi, who attended the hearing in his camouflage turban, said afterward that Sikhs will continue to petition Congress and the military to change the policy to prevent Sikhs from having to “choose between God and country. Nobody should be put into that situation.” Religion News Service photo by Adelle M. Banks

Army Maj. Kamaljeet Singh Kalsi, who attended the hearing in his camouflage turban, said afterward that Sikhs will continue to petition Congress and the military to change the policy to prevent Sikhs from having to “choose between God and country. Nobody should be put into that situation.” Religion News Service photo by Adelle M. Banks

Active RNS subscribers and members can view this content by logging-in here.

(RNS) In the U.S., being forced to choose between one’s faith and service to our country is a choice that no American should have to make.

  • Larry

    The most ridiculous part of the turban ban is the fact that Sikhs had been serving in the British Army since the mid 19th Century, turbans and all. Sikh units distinguished themselves in WWII against the Japanese in the Burma Campaign as the vanguard of the Allied forces at Imphal. In the Indian military Sikh units have been particularly distinguished.

    One can’t say that the turban impedes the ability of Sikhs to behave as soldiers in combat conditions. They had proven over and over again that was never the case.

  • Pingback: US Army should let Sikhs serve, turban and all (COMMENTARY) | Christian News Agency()

  • Pingback: US Army should let Sikhs serve, turban and all (COMMENTARY) - mosaicversemosaicverse()

  • Bernardo

    Facial hair and turbans interfere with the protection afforded by protective/gas masks and therefore are not allowed in the US military of any branch. Said branches are all-volunteer. No one is making a Sikh join. They know the rules before they join.

  • Canadian here. I’m surprised such a ban exists. Doesn’t this violate one’s religious rights? Fun fact: Have you seen our new Defence Minister in Canada? He’s Sikh. Wears a turban, and it certainly hasn’t affected his ability to serve. Hope the US government makes this right soon.

  • Bernardo

    Melissa,

    And being a Sikh, your defense minister hates Islam, another point in his favor.

  • Larry

    Bernardo, you have no clue what you are talking about. British, Canadian and Indian militaries have had Sikhs in their ranks for many many years.

    They were certainly capable of serving in a modern battlefield before against the Turks, Afghans, Imperial Germans, Nazis, Imperial Japanese, Pakistanis, and in a good % of UN peacekeeping missions. At least 1 of those conflicts involved chemical weapons. Canadians even had produced gas masks which work with beards. Military chemical warfare suits cover the whole body these days (a gas mask is no protection from nerve/blistering agents).

    Like many arbitrary bans, this one is based entirely on supposition notwithstanding clear and unambiguous facts to the contrary.

  • Bernardo

    Larry,

    “Excluding limited exemptions for religious accommodation, the United States Army, Air Force, and Marine Corps have policies that prohibit beards on the basis of hygiene, the necessity of a good seal for chemical weapon protective masks, the official position that uniform personal appearance and grooming contribute to discipline and a sense of camaraderie.

    All branches of the U.S. Military currently prohibit beards for a vast majority of recruits, although some mustaches are still allowed,[22] based on policies that were initiated during the period of World War I.”

    Basic training requires tear gas exposure to learn that a protective/chemical mask works. Facial hair prevents it from working. And turbans also might be an issue in making a tight seal via the supporting head bands.

    Bernardo, former 1st Lt. US Army Chemical Corps.

  • SoonerArrow

    As a ten-year U.S. Army veteran and a religous agnostic, I believe that Sihk’s should be allowed to both grow their beards and wear their turbans. There are ways to wear a gas mask with a beard, so this argument is a non-starter with me. The U.S. Navy allows for service members serivng aboard ships and submarines to sport a beard, so it’s not really a deviation from existing rules and regulations. Also, the diversity of thought brought by other service member’s religions, cultures and beliefs have mostly been very good things for our service members. Plus, it shows that in the U.S. we at least try to be inclusive off all people when it comes to defending this great country of our.

  • Dr. Cajetan Coelho

    Bole so Nihal – Sat sri Akal.

  • Larry

    Bernardo, your need to ignore 150 years of service by Sikhs in 3 modern armies, turbans and all, renders your supposition a non-starter. If these religious accouterments were so detrimental, they would have been banned by the military forces of 3 nations with a much much greater Sikh population than the US.

    Please by all means pretend the UK, Canada (or even India) do not have a modern military. Besides, a former 1st Lt is scarcely going to be a greater authority than 27 retired Generals. People who have been in the service a lot longer and made more of a career of it than yourself. Your authority on the subject is minuscule in comparison to theirs.

  • Bernardo

    US Navy regs on facial hair etc. Fortunately, the US Navy is not influenced by the military’s of other countries that are no longer first rate and who have forgotten the effects of chemical agents in warfare. And the 27 retired generals? They also apparently have forgotten their tear gas chamber experiences. I have not.

    http://www.public.navy.mil/bupers-npc/support/uniforms/uniformregulations/chapter2/Pages/2201PersonalAppearance.aspx

    More on the situation at:

    http://www.npr.org/2015/06/05/412274015/why-are-only-three-observant-sikh-men-serving-in-the-u-s-military

    And then again, Sikhs have a deep hatred for anything Islamic so there is a good side to all of this as long as they take on said Muslims without their beards.

    Then there is the religion itself:

    • A constant cycle of reincarnation until enlightenment is reached and belief that various beings (angels?, tinkerbells? etc) exist that we, as mortals, cannot comprehend makes for a no on Sikhism…

  • Bernardo

    Continued from above:

    Of course, Christians who make up the greater part of the US military, have some very absurd beliefs too. : )

  • Bhullar

    More than 100 thousands sikh fight during ww2 and ww1 for Allies and I think United States need to change law and let Sikhs enter in us army sikhs are the one who won Afghanistan in 18cenutry without heavy guns . Bole so nihaal

  • Pingback: Generals Call on US Military to Allow Sikhs to Serve | God and Country()