Time for US military to recruit Sikhs as rule: US Congressman

  • PTI, Washington
  • Updated: Jun 17, 2015 17:33 IST

A powerful US Congressman has said the time has come for the US military to recruit Sikh Americans in its ranks as a rule and not as an exception.

Joe Crowley, 53, also welcomed a federal court's decision to allow a 20-year-old Sikh-American student Iknoor Singh to enrol in an army programme without removing his articles of faith like the beard and turban.

"Sikh Americans love this country and want a fair chance to serve in our nation's military. It is time for our military to make inclusion of practicing Sikh Americans the rule, not the exception," Crowley said.

"The decision by the US District Court is another important step forward in the effort to end the presumptive ban on service by patriotic Sikh Americans once and for all," he said.

In a ruling last week, a US District Court said that Singh's adherence to practicing Sikhism, including wearing articles of faith such as a turban and beard, would not diminish his ability to serve in the US military.

Singh, born and raised in New York and a student at Long Island-based Hofstra University, had previously been denied the right to enrol in his college's US Army Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) programme on account of his religious articles of faith.

"Time and time again, Sikh American soldiers have demonstrated that it is possible to comply with operation requirements of the military while practicing their faith," Crowley said.

"These patriotic soldiers wear turbans and maintain beards in a neat and conservative manner in accordance with operational requirements. They are also able to wear protective equipment, including helmets and gas masks, in conformity with safety requirements," he said.

Last year, Crowley and Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen led over 100 Members of Congress in a letter to the Department of Defense asking the US Armed Forces to update their appearance regulations to once again allow Sikh Americans to serve while abiding by their articles of faith.

Sikhs have served in the US Army since World War I and they are presumptively permitted to serve in the armed forces of Canada, India and the UK among others.

Currently, three Sikh Americans have been granted individualised accommodations to serve in the US Army where they have won accolades for their service including the Bronze Star.

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