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World

APP
June 11, 2019

Sikh man gets US Air Force’s permission to wear turban

World

APP
Tue, Jun 11, 2019

NEW YORK: The United States Air Force has granted a religious accommodation to an active-duty Sikh airman that will allow him to wear a turban, beard and unshorn hair in accordance with his faith.

The man — Harpreetinder Singh Bajwa, an active duty crew chief at McChord Air Force Base near Lakewood, Washington, is a first-generation American and enlisted in the Air Force in 2017, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), a human right group, said in a statement.

The ACLU and Sikh American Veterans Alliance (SAVA) sent in a letter to request the accommodation on Bajwa’s behalf.

In accordance with Air Force rules, Bajwa was previously required to cut his hair and remain clean-shaven.

“The turban and beard are an important part of a Sikh’s identity,” Kamal Kalsi, founder of SAVA explained to the Washington Post.

“The turban is a crown. It represents our connection to social justice, our connection to our faith. These articles of faith for us remind us to do good in the world and to be good citizens in the world.”

“I’m overjoyed that the Air Force has granted my religious accommodation,” Bajwa said.

“Today, I feel that my country has embraced my Sikh heritage, and I will be forever grateful for this opportunity.”

According to the statement provided to Yahoo Lifestyle by the ACLU, Bajwa was encouraged to make the request by other service-members who had received religious accommodations in the past.

In 2018, the Air Force granted an accommodation to Capt. Maysaa Ouza, who was allowed to wear a hijab, in accordance with her Muslim faith.

In 2016, another Sikh man was granted a long term accommodation from the U.S. Army to serve his country with a beard, turban and long hair after suing for discrimination on the basis of religion.

"The Air Force can confirm that Airman 1st Class Harpreetinder Singh Bajwa was granted a religious accommodation in accordance with Air Force policy," Maj. Nicholas Mercurio, an Air Force spokesman, told ABC News.

"The Air Force places a high value on the rights of its members to observe the tenets of their respective religions or to observe no religion at all."

While Bajwa was granted an accommodation, ACLU representatives argue that all parts of the military — not just the Air Force — need to follow suit.