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Sikh-American airman becomes first allowed to keep turban, beard on active duty by US Air Force

The United States Air Force has recently allowed a Sikh airman to serve with a beard, turban as well as unshorn hair, which now makes him the first ever active-duty airman to be allowed such a religious accommodation.

Airman Harpreetinder Singh Bajwa, who joined the Air Force in the year 2017, was not able to carry on the practice because of the military branch’s grooming as well as the dress codes. The Air Force then allowed him a religious accommodation after Bajwa gained representation from the Sikh American Veterans Alliance, and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), as per to the NBC news report.

Bajwa, who is a crew chief at McChord Air Force Base, Washington, is now the first active airman who has been approved to follow and stand by to Sikh religious grooming and dress principles at the same time of serving in the Air Force.

“I’m overjoyed that the Air Force has granted my religious accommodation,” said Bajwa. He further added, “Today, I feel that my country has embraced my Sikh heritage, and I will be forever grateful for this opportunity.”

Bajwa says that in the beginning he was asked that if he may possibly request a waiver for the duration of tech training a year ago in Charleston, South Carolina, and said he was never told “no” by leadership.

Bajwa also said, “I’m extremely happy I can practice my faith and serve my country.”

A first-generation American, Bajwa was born to an immigrant family. In the year 2016, Captain Simratpal Singh, an adorned Sikh-American officer and combat veteran, got a long-term religious accommodation from the US Army in order to serve with long hair, a beard, as well as the turban. The Army updated its regulations the next year directing commanders in order to permit accommodations for an active Sikhs.

The ACLU also termed the religious accommodation a “milestone” that was made even imaginable by their lawsuit, filed in the year 2015. “Even though Sikhs have long served in the armed forces of some of our closest allies — including Canada, Great Britain, and India — opportunities in the United States military today have been uneven at best,” as per to the statement released by ACLU in its website.

Heather L Weaver, who is a senior staff attorney for the ACLU, praised the decision of US Air Force.

Weaver said, “No one should have to choose between following their faith or serving their country.” “We’re pleased that the Air Force granted our client’s request, and we hope that all branches of the military come to recognize the importance of religious inclusion and diversity.”

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