By Cassandra Gallegos
According to The Independent, Sikh and Muslim soldiers are authorized to wear hijabs and turbans as part of their military uniforms. Approval for bearing these religious head coverings can now be given by lower-level brigade commanders, rather than only by the United States Secretary of the Army.
However, even with more lax regulation on religious attire in the military, it is still difficult for soldiers to obtain religious accommodations for headwear and beards. The Department of Defense stated, “Requests for religious accommodation [from soldiers] will be resolved in a timely manner and will be approved when accommodation would not adversely affect mission accomplishment.” While the military has made multiple strides toward religious equality, its waiver policy is strictly granted to individuals rather than entire religious groups. Thus, potential soldiers are increasingly restricted from serving both their faith and country equally.
To prevent people of faith from wearing religious headwear endangers their right to religious freedom, which is granted in the First Amendment of the Constitution: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
The United States prides itself on the freedom of speech and the American Dream, ideals which reflect how the country should uphold these core values in its own military. It is unjust for someone enlisting in the military to be turned down solely due to their religious beliefs.
Religious headgear, such as turbans, represents deep meaning in the Sikh religion. Turbans, long hair, and uncut beards have been worn since 1699 by Sikh men and are part of the religion’s identity. The restrictions of the military could potentially restrict them from their dream of becoming a U.S. soldier.
Moreover, the meaning behind the articles of the Sikh religion spells equality and justice, which parallel the objective of the military. Americans who are in the military should not have to choose between serving their country and upholding their religious values.
Multiple countries, such as the United Kingdom (UK) and Canada, allow Sikhs to serve with turbans and unshaved hair.
This emphasizes the importance of Sikh service. It also reveals how their religious articles neither prohibit soldiers from being able to serve comfortably nor disrupt uniformity.
The U.S. military should use the UK and Canada as examples of why turbans and uncut hair should be allowed in the military. People who devote themselves to their religion should not be forced to choose between their beliefs and their country. It is the United States’ job to up-
hold the rights of the people, especially for those who are willing to risk their lives defending them.