This Article is From Jul 21, 2009

US lawmakers back Sikhs' right to wear turban in forces

US lawmakers back Sikhs' right to wear turban in forces

AFP image


A growing demand in the US to allow Sikh soldiers' right to wear turbans has received the powerful backing from some lawmakers who have written letters to their fellow Congressmen.

Two lawmakers have written letters asking other Congressmen to write to the Defence Secretary to allow Sikh youths to serve in the military with their turban.

"We are writing to request that you join us in signing the attached letter that we are sending to Secretary (Robert) Gates regarding a fundamental issue of fairness, justice, and religious freedom: the right of Sikh Americans to abide by their religious articles of faith while serving in the United States Armed Forces," wrote Congressmen Rodney Frelinghuysen and Carolyn Maloney in the letters.

Frelinghuysen and Maloney said two commissioned Army officers, Captain Kamaljeet S Kalsi and Captain Tejdeep S Rattan - from New Jersey and New York respectively - were not being permitted to continue their service while wearing a turban and keeping an unshorn beard, both required tenets of the Sikh religion.

"Earlier this month, we sent letters to Secretary (Robert) Gates regarding our respective constituents' requests for accommodation and urged him to reconsider the policies that prevent Sikh Americans from freely serving in our Armed Forces (enclosed)," they said.

"We now ask that you support our efforts and urge Secretary Gates to allow all Sikhs to serve our military with their articles of faith intact," the Congressmen said.

The Congressmen have joined a nationwide campaign launched by Sikh Coalition urging Pentagon to change its current law, which prohibits a Sikh from joining the US Army with their turban. The Pentagon has said it is reviewing its current policy.