US Army accepts a second Sikh with turban and beard intact (Lead)December 12th, 2009 - 3:09 pm ICT by IANS
By Arun Kumar
Washington, Dec 12 (IANS) The US Army has agreed to accept a second Sikh, Captain Tejdeep Singh Rattan, with his Sikh identity intact after an eight month long campaign by a Sikh advocacy group.
Rattan, a military dentist, had refused to remove his ‘dastaar’ (turban) or shave his hair as a condition of joining the military, the Sikh Coalition announced Friday.
The group had launched a campaign calling on the Army to accept all Sikhs after two sikhs, Captain Kamaljeet Singh Kalsi and Rattan were refused entry into the military unless they removed their turbans and shaved their beards.
The Army agreed to accept Kalsi in October. The US Army’s acceptance of Kalsi and Rattan marks the first time in 23 years that the Army will accept Sikh recruits who maintain their articles of faith, the group noted.
While whole heartedly applauding the Army’s action, the Sikh Coalition said it remains concerned that Kalsi and Rattan received individual accommodations to Army policy and there has been no change in the overall policy excluding Sikhs from service. But individual accommodations for Kalsi and Rattan have significant implications for Sikh employees, the group said noting the Army is America’s largest and most prominent employer.
“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.
Though Sikhs have approached several police and sheriff’s departments for jobs, they are often told that if Sikhs cannot serve as US soldiers, they cannot serve as police officers either.
Most importantly, over the long-term, equal participation of Sikhs in all of society’s institutions, including the Army, will go a long way towards reducing the prejudice Sikhs often face in schools and on the streets.
The Coalition said over the coming year, with the community’s active support and in collaboration with other Sikh organizations, it will continue to work with the US Army to ensure all Sikhs may serve without individual exemptions.
“We are encouraged that the Army has expressed its willingness to review its general policy of excluding Sikhs from service,” it said thanking House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Howard Berman for his help in the resolution of Rattan and Kalsi’s cases.
(Arun Kumar can be contacted at email@example.com)
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Tags: 23 years, advocacy group, army policy, articles of faith, arun kumar, beard, beards, dentist, discrimination in the us, institutions, kalsi, participation, police officers, prejudice, rattan, sikh, sikhs, turban, turbans, us army