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Sikh News Army tells Sikh officers to change appearance - Army News, news from Iraq, - Army Tim

Discussion in 'Breaking News' started by Sikh News Reporter, Apr 25, 2009.

  1. Sikh News Reporter

    Sikh News Reporter United States
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    Torn between their Sikh faith and their military duty, two soldiers are fighting Army policy that requires them to shave their beards, cut their hair and remove their turbans.
    “I don’t think it’s fair for anybody to ask me to choose between my religion and my country,” Capt. Kamaljeet Kalsi said. “Shaving my beard and taking off my turban — these are part of my body. It’s part of my being.”
    Kalsi, a doctor trained in emergency medicine, and 2nd Lt. Tejdeep Singh Rattan, a dentist, were first recruited for the Army’s Health Professions Scholarship Program. Kalsi said the recruiters with the Army Medical Corps gave assurances that wearing a beard and turban — mandatory articles of the Sikh faith — would not be a problem. And during several years of graduate school and medical training, Kalsi and Rattan both said their beards and turbans drew no concerns.
    Now facing active duty in July, Kalsi and Rattan said their superiors are no longer accepting of their religious accommodations. As a result, the soldiers, through a civil rights group called the Sikh Coalition, recently filed formal complaints with the Army Inspector General’s Office and the Defense Department.
    Army spokesman Lt. Col. Nathan Banks, in a prepared statement, said that while the Army places a “high value” on religious freedoms, special exceptions to regulation are not guaranteed.
    “There are times when the Army cannot accommodate for religious reasons, such as when those religious observations would interfere with the wear of proper military headgear or protective clothing or equipment,” Banks said.
    Kalsi, a 32-year-old New Jersey native, said he represents the fourth generation of military service in his family. He hopes his 3-month-old son, Kabir, will represent the fifth.
    “This is a struggle for acceptance for our community,” Kalsi said. “The greatest nation in the world, the United States, is so diverse. We’re at the forefront of freedom throughout the world, and yet we have an army that doesn’t accurately reflect the diversity of its people.”
     
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