On the day Nikki Hailey, the Punjabi origin governor of South Carolina, the United States, touched down the holy city, the place from where her ancestors hailed, the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) expressed shock and resentment over the decision of the US Army not to enlist a Sikh student in the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) unless he shaved his head and beard and removed his turban.
"This is shocking and not expected to happen in a country like the US, a country to which the Sikhs too have made contributions," said SGPC chief Avtar Singh Makkar in a statement issued here on Friday.
"The US Army's decision amounts to hurting the religious sentiments of the individual against whom this order has been passed, he pointed out."In fact, the entire Sikh community has been hurt by this order," he added, while pointing out that the decision had also caused resentment among other communities in the US that led the filing of a lawsuit there.
"The hairs and turban are a distinct identity of the Sikh faith, and this we have explained over and again. While on the battlefield, a Sikh soldier draws inspiration from his religion. By taking away his faith, how can the US Army expect a Sikh soldier to fight," the statement added.
Pointing out that a number of countries have permitted the Sikhs to keep their religious symbols intact while enlisting them in their army or any other government service, Makkar said the US Army should withdraw this order. He recounted that during Rememberance Day in Canada recently, Sikh soldiers who had fought in the two World Wars were remembered for their valour and gallantry.
Makkar pointed out that the SGPC was establishing an International Sikh Centre at Yuba City in California for taking care of the problems of Sikhs settled in the US and Canada. This Centre will also be entrusted with the task of explaining all that is to explain about Sikhism and its religious symbols, so that Sikhs do not become victims of hate crime.