US military makes it easier for Sikhs to serve, but there’s a catch | world | Hindustan Times
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US military makes it easier for Sikhs to serve, but there’s a catch

world Updated: Jan 24, 2014 00:07 IST
Yashwant Raj

The United States on Wednesday sought to make it easier for troops to wear and carry religious articles of faith such as turbans, head scarfs, long hair and beard and yarmulkes.

But religious advocacy groups, specially those representing the Sikh community, said the new regulations did not go far enough and lift those restrictions completely. Members of the Sikh community will still have to cut their hair and remove their beard to join US military and then seek permission to grow them back. And wait.

That wait time will shrink now, that’s all. "The new policy states that military departments will accommodate religious requests of service members unless they have an adverse effect on military readiness, mission accomplishment, unit cohesion, and good order and discipline," said Pentagon spokesman Navy commander Nathan J Christensen.

"The Military Departments will accommodate individual expressions of sincerely held beliefs (conscience, moral principles, or religious beliefs) of Service members in accordance with the policies and procedures in this instruction," said the new order.

The order is particularly relevant to members of the Sikh and Jewish communities, which have had to deal with long and torturous procedures in the past to be able to serve in US military with their religiously-mandated articles.

Members of those communities will have to seek permission now as before, which will be dealt with on case-by-case basis on the determination that accommodating those requests will not "have an adverse impact on military readiness, unit cohesion, and good order and discipline".

But the restrictions, generally, will remain in place.

"Sikh Coalition deeply appreciates the Pentagon move," said the Sikh Coalition in a statement.

"We are disappointed, however, that the presumptive ban on Sikh articles of faith remains intact."