Sikh with turban taken back in US Army

Last Updated: Saturday, December 12, 2009 - 19:43

New York, Dec 12: A campaign by Sikhs in America has resulted in the US Army accepting another Sikh recruit for active duty with his religious identity intact. It will be for the first time in 23 years that Sikhs will serve in the US Army with their turbans and unshorn hair.
Captain Tejdeep Singh Rattan, a dentist, and Captain Kamaljit Singh Kalsi, a doctor, were asked by the Army to remove their turbans and cut hair before they could be allowed to join active duty earlier this year. The two Sikhs had just completed an Army programme that paid for their medical education in return for military service.

Both they refused to remove their turbans and shave their hair, leading to protests and petitions by the community.

After a signature and lobbying campaign launched by Sikh organizations, including the Sikh Coalition, on Vaisakhi day, the US Army first announced in October to accept Captain Kalsi back with his turban.

Now it has also decided to accept Captain Rattan.

The Army had banned "conspicuous`` religious articles of faith for its members in 1981. However, some Sikhs who had joined before that date were allowed to practice their religious identity.

But the authorities have made only one-time exception for the two Sikh officers, without announcing any change in its overall recruitment policy. It is, however, willing to review its general policy of excluding Sikhs from future service.

"The individual accommodations for Captain Tejdeep Singh and Captain Kamaljeet Singh have significant implications for Sikh employees,`` said Sikh Coalition in a statement on Friday.

"Ending discrimination in the US Army sends a message to all other employers, both private and public, that discrimination against Sikhs who maintain their articles of faith is not acceptable,`` it said.

Thousands of Sikhs had sent petitions to the Army to take the two recruits back with their religious identity.

US Army gets its second turbaned recruit

Close on the heels of
accepting its first turbaned recruit, US Army has announced
drafting of another Sikh in uniform, with community advocacy
groups demanding that doors be opened for Sikhs in large
numbers in US Army.

Captain Tejdeep Singh Rattan has been accepted as an
Army dentist and allowed to wear a turban and not shave his
hair as a condition of joining the military.

Confirming the drafting of Rattan, the community`s
advocacy group, Sikh Coalition, hailing the Army action, said
these enrolments should not be treated as isolated cases and
that doors should be opened for large-scale recruitment of
Sikhs in the US Army.

"The Sikh Coalition remains concerned that there has
not yet been a change in overall policy excluding Sikhs from
the military," the group said in a statement.

"Army is America`s largest and most prominent employer
and discrimination against the recruitment of Sikhs, who
maintain their articles of faith is not acceptable," the
statement said.

The Coalition said with the Army not yet opening its
doors fully to the Sikhs, the community youth also face
problems in getting enrolled to police and sheriff`s
departments.

Meanwhile, Rattan said that he was pleased that the
Army has accepted him.

"I thank the Sikh Coalition, the community and Sikh
organisations that supported me. I look forward to the day
when Sikhs can freely serve in any field, including the Army,
without discrimination," Captain Rattan said.

Bureau Report



First Published: Saturday, December 12, 2009 - 19:43

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