Capt. Kamaljit Singh Kalsi, Second Lt. Tejdeep Singh Rattan have challenged the Army’s 30 year ban on conspicuous articles of religious faith for its service members — including the Cross, the Star of David, the Muslim crescent and all else. However, Sikhs and soldiers belonging to other faiths who were part of the army before the 1981 rule had their religious observances grandfathered.

Indian Sikhs Served in WWI

Based on the belief in One God, the Sikh religion recognizes the equality of all human beings, and is marked by rejection of idolatry, ritualism, caste and ascetism. Kalsi and Rattan were part of the Army program that pays for medical education in return for military service. They were told when recruited that their turbans and beards “would not be a problem.”

Both men maintained their Sikh identity throughout graduate school, during specialized Army training, at Army ceremonies, and in Army medical facilities. Four years later, the Army is now telling the two Sikhs that the recruiters’ assurances were false and that they will have to forsake their religious practices. The Secretary of Defense has stated that the United States Army is open to reviewing whether the Sikh articles of faith truly hinder one from ably serving in the Army.
Sikhs have a long history with the U.S. military, having serviced in World Wars I and II, the Korean and Vietnam wars, and in the Persian Gulf with turbans and beards. Because the faith was grandfathered, both Colonel Arjinderpal Singh Sekhon, a physician, and Colonel G B Singh, a dentist, served in the army with turbans and beards for over 25 years

U.S. Congressman Ed Royce, senior Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee and co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans, said he is willing to make sure the Sikhs are admitted to military service without restrictions. Other lawmakers have pledged to reverse army’s no-turban rule.
It is thought that allowing Sikhs to serve with turbans and beards is a good idea in places like Afghanistan. It is refreshing to see hyphenated-Americans putting America first. Come on let these men serve without restrictions.