American Air Force Allows Sikh Airman to Wear Turban and Beard While ServingJune 08, 2019 10:41
(Image source from: Asian Voice)
The United States Air Force has granted a religious accommodation for a Sikh airman allowing him to serve with a beard, turban, and unshorn hair, making him the first active-duty airman to receive such an accommodation.
Harpreetinder Singh Bajwa, a crew chief at the McChord Air Force Base near Lakewood, Washington, joined the Air Force in 2017. Since then he was unable to follow the practice due to the military branch’s grooming and dress codes.
The Air Force granted him a religious accommodation after Bajwa gained representation from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Sikh American Veterans Alliance, NBC News reported.
Bajwa is now the first active airman who has been authorized to adhere to Sikh religious grooming and dress principles while serving in the Air Force. "I'm overjoyed that the Air Force has granted my religious accommodation. Today, I feel that my country has embraced my Sikh heritage, and I will be forever grateful for this opportunity," said Bajwa.
(Image source from: Air Force Times)
Born to an immigrant family, the first-generation American, Bajwa says he initially asked if he could request a waiver during tech training a year ago in Charleston, South Carolina, and said he was never told "no" by leadership. "I'm extremely happy I can practice my faith and serve my country," said Bajwa.
In 2016, a decorated Sikh-American officer and combat veteran Captain Simratpal Singh received a long-term religious accommodation from the United States Army to serve with turban, long hair, and beard.
The Army updated its regulations the following year directing commanders to allow accommodations for observant Sikhs.
The Air Force’s decision was praised by Heather L Weaver, a senior staff attorney for the ACLU. "No one should have to choose between following their faith or serving their country. We're pleased that the Air Force granted our client's request, and we hope that all branches of the military come to recognize the importance of religious inclusion and diversity," Weaver said.
By Sowmya Sangam