Washington: Sikh airman Harpreetinder Singh Bajwa has been allowed by the United States Air Force (USAF) to serve with a beard, turban and unshorn hair, making him the first active-duty airman to be granted such a religious accommodation.
Bajwa, who joined the Air Force in 2017, was earlier unable to follow the practice due to the military branch’s grooming and dress codes. The Air Force granted him an accommodation after Bajwa gained representation from the Sikh American Veterans Alliance, and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), ‘NBC’ news reported Thursday. Bajwa is a crew chief at McChord Air Force Base here.
“I’m overjoyed that the Air Force has granted my religious accommodation,” said Bajwa. “Today, I feel that my country has embraced my Sikh heritage, and I will be forever grateful for this opportunity,” added the airman.
Bajwa said be initially asked if he could request a waiver during tech training a year ago in Charleston, South Carolina, and said he was never told ‘no’ by leadership. “I’m extremely happy I can practice my faith and serve my country,” said Bajwa. A first-generation American, Bajwa was born to an immigrant family.
It should be mentioned here that in 2016, Captain Simratpal Singh, a decorated Sikh-American officer and combat veteran, received a long-term religious accommodation from the US Army to serve with long hair, a beard, and turban. The Army updated its regulations the following year directing commanders to allow accommodations for observant Sikhs.
Heather L Weaver, a senior staff attorney for the ACLU, praised the Air Force’s decision. “No one should have to choose between following their faith or serving their country,” Weaver said.
“We’re pleased that the Air Force granted our client’s request, and we hope that all branches of the military come to recognise the importance of religious inclusion and diversity,” Weaver added.
Leave a Reply