Sikh becomes first in US Airforce to be allowed to keep turban and beard while on duty
A Sikh-American has become the first member of the US Air Force to be allowed to keep on his turban and beard while on active duty.
Harpreetinder Singh Bajwa, who joined the Air Force in 2017, was initially unable to wear his articles of faith - including his turban and beard - due to the military branch's dress code, but has now been granted a religious accommodation to do so.
In 2016, Capt. Simratpal Singh, a soldier in the US army, was granted an accommodation to serve with long hair, a beard, and a turban:
This accommodation was confirmed by the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF) in a press release on Thursday.
"Today, I feel that my country has embraced my Sikh heritage, and I will be forever grateful for this opportunity," Bajwa said in the release.
The Airman was granted an accommodation after gaining representation from the Sikh American Veterans Alliance, and the American Civil Liberties Union.
The decision comes three years after Capt. Simratpal Singh, a decorated Sikh-American officer and combat veteran, was given a long-term religious accommodation to serve with long hair, a beard, and turban.
In 2017, the US Army updated its regulations on grooming and dress codes, instructing commanders to allow accommodations for practicing Sikhs.
Heather L. Weaver, a senior staff attorney for the ACLU, applauded the Air Force's inclusive move.
"No one should have to choose between following their faith or serving their country," Weaver said. "We’re pleased that the Air Force granted our client’s request, and we hope that all branches of the military come to recognise the importance of religious inclusion and diversity.”