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silentsam
14 Jun 09,, 21:57
Fox (http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,526241,00.html)



Sikhs Challenge U.S. Army's Ban on Turbans, Beards
Sunday, June 14, 2009


NEW YORK Military service is in Capt. Kamaljit Singh Kalsi's blood.

His father and grandfather were part of India's Air Force. His great-grandfather served in the army in India under the British. So when U.S. Army recruiters talked to him during his first year of medical school, he readily signed up.

But his plans to go on active duty in July are now on hold. An Army policy from the 1980s that regulates the wearing of religious items would mean he would need to shave his beard and remove the turban he wears in accordance with his religious precepts.

Kalsi and another Sikh man with the same concerns, Second Lt. Tejdeep Singh Rattan, are the centerpieces of an advocacy campaign launched by the Sikh Coalition as it tries to persuade the Army to let them serve without sacrificing their articles of faith.

"I'm an American, there's no reason why I can't serve," Kalsi, 32, said.

The Army has a long-standing interest in how its members carry themselves, with policies that ban exotic hair colors, long fingernails or certain colors of lipstick. Army officials declined to comment on the reasoning behind its policy that would force the Sikh men to give up their religious displays. Sikhs who were active-duty military when the policy was adopted were allowed to continue serving without shaving their beards or removing their turbans.

The Pentagon and other military institutions wouldn't comment. The Military Religious Freedom Foundation, an advocacy group, was unfamiliar with the policy's origins.

As the Sikh diaspora has spread across the world, the issue of turbans and beards on Sikhs in uniform has come up in a number of places. In New York City, for example, Sikh traffic officers took successful legal action to force the city to allow them to wear turbans and beards.

The Sikh community is hopeful it will win the policy appeal; in an April 29 letter to the Sikh Coalition, the director of the Army's Human Resources Policy Directorate said senior leadership was aware of the issue and was gathering information to make a decision. Toni Delancey, a spokeswoman for Army personnel, said the appeals are under review.

Sikh Coalition executive director Amardeep Singh said he hopes that not only are Kalsi and Rattan allowed to serve, but that the rule will be changed for all turbaned and bearded Sikhs who would want to enlist.

"Our country's military needs to reflect what America is right now," he said. "It's a diverse country, it's a country that puts forth for the rest of the world the values of liberty, particularly religious liberty."

Allowing Sikhs to serve with beard and turban "will send a very strong message to the rest of the world that we are who we say we are."

The Sikh faith requires adherents to follow certain rules, among them that hair is not to be cut and for men, the wearing of a turban. Both Kalsi, an emergency room doctor, and Rattan, a dental surgeon, say they were following those rules when they were recruited and never had any problems or were told they wouldn't be able to serve with their beards or turbans.

Both said they raised the issue over the years and were reassured, and that it wasn't until the end of last year when they were told they would not be allowed to serve as they were.

The idea that he would have to choose between his country and his faith is hard for Rattan. "I'm offering my life, but I'm not willing to sacrifice my religious beliefs," he said.

Singh said it would be in the military's best interest to lets Sikhs serve. The community has a long tradition of military service, both in India, where most of the faith's adherents are, as well as in the countries where Sikhs have made their homes, like Canada and the United Kingdom.

"As part of our religious heritage, we're taught that we have an obligation to actively serve and protect the communities in which we live," he said.

In Canada, regulations for the armed forces allow Sikhs to keep their turbans and beards, and even determine what colors the different military branches can wear. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police allows turbans as well.

The British Army allows Sikhs to generally keep their articles of faith. For Sikhs who serve as civilian police officers, The British Police Sikh Association is pushing for development of bulletproof turbans. That would allow Sikhs to be part of firearms units, since safety helmets don't fit over them.

Sikhs have a long history with the U.S. military, serving in World Wars I and II, the Korean and Vietnam wars, and in the Persian Gulf.

One of them is Army Col. Gopal Khalsa, who is retiring in November after more than three decades in uniform, all of those with a turban and beard.

His distinctive appearance has required some conversation and explanation at times, but it's never been a problem for him, or gotten in the way of carrying out his duties or wearing his military equipment.

"Of course there's a lot of looks, but once people get to know you and you're doing the job, that falls by the wayside," Khalsa said.

He thought a rule change would be a good idea, saying the presence of Sikh soldiers would be an asset in places where the United States is currently carrying out military operations, like Afghanistan.

"The Army would be gaining successful, useful soldiers," he said.

Kalsi hopes he can be one of those soldiers, and serve his country as generations of his family have done.

"That's what we connect with, that's part of our heritage," he said. "It links us to our past and our present and hopefully the future."

Interesting.

RustyBattleship
15 Jun 09,, 01:18
I can't understand why the military prefers clean shaven men with short haircuts and readily removable headgear.

That's so you gas mask will seal properly around your face.

Merlin
15 Jun 09,, 01:25
I understand Sikhs are allowed to wear their turbans in many armies, including Singapore's. I'm not sure about heavy beards.

Kevin Brown
15 Jun 09,, 01:43
I understand Sikhs are allowed to wear their turbans in many armies, including Singapore's. I'm not sure about heavy beards.

I have no problem with it, however I wonder if a compromise could be made in terms of allowing Sikhs to maintain their beards and turbans while serving as long as the beards aren't too large and the same goes for the turbans also.

Gun Grape
15 Jun 09,, 03:30
One of them is Army Col. Gopal Khalsa, who is retiring in November after more than three decades in uniform, all of those with a turban and beard.

Not on active duty. He is a Army Reserve Chaplain. There is a Reserve Jewish Rabbi, Col Jacob Goldstein that has a beard. Both came in before the facial hair ban and the waiver is in effect as long as the chaplain doesn't have a break in service.

Back in the 80s the Navy allowed beards, except for those assigned to USMC units. That went away because of Gas Mask fit issues.

Merlin
15 Jun 09,, 03:37
.. Back in the 80s the Navy allowed beards, ....
I think some navy senior officers have a long proud tradition of wearing beards (perhaps until the need for gas masks comes along).

It seems to follow the tradition of commercial sea captains.

But I stand corrected, as this is just a vague impression of mine from seeing old historic photos.

Mobbme
15 Jun 09,, 04:10
I think some navy senior officers have a long proud tradition of wearing beards (perhaps until the need for gas masks comes along).

I heard you're not allowed to shave unless they give you enough water for specifically that. The water they give you is for only drinking, nothing else. Maybe someone in the navy can elaborate or correct me.

Deltacamelately
15 Jun 09,, 07:25
How does the beard and turban effect one's fighting capabilities?
If so, a huge portion of the Indian Army should be combat ineffective.

Here's a small piece about the Sikh's combat experience in the British Indian Army.http://www.emgonline.co.uk/news.php?news=5512

dwa
15 Jun 09,, 07:46
How does the beard and turban effect one's fighting capabilities?
If so, a huge portion of the Indian Army should be combat ineffective.

turban impedes wear of the kevlar and beard interred with gas mask seal.

so i would say vs shrapnel or nbc threats a large portion of the indian army would be ineffective

however i thing an arrangement can be reach where sikhs can wear beards and turbans in positions where they are not likely to require wearing kevlar/promask

Exarecr
15 Jun 09,, 10:24
If we are to give in to every worldly request to submit to religious wear for specific groups you could end up with a uniform that includes a kilt ,turban, seal boots,spears, boomerangs,and beaver pelts, all dangling from various appendages and hidden National uniforms. Imagine what the ration pack would consist off......"man",I don,t want to go there.:))

Mobbme
15 Jun 09,, 12:19
If we are to give in to every worldly request to submit to religious wear for specific groups you could end up with a uniform that includes a kilt ,turban, seal boots,spears, boomerangs,and beaver pelts, all dangling from various appendages and hidden National uniforms. Imagine what the ration pack would consist off......"man",I don,t want to go there.:))

I'm down with the women wearing the kilts and seal boots ;):))

But please, let us carry on with the spear

Dreadnought
15 Jun 09,, 13:30
I can't understand why the military prefers clean shaven men with short haircuts and readily removable headgear.

That's so you gas mask will seal properly around your face.

Yep, standard procedure you have to have an airtight fit on your Scott air packs. Now days breathing apparatus are "positive" in other words air forced through the masks.

The short hair and clean shaven face is SOP and perhaps maybe it has to do with controling scalp infections such as lice or any other topical diseases. If one had long hair or a beard you just gave your advisary a place to grab you by if in close hand to hand situations.

Turbins? well you cant fit them under your standard brain bucket outside the fact that the US is very strict about their dress codes as well as a few other nations ,military's. And IMO I have yet to see any bullet proof turbins that will hold up to your standard brain bucket. They are not going to change this policy anytime in the near future but I do hope they can reach some kind of even ground.

Officer of Engineers
15 Jun 09,, 15:13
In the CF, you can wear turbins and have beards if and only if that under combat conditions that you can wear helments and put on NBC gear.

That essentially means that at home, you can wear your turbin and have a beard but once deployed, it means haircut and clean shaven and helment replaces the turbin.

silentsam
15 Jun 09,, 16:08
I am concerned with the idea of a slippery slope. If this were allowed, where would it end? Would Wiccans who want a split tongue be allowed?

gunnut
15 Jun 09,, 19:16
I sense a market for turban shaped kevlar helmets.

RustyBattleship
15 Jun 09,, 23:45
If we are to give in to every worldly request to submit to religious wear for specific groups you could end up with a uniform that includes a kilt ,turban, seal boots,spears, boomerangs,and beaver pelts, all dangling from various appendages and hidden National uniforms. Imagine what the ration pack would consist off......"man",I don,t want to go there.:))

That was a big problem for Hannibal. His logistics problems probably weakened him as some units wanted special shields made out of a certain animal, etc.

As for Gas Masks for the Navy aboard ships, there is one other item (attached to every bunk) that requires a clean shave. That is the EOBA (Emergency Oxygen Breating Apparatus) that fits (sort of) over your nose and mouth with 2 or 3 minutes of Oxygen to get out of a burning compartment.

Canmoore
16 Jun 09,, 00:28
I think that people serving in the military should be allowed to wear turbins or have beards if they want to. However, if it impedes there own safety (helmets and NBC equipment) than they should be removed.

How many catholics keep a rosmary, crusifix, or St.Christopher medallion in there pockets when in combat to keep them safe?

I am sure that many faiths have there own small trinkets and religious items on them. The only difference is that a turbin can not be smuggled in a pocket.

Cactus
16 Jun 09,, 01:43
How does the beard and turban effect one's fighting capabilities? If so, a huge portion of the Indian Army should be combat ineffective.

Out of genuine curiosity, Major, what do they plan to do if/when they have to use gas-masks in an NBC battle-field?


I sense a market for turban shaped kevlar helmets.

Gunnut, if one wears a helmet he won't wear a turban beneath it... he may wear a thin patka (a bandanna or a tight cap) to keep the hair tied-up and in place. Russians do something like it all the time.

gunnut
16 Jun 09,, 01:51
Gunnut, if one wears a helmet he won't wear a turban beneath it... he may wear a thin patka (a bandanna or a tight cap) to keep the hair tied-up and in place. Russians do something like it all the time.

What if the turban itself IS a helmet? :biggrin:

HistoricalDavid
16 Jun 09,, 02:11
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/telegraph/multimedia/archive/00797/royal-scots-bordere_797268c.jpg

http://www.operations.mod.uk/telic/images/humaid/basrah_clinic1_hr.jpg

http://newsimg.bbc.co.uk/media/images/42173000/jpg/_42173764_rir2_416.jpg

What a bewildering array of headdress, and yet it works. Why? Because it reflects the variety in cultural tradition which makes up the British Army, by adding a special flavour to a common uniform and thus a common idea and loyalty. And considering the even greater diversity of the United States it would be a good idea to allow such small variations. A well-trimmed beard and a well-kept turban look just as snazzy as your standard beret anyway.

HistoricalDavid
16 Jun 09,, 02:11
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/telegraph/multimedia/archive/00797/royal-scots-bordere_797268c.jpg

http://www.operations.mod.uk/telic/images/humaid/basrah_clinic1_hr.jpg

http://newsimg.bbc.co.uk/media/images/42173000/jpg/_42173764_rir2_416.jpg

What a bewildering array of headdress, and yet it works. Why? Because it reflects the variety in cultural tradition which makes up the British Army, by adding a special flavour to a common uniform and thus a common idea and loyalty. And considering the even greater diversity of the United States it would be a good idea to allow such small variations. A well-trimmed beard and a well-kept turban look just as snazzy as your standard beret anyway.

silentsam
16 Jun 09,, 02:30
How many catholics keep a rosmary, crusifix, or St.Christopher medallion in there pockets when in combat to keep them safe?

I am sure that many faiths have there own small trinkets and religious items on them. The only difference is that a turbin can not be smuggled in a pocket.

There is no discrimination here. A Roman Catholic (or a multitude of other religions) who wants to have his/her cross or religious medallion on display is prohibited, with the necklace having to be out of sight. All of the individuals in the unit should appear to be relatively similar. Allowing one religion to have a completely different uniform, as a beard and turban would be, would be detrimental to unit cohesion.

ArmchairGeneral
16 Jun 09,, 02:35
I bet those guys put their helmets on when they're liable to get shot, though.

Blue
16 Jun 09,, 03:55
I knew this would happen back when we where talking about this......http://www.worldaffairsboard.com/international-politics/50286-when-nypd-wears-muslim-topi.html

Just a matter of time. I'm sure Obama will overturn the policy lickety-split. No thought required.

welcome to the Army! feel free to do whatever you want, wear whatever you want, whenever you want to do it!

Whateva!!!

RustyBattleship
16 Jun 09,, 05:19
I knew this would happen back when we where talking about this......http://www.worldaffairsboard.com/international-politics/50286-when-nypd-wears-muslim-topi.html

Just a matter of time. I'm sure Obama will overturn the policy lickety-split. No thought required.

welcome to the Army! feel free to do whatever you want, wear whatever you want, whenever you want to do it!

Whateva!!!

Right! You can "rest" assured that the honor guard at your funeral will be in the proper uniform.

Blue
16 Jun 09,, 14:26
Right! You can "rest" assured that the honor guard at your funeral will be in the proper uniform.
No tellin what that may be when the time comes. Hopefully I got quite a few years left.:)

pate
17 Jun 09,, 05:16
If they were drafted I could understand. Other wise I have no sympathy.

Joining the military today is a choice. If you can't abandon your hippie long hair and beard, don't join. Easy math. Your religion prevents you from doing whatever the military asks? Hey:


NEWSFLASH; dateline (today, as in now, as in not when dinosaurs ruled the Aerth) YOU DON'T HAVE TO JOIN THE MILITARY.

Barack Obama today said that no person, foreign or domestic is any longer forced to join the military, no matter how much they love this country. After bowing and kissing the feet of the leaders of any country with citizens willing to live in the one he presides over the world leader said, "It's cool yo' we can all live together."

This reporter felt a shiver up his leg while the empyrean leader spoke. A moment was taken for 'personal time' in the effort for honest reporting while this reporter enjoyed the moment the previous sentence records...

No really, it doesn't mean that you get to be a member of the Imperial Guard just 'cuz you signed up (sorry Sikhs, I know, it hurts, but seriously? Do you have contacts with our Mennonite communities? We're seriously looking into that, Luddite)

Can I be more ridiculous? Could I really care less?

Oh, I guess I could, people have been taking number to argue with me for how long?

Sigh.

NEXT?! (It's time for me to clock out, this better be good...)

Deltacamelately
17 Jun 09,, 14:24
Out of genuine curiosity, Major, what do they plan to do if/when they have to use gas-masks in an NBC battle-field?
Cactus,

We have been watching generations of Sikhs serving the earstwhile British Indian Army and later the Indian Army, over the years, in varied battlefields under varied battle circumstances and never did their turban or beard pose any hindrance in warfighting. If you have kept a tab on the last few excercises testing the Army's new doctrine in NBC conditions, you would know that apart from the NBC protective gear given to the troop who don't keep a beard or wear a turban, there have been tens and hundreds of Sikh soldiers involved as well. Now how they would do this and what would the army brass write off is a matter of debate, however, the Indian Army till date doesn't considers the beard and turban to be a hindrance or an abberation in SOPM.

Tronic
17 Jun 09,, 20:27
Delta sir, you're right, I think even in an earlier thread regarding the same issue, I had posted images of Sikhs in the Indian army wearing NBC suites. Though I think the full NBC gear is still in development phase; I have no doubt the Indian army will come up with a solution, just as they did with the helmets.


I sense a market for turban shaped kevlar helmets.

Nothing to sense, its been there for a while mate. Indian army has already developed helmets for Sikhs a decade ago. ;)

http://im.rediff.com/news/2009/jan/26jkencounter.jpg

antimony
17 Jun 09,, 20:47
Delta sir, you're right, I think even in an earlier thread regarding the same issue, I had posted images of Sikhs in the Indian army wearing NBC suites. Though I think the full NBC gear is still in development phase; I have no doubt the Indian army will come up with a solution, just as they did with the helmets.



Nothing to sense, its been there for a while mate. Indian army has already developed helmets for Sikhs a decade ago. ;)

http://im.rediff.com/news/2009/jan/26jkencounter.jpg

Tronic,

You beat me to it

GN,

Unlike a PASGT Kevlar helmet, the protection of the Patka (aka Bullet Proof Patka or BPP) is achieved through a steel band, which is supposed to be able to withstand small arms fire.

It is so popular (or prevalent) that the even non-Sikh troopers wear this now.

antimony
17 Jun 09,, 20:57
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/telegraph/multimedia/archive/00797/royal-scots-bordere_797268c.jpg

http://www.operations.mod.uk/telic/images/humaid/basrah_clinic1_hr.jpg

http://newsimg.bbc.co.uk/media/images/42173000/jpg/_42173764_rir2_416.jpg

What a bewildering array of headdress, and yet it works. Why? Because it reflects the variety in cultural tradition which makes up the British Army, by adding a special flavour to a common uniform and thus a common idea and loyalty. And considering the even greater diversity of the United States it would be a good idea to allow such small variations. A well-trimmed beard and a well-kept turban look just as snazzy as your standard beret anyway.

In India, I would find it extremely distasteful asking why an exception needs to be made for a Sikh (just look at the contributions of Sikh soldiers), I think it is a hard question for other countries.

I guess the issue is not whether a turban and a beard affects operating procedures (IA experience shows that it does not). I think it is an issue of how much latitude can be given to one community before another community demands something else. Muslims are required to maitain a full beard, I do not foresee concessions for them.

Tronic
17 Jun 09,, 22:06
I guess the issue is not whether a turban and a beard affects operating procedures (IA experience shows that it does not). I think it is an issue of how much latitude can be given to one community before another community demands something else. Muslims are required to maitain a full beard, I do not foresee concessions for them.

Actually, it has much more to do with military tradition. I guess when the Brits took over the Punjab region, they actually promoted Sikhs to keep their turbans and beards, so to integrate or atleast merge the traditions of the Khalsa army into the British Indian army. That way, Sikhs could be integrated into the British empire rather than wage war against what they would perceive as another threat to their faith, just as the Turks, Afghans and Persians. The Khalsa panth at the time was a very militaristic order and very widespread; its also a major reason the British stayed out of Punjab until after Ranjit Singh's death when the Sikh empire started crumbling. Hence, the Indian army has just carried on the British tradition, and even me, despite being a Sikh will not be allowed to join the Sikh regiment until I grow my hair and sport a beard; so most opt for other Punjab regiments. There is no such exclusive Muslim regiment, hence there is no exception for Muslims or other religions when it comes to beards. Sikhs in India were not exactly exempted, they had their own Sikh religious army which was integrated into the Indian army once Punjab fell under the British Raj.

Deltacamelately
18 Jun 09,, 06:20
If they were drafted I could understand. Other wise I have no sympathy.......
Can I be more ridiculous? Could I really care less?


Pate,

That's right, your reasoning is ridiculous...whether you care or not.
Armies integrate whetever positive martial traditions are available in their growing up. Its really not a matter of SOPM or NBS gear. These toys are very recent developements. The Indian Army did not evolve overnight, nor did the other state armies. I would rather have a Gurkha with his Khukuri in place, giving him the psychological strength of seeing himself carrying the martial traditions of his Gurkha ancestors than stripping him of that on frivolous arguments about SOPMs. The British did it, we did it. I would rather ammend the SOPMs.

pate
19 Jun 09,, 03:28
Pate,

That's right, your reasoning is ridiculous...whether you care or not.
Armies integrate whetever positive martial traditions are available in their growing up. Its really not a matter of SOPM or NBS gear. These toys are very recent developements. The Indian Army did not evolve overnight, nor did the other state armies. I would rather have a Gurkha with his Khukuri in place, giving him the psychological strength of seeing himself carrying the martial traditions of his Gurkha ancestors than stripping him of that on frivolous arguments about SOPMs.

I actually do care, I don't see anyone else getting special treatment for religious reasons on facial hair in the US Army. I have seen people allowed to have full beards for operational reasons (I think someone mentioned that) and also for their civilian jobs (a Reservist in law enforcement working undercover) and also for medical reasons (very rarely, and only in Basic Training).

As for the turbans, it's not on the list of authorized head-gear, and if it were I think that would open the door for anyone to wear one; Sikh or not. I don't think that would be appropriate.

Now, that all being said, our special forces are allowed to grow out a beard when they are in the field if need be. They also have their own head-gear (different colored berets) that only they are authorized to wear.

America is a melting pot, in my opinion that means that America is about assimilation. I think our armed forces should mirror that, you gain distinction by what you do and achieve, not by your physical appearance.

So, as a descendant of Scots, I should be able to wear a MacFarland battle tartan kilt when I go do my job for the Army? As a person of French descent I already have my rank honorifics in place, but that's not something you wear. (Corporal, Seargent, Lieutenant, Captain, Colonel, Major, and General) I guess we all get the beret (merci, mon bon ami Guillame Clinton), but we aren't all of French ancestery... Should heriditary Manchu Chinese-Americans be allowed to wear the queue as part of their uniform, if they want? As much as I'd totally wear the kilt:) as part of my uniform I think it'd just open the door for all sorts of uniform nonsense...

As for ridiculous reasoning:


...The British did it, we did it. I would rather ammend the SOPMs.

Great Britian having done something isn't a great argument for America doing the same thing. I would say that India having done something has even less relevance than that. I'm not dissing the British or the Indians, mind you, you are free to do whatever you like with your own military traditions. I just think that the American military tradition, abbreviated as it is in the scheme of things, has been trending more towards assimilation and uniformity than in any other direction; and I think this challenge is silly and ridiculous.

I have no problem with Sikhs, Gurkhas, Manchurians, (insert ethnicicity/religion/etc here) fighting alongside me, in fact I welcome them.

We all sacrifice something of ourselves when we join up, that's part of the process, I think. What is more important; your country, or your personal beliefs, habits, lifestyle, etc?

I'd take the one that thinks his (or her) country is more important and made a personal sacrifice over someone who joined up because it was an easy thing to do. Any day of the week.

I just think this is ridiculous in the context of the United States Army. I'm sorry but that's just how I feel, I mean no offence...

Deltacamelately
19 Jun 09,, 12:54
Well, I think I'll agree to disagree with you here. ;)

antimony
19 Jun 09,, 20:13
As ridiculous as it may sound, I support Pate's point of view here for the US Armed Forces, since the concept of the US nation state in one where multiple ethinicities from different parts of the world come in and blend in.

In fact, if the Sikhs in the US are accorded this right, it would be discriminatory to deny any other ethnicity the right to bear their traditonal gear. I don't know where it goes from there

For a country like India, whose armed forces, for better or worse have more "homogeneous" units like the Sikh, Gurkha, Naga, dogra and countless other regiments, it is both ridiculous and insulting to suggest a complete standardisation that would disallow such traditional gear, not least because of the traditions these units have built up and probably also due to the fact that these regiments are composed of "sons of the soil"