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  • Discrimination against Sikhs in the US military


    by Rumbold
    10th April, 2009 at 11:09 am    

    Sikhs wishing to join the US military have long been barred from joining if they refused to cut their hair and discard their turbans. A 1981 regulation banned ‘conspicuous’ religious symbols in the military (though there had been some exemption for the turban) while in 1999 new regulations forced Sikhs (apart from those who had enlisted prior to 1984) to choose between the five Ks and the military. Now two Sikhs who enlisted are being told, despite previous assurances, that they will have to remove their turbans, cut their hair and shave their breads when their training is finished.

    This strikes me as one of those idiotic regulations which does no good and plenty of harm. Sikhs have long served honourably in the British armed forces (and elsewhere), without the British armed forces ever feeling the need to pressure them to conform. It is therefore clearly not an impediment to active service, nor is it any way slovenly. It has been argued that the sight of turbaned Sikhs in British uniform became such a common sight prior to Indian independence, that when Sikhs in Britain were agitating for the turban to be exempted from helmet regulations, there wasn’t widespread opposition to it because people had already come to associate turbaned Sikhs with martial valour.

    The most eloquent testament to turbaned Sikhs serving in the armed forces comes from the British general Sir Frank Walter Messervy:

    “In the last two World Wars 83,005 turban-wearing Sikh soldiers were killed and 109,045 were wounded. They all died or were wounded for the freedom of Britain and the World, enduring shell fire with no other protection but the turban, the symbol of their faith.”

    (Hat-Tip: Ravneet at the Sikh Coalition)


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    Filed in: Civil liberties,Sikh,United States






    62 Comments below   |  

    Reactions: Twitter, blogs
    1. pickles

      New blog post: Discrimination against Sikhs in the US military http://www.pickledpolitics.com/archives/4161


    2. Tej Preet

      Discrimination against Sikhs in the US military: http://www.pickledpolitics.com/archives/4161


    3. ristiaputi

      apa deh ayaRT @aiyasoraya: awawawaw RT @putiingga: RT @putiingga: http://bit.ly/rLLT.. ko lo ga kasi tau gw deeeh @thenays




    1. Bert Rustle — on 10th April, 2009 at 11:22 am  

      Rumbold wrote … This strikes me as one of those idiotic regulations which does no good and plenty of harm. …

      Harm? I would have thought thaat a Sikh soldier, fighting Muslims on behalf of the Great Satan in Afghanistan, would do himself a lot of good by appearing incognito.

      Such an option was not open to black British soldiers in Northern Ireland, who were reportedly targeted by PIRA.

    2. Rumbold — on 10th April, 2009 at 11:30 am  

      Well, if Sikhs soldiers wish to remove their turbans, then it is up to them. However, I am unclear why they would be specifically targeted by Muslims.

    3. damon — on 10th April, 2009 at 12:23 pm  

      Not so much ”targeted by Muslims” I would say, (as that is way too general)…. but perhaps targeted by the Taliban.
      Who knows what rot runs through their backward mindset?

      Just on another point, I thought someone might have written something about the arrests of Pakistani students in the north west the other day.

      Who are these Pakistani people who can afford the fees of £9,000 a year?
      The children of the corrupt elite?
      And you’d think some questions might be asked when they applied for visas, about: ”where did you get the money?”
      If they are people from humble backgrounds from the NWFP - then a few alarm bells might ring I’d have thought.
      Goodness knows what they think (if the are very conservative Muslims) about the ”debauched depravity” of student life in England.

    4. Amrit — on 10th April, 2009 at 12:40 pm  

      Has any explanation been given as to why they’ll have to cut their hair and etc.?

      I sort of have to agree with BR that in certain areas, it’d probably be to their benefit not to be quite so conspicuous… but only in certain areas.

      This may sound terrible, but I can’t help thinking that there’s probably some ignorance behind this. Given that there have been quite a few ‘friendly fire’ incidents involving the US in the past, perhaps they want to make sure that nobody is going to confuse the Sikh soldiers with Muslims… I mean, in the US their primary image of foreign Muslims seems to be that of Osama BL, unfortunately. Who of course has a beard and a turban…

    5. Sid — on 10th April, 2009 at 1:20 pm  

      Sikhs fought for the empire in the first Anglo-Afghan war of 1838–1842, and again in the Second Anglo-Afghan War of 1878–1880. There was no need to go incognito then.

      As this cosy image from this brand of chicory coffee shows. A British classic.

    6. Bert Rustle — on 10th April, 2009 at 2:14 pm  

      Rumbold wrote … I am unclear why they would be specifically targeted by Muslims. …

      I have in passing seen numerous references to Sikh-Muslim conflict. However, it in fact seems that this is largely a UK problem, at least since partition.

      Therefore I will take cover behind the remark above by Amrit that they may be less likely to be shot by their own side.

      Sid 5 wrote …Sikhs fought for the empire in the first … and … Second Anglo-Afghan War …

      Why?

    7. Laban Tall — on 10th April, 2009 at 2:22 pm  

      While few would dispute Sikh martial prowess or gallantry, to be fair there is a difference between historical British and current US experience.

      Sikh soldiers in the service of the Empire were recruited from India as was, not from the mother country of that Empire, and it was natural for their uniform to reflect their religion and culture, whereas American Sikhs are recruited as American citizens.

      Indeed British officers in the Punjab and the Frontier often adopted the turban themselves. Here’s Dighton Probyn VC, though I’m not sure if his turban is in the Sikh or Pathan mode.

      http://www.britishempire.co.uk/forces/armyunits/indiancavalry/11thblprobyninaction.htm

    8. damon — on 10th April, 2009 at 2:28 pm  

      Unfortunately the Camp coffee image isn’t really a ‘British classic’.
      They changed it from the original a few years back after a row that it was racist.
      http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/409264.stm

    9. Bert Rustle — on 10th April, 2009 at 3:01 pm  

      damon 8 Well spotted. Whomever participated in this rewriting of past events for current political convenience should be put on-point in Helmand, searching for mines on a Pogo Stick

    10. justforfun — on 10th April, 2009 at 3:28 pm  

      However, it in fact seems that this is largely a UK problem, at least since partition.

      On what do you base this assertion?

      However I think we should not jump to conclusions about Afghan hospitality.

      I’m sure ‘villagers’ would be fine about Sikhs, as they they seem fine about Hindu Gurkhas,

      http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/the-gentle-touch-of-the-gurkhas-1609186.html

      but then these are ordinary folks trying to make the best of a bad set of cards dealt by god, but then there are others who have the religion bug who would target them especially.

      justforfun

    11. Bert Rustle — on 10th April, 2009 at 3:57 pm  

      justforfun 10 wrote … On what do you base this assertion? …

      http://www.irr.org.uk/2002/july/ak000001.html
      http://www.thaindian.com/newsportal/uncategorized/northern-ireland-to-help-ease-sikh-muslim-tensions-in-britain_10032721.html
      http://www.punjabi.net/forum/showthread.php?t=1367

    12. justforfun — on 10th April, 2009 at 4:11 pm  

      Sorry Bert - I missunderstood - I thought you thought that the Sikh - Muslim conflict was a solely a British problem but was absent on the sub-continent.

      justforfun

    13. comrade — on 10th April, 2009 at 5:07 pm  

      Laban Tall
      and it was natural for their uniform to reflect their religion and culture, whereas American Sikhs are recruited as American citizens.

      Under the British empire, the regiments were dedived on the bases of religion, The Sikhs who joined and were not wearing the 5ks, were bapertised, It is said more Sikhs were bapertised under the British Raj then any other time in Sikh history. Its not hard to guess why this was done.

    14. Bert Rustle — on 10th April, 2009 at 5:20 pm  

      justforfun 12 I seemed to recollect that it was an ongoing problem in India but a quick search did not locate a reference post partition.

    15. comrade — on 10th April, 2009 at 5:24 pm  

      Bert Rustle

      justforfun 10 wrote … On what do you base this assertion?

      The Links are spot on, we in the West Midland had dealing with Muslim and Sikh Conflict in the Mid Eighties. The Shere Punjab was set up to counter other Muslim gangs.

    16. ad — on 10th April, 2009 at 7:58 pm  

      Is it really discrimination if the same rule is applied to members of all religions?

      Or is their some reason to believe that the rule was especially aimed at Sikhs?

      Even if the rule is daft, that does not mean it is discrimination.

    17. Ravneet — on 10th April, 2009 at 9:43 pm  

      Thanks for posting on this topic, Rumbold!

      Folks, the bottom line for me is that the US Military has a discriminatory policy. They expect Americans to conform to their physical notion of nationality in order to serve. The Sikh physical identity has never prevented Sikhs from fulfilling their duties as servicemen world-wide; why would it post-1981 in the United States?

      If you want to learn more about this issue and take action now against the US Military’s discriminatory policy, please go to: http://www.sikhcoalition.org/army.asp.

      You will find links to:
      (1) Electronically sign and print out the petition and gather signatures from your neighbors, family, sangat. Our target is 15,000 signatures by Monday so we can show the public and military decision-makers the support for this cause on Tuesday.
      (2) Make sure your family and friends sign the petition. There is great strength in numbers but we must get everyone to participate.
      (3) Share a story of a Sikh family member who has served in the military without compromising the Sikh physical identity (videos and pictures encouraged). sikhsinmilitary@sikhcoalition.org
      (4) Attend a press conference in DC on Tuesday, April 14, 2009 to announce the campaign.
      (5) Sign-onto an Organizational Sign-On Letter

      Again, thanks for all your efforts.

    18. Ravneet — on 10th April, 2009 at 9:53 pm  

      P.S. Rumbold: Great ending quote by Sir Frank Walter Messervy,

      “In the last two World Wars 83,005 turban-wearing Sikh soldiers were killed and 109,045 were wounded. They all died or were wounded for the freedom of Britain and the World, enduring shell fire with no other protection but the turban, the symbol of their faith.”

    19. Vikrant — on 11th April, 2009 at 1:31 am  

      What discrimination are you talking about? I serve in the US Army ROTC Engineers corps, and couple of guys in my batallion (Fighting Illini) are Sikhs, and they are shaved just like everyone else. Just because the British and the Indian armies have special provisions for Sikhs doesnt mean that US army has to follow the suit. All it leads to competitive sense of entitlement. Muslims in the Indian army recently unsuccessfully challenged regulations that only permit Sikh servicemen to sport a beard. It is only fair that everyone who serves follows all the regulations. Needless to say special accomodations only serve to fuel discontent against ethnic minorities in the army.

    20. billericaydicky — on 11th April, 2009 at 7:43 am  

      As I am probably the only ex soldier posting here may I enlighten you civvies. The clothes that soldiers wereare called uniform because that is what they are intended to do, iron out differences between the many individuals who join an army.

      The uniform is then used to distinguish friend from foe and by the uses of badges and other insignia to indicate units and rank. It was certainly the case that the British in India adopted at times the traditional dress of the areas from where they were recruiting. A really good book I have is “Sahib” by Richard Holmes which is the story of the British soldier in India from the East India Company to just before the First World War.

      One of the reasons that Ghurkas are still a part of the regular British Army and Sikhs are not is the steel helmet. From the first war on the use of high explosive fragmentation shells meant an increasing number of head injuries. The high proportion of Sikh casualties in the Second World War in the Western desert, through the Italian campaign and in Burma was due to the fact that Sikhs wore the turban which gave them no protection whatsoever.

      Gradually the helmet in the British Army has changed from the flat steel type of both wars to the totally surrounding kevlar one of today with built in radio and camera. There is no way, because of health and safety reasons as well as being sued, that any western army would recruit a Sikh.

      They of course still serve in the Indian Army and make up a large propertion of it but I think you will find that they wouldn’t get any compensation for a head unjury.

      The Sikhs are regarded with the same status as the Ghurkas in British society with everyone recognising their bravery and ability to work hard and get on.When I was building I used to uy my materials from a guy from Ilford called Roy Chima whose family own most of the independent builders merchants in East and North East London.

      Roy, like me, was a seven days a week man and he was always in his yard on the Hackney Rd at six in the morning and even said that if builders worked on Christman Day he would be open. The Sikhs are like the Irish, they don’t whinge they get on with it.

    21. Vikrant — on 11th April, 2009 at 8:07 am  

      The clothes that soldiers wereare called uniform because that is what they are intended to do, iron out differences between the many individuals who join an army.

      Exactly, making exceptions defeats the purpose of having a uniform in the first place.

    22. comrade — on 11th April, 2009 at 11:22 am  

      20
      One of the reasons that Ghurkas are still a part of the regular British Army and Sikhs are not is the steel helmet. From the first war on the use of high explosive fragmentation shells meant an increasing number of head injuries. The high proportion of Sikh casualties in the Second World War in the Western desert, through the Italian campaign and in Burma was due to the fact that Sikhs wore the turban which gave them no protection whatsoever.

      Bull shit! They were used as cannon fodder, while the British officers stood behind.

      Indian Government does not allow its citizen to join a mercenary force.

      I beleive the Nepalis have done the same.

    23. Bert Rustle — on 11th April, 2009 at 11:54 am  

      comrade 22 wrote … Indian Government does not allow its citizen to join a mercenary force. …

      Indeed. In which way is a foreign national serving in another nations military not a mercenary?

      Are the Ghurkas serving within the British Army as mercenaries, or is their home country an ally of the UK, as say Canada is?

    24. Tim Worstall — on 11th April, 2009 at 1:31 pm  

      I think that “uniform” bit is the important part. All soldiers in a particular unit must indeed wear the same uniform. It’s entirely possible (and it’s been done many times, the Raj being but one example) to have different uniforms for different units.

      Beard and turban in one unit, not in another, fine. Although, I think you’ll find that it’s not just helmets that worries the officers these days. Gas masks (or chemical, bio suits) won’t accomodate beards either. This is one technical reason for insisting that soldiers are without beards.

      Just as an aside, (not entirely relevant, but sorta very vaguely so) the Royal Navy allows beards. The US Navy does not…although they allow mustaches (ie, not full beards) which the RN does not.

      When my father, RN, went to work under a US Navy Admiral is was thought best (not compulsory you understand) that he should shave off his beard.

    25. damon — on 11th April, 2009 at 2:16 pm  

      Bert Rustle @ 9 .. I think the original Camp Coffee image was somewhat dated, and smacked of imperialism - and (just for example) the rule of the day back then under the Raj, that Indian people were not allowed to walk on The Mall of the summer capital at Simla.
      http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3276/2308304679_f2410753cb.jpg?v=0

      And promoted by ads like these:
      http://www.britishempire.co.uk/images/patersonspack.jpg
      http://www.prints-online.com/image/advert-camp-coffee-1890_572051.jpg

      The article about the Gurkha’s in Afghanistan was interesting - and maybe American Sikh soldiers in turbans and beards would not elicit any more of a hostile reaction in Afghanistan than other Nato soldiers - (I suppose it might depend on how American they were - in comparrison to the Gurkha’s who are actually from the Indian Subcontinent - and therefore might have some understanding of the village culture and customs of the Afghans).

      It might be more problematic if we were talking about visibly Sikh soldiers patroling Lahore though perhaps?
      (In some future mad scenario where the US decided to invade and occupy Pakistan).

    26. Rumbold — on 11th April, 2009 at 2:50 pm  

      Ravneet:

      No worries. Thanks for alerting me to this.

      Vikrant and Tim:

      I do think that it is perfeclt reasonable for units to allow Sikhs to have beards and turbans. Honestly, I doubt other soldiers would feel as if they were being given preferential treatment; particularly after fighting alongside Sikhs. As for health n’ safety issues, if Sikh soldiers wish to expose themselves to more risk, they should be allowed to do so.

    27. Bert Rustle — on 11th April, 2009 at 3:38 pm  

      Rumbold 26 wrote … if Sikh soldiers wish to expose themselves to more risk, they should be allowed to do so. …

      Can an employee waive his employer’s obligation to provide a safe working environment?

      How many Sikhs work on UK building sites without a hard hat? My guess is that the employer would not be able to get insurance for the project if all staff were not protected to a uniformly high standard.

    28. ad — on 11th April, 2009 at 3:41 pm  

      Health and safety rules do not always allow people to chose to accept a greater risk - that is one reason they are called “rules”.

      And if it is discriminatory to have special rule for members of one particular group, and also discriminatory NOT to have special rule for members of one particular group, what is the word “discrimination” supposed to mean anymore?

      Is is supposed to mean “I want to complain about how evil someone I dislike is”?

    29. Sunny — on 11th April, 2009 at 4:06 pm  

      There is no way, because of health and safety reasons as well as being sued, that any western army would recruit a Sikh.

      That’s funny because my brother, as a proper Sikh with a full beard, joined the army as an office only about 5 years ago.

    30. Bert Rustle — on 11th April, 2009 at 4:41 pm  

      Sunny 29 wrote … my brother, as a proper Sikh with a full beard, joined the army as an office

      So is he accommodating the Army, or is the Army accommodating them?

    31. Tim Worstall — on 11th April, 2009 at 4:47 pm  

      “army as an office only about 5 years ago.”

      Jeez, I knew the building budget had been cut but really……

      What about the turban though? I can see that in certain Indian Army Regiments for example, but not really in the British Army.

      http://militaryhistory.suite101.com/article.cfm/the_decline_of_beards_in_warfare

    32. Sunny — on 11th April, 2009 at 4:53 pm  

      there’s plenty of British Sikhs in the army who wear turbans. There’s no rule against them as far as I know.

    33. Rumbold — on 11th April, 2009 at 5:11 pm  

      Heh Tim and Bert.

      I agree with Sunny though. I don’t think there is any prohibition on turbaned/bearded Sikhs.

      http://www.bitc.org.uk/resources/case_studies/british_army_sikh.html

    34. Rumbold — on 11th April, 2009 at 5:13 pm  

      This is interesting as well (from 2007).

      http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1555507/Sikh-regiment-dumped-over-racism-fears.html

      Personally, I don’t like the idea of all-Sikh regiments.

    35. justforfun — on 11th April, 2009 at 6:00 pm  

      to quote the MOD

      Can Muslim and Sikh men wear beards?
      Muslim and Sikh men are permitted to wear short neatly trimmed beards. However, where a hazard clearly exists, Muslim and Sikh men may be required to modify or remove facial hair to such an extent as to enable the correct wearing of breathing apparatus, oxygen masks, or respirators. An effective seal on a respirator can only be achieved when the skin is clean shaven; notwithstanding this, Muslim and Sikh men will not be required to shave their beards in order to perform Nuclear, Biological or Chemical (NBC) training drills. In the Royal Navy all men are permitted to wear beards.

      As a Sikh, will I be able to wear a turban and other items of religious significance?
      In the Armed Forces Sikhs are permitted to wear the 5Ks; male Sikhs can also wear a turban. However, some constraints regarding the wearing of a turban and keeping facial hear uncut do exist:

      Turbans. Some trades require specialist headgear to be worn, especially under operational circumstances. Examples of this are Commander’s helmets in armoured fighting vehicles, combat helmets, breathing apparatus (full hood) for fire fighters and flying helmets for aircrew in some types of aircraft. Turbans are incompatible with specialist headgear, which must be worn on health and safety grounds. Male Sikh personnel can normally wear a Patka under specialist headgear; however, this is not possible under a flying helmet which must be closely fitted to the contours of the head. Aircrew with long hair, male and female, may be required to have their hair cut short in order to achieve a satisfactory fit of a flying helmet.
      Facial hair. Where a hazard clearly exists personnel authorised to wear beards on religious grounds have to be prepared to modify or remove their beards to such an extent as to enable the correct wearing of a respirator or breathing apparatus.
      Aircrew. It is unlikely that a male Sikh will be able to obtain an effective seal on his oxygen mask without trimming his beard.
      Respirator. An effective seal on a respirator can only be achieved when the skin is clean shaven. In an operational environment where there is a NBC threat, Sikhs or other personnel with beards will need to shave. However, when practicing NBC drills, male Sikh personnel would not be required to shave their beards.

      there you have it.

      justforfun

      http://www.mod.uk/DefenceInternet/AboutDefence/WhatWeDo/Personnel/EqualityAndDiversity/EqualityAndDiversityInTheArmedForcesFaqs.htm

    36. douglas clark — on 11th April, 2009 at 7:38 pm  

      Sunny, et al,

      I welcome Sikhs, and Muslims and anyone else into the British Army.

      But it does beg the question, is a lump of Kevlar on your head a better defence against potential death or not? Remembering that a Sikh British soldier is as completely entitled to protection as your average Essex boy.

      I’d have thought that that was more to the point.

      But there you go.

    37. qidniz — on 11th April, 2009 at 9:16 pm  

      As for health n’ safety issues, if Sikh soldiers wish to expose themselves to more risk, they should be allowed to do so.

      Absolutely not. A soldier is more valuable alive than dead. It is egregious dereliction of duty not to take all possible measures to protect ones combatants when they are in harm’s way. This most definitely is NOT a matter left to the individual soldier’s discretion, and no Army should allow it.

    38. comrade — on 11th April, 2009 at 9:45 pm  

      Are the Ghurkas serving within the British Army as mercenaries, or is their home country an ally of the UK, as say Canada is?

      The Candians are part of the coalition in the so called war against terrorism,but we do not have a Candian regiment in the British Army. To join the British Army you must be a British citizen. Under the British/Nepal agreement the British were allowed to recruit from Nepal for variuos reasons. The only reason that a person wants to fight for a foreign power is money, the Americans call these people, hire hands.

    39. comrade — on 11th April, 2009 at 10:00 pm  

      The article about the Gurkha’s in Afghanistan was interesting - and maybe American Sikh soldiers in turbans and beards would not elicit any more of a hostile reaction in Afghanistan than other Nato soldiers - (I suppose it might depend on how American they were - in comparrison to the Gurkha’s who are actually from the Indian

      May be the Sikhs are more in danger of dying in freindly fire, because the Americans will find it difficult to tell the difference, they both wear turbans and beards. Sikhs where attacked in the US after 9/11, Its ,like this all blacks look the same.

    40. qidniz — on 12th April, 2009 at 7:36 am  

      Are the Ghurkas serving within the British Army as mercenaries, or is their home country an ally of the UK, as say Canada is?

      Gurkha recruits are citizens of Nepal, but they are not considered mercenaries in either the British Army or the Indian Army. The recruitment is governed by the Tripartite Agreement 1947.

    41. Ravi Naik — on 12th April, 2009 at 2:15 pm  

      Rumbold, I think several commentators here have made a good case that there are valid reasons for the army not to accept Sihks who refuse to forgo their turbans or remove their beards. I think the term “discrimination” as you use in the title, gives the wrong idea. It is very difficult to accept that some members of your platoon are putting themselves in a very vulnerable position, which can affect the whole group in situations of combat.

      I also think it was a very bad decision for the British government to waiver the law for Sikhs in construction sites and riding bikes. It is fine to be pious, but if you are going to perform a hazardous operation as riding a bike or work in a construction site, then it is just irresponsible not to be protected. It is no different than having a religious edict not to use a condom - as we have in Catholicism, except that we don’t give a damn when it comes to our health, and when it goes against plain common sense.

      Intolerance and discrimination are irrational responses to what is different. I do not see how that applies here.

    42. Rumbold — on 12th April, 2009 at 8:25 pm  

      As a libertarian, I am in favour of adults being allowed to put themselves in greater danger if they so wish. Personally, I wouldn’t force anyone to wear crash helmets. If Sikhs wish to increase the risk to themselves by not removing their turbans, I don’t regard it as any of my business.

    43. billericaydicky — on 12th April, 2009 at 8:29 pm  

      During the Falklands war 1/7 Ghurkhas were deployed towards the end particularly on the final assault on Stanley. The Argentines complained to the UN that they were mecenaries until it was pointed out to them that all had sworn an oath of allegiance to the Queen and wore the Crown on their caps.

      Ghurkas have served in both British and Indian Armies and there are many more in the Indian Army than the British. As has been pointed out there is an arrangement from 1947 concerning recruitment to both armies.

      As to cannon fodder well all I can say is that the moron posting has never served in the British army. Of the 26 VCs won by the Ghurkas half went to the officers who, prior to the late sixties, were all British. The only non British officers were in the Indian Army. The father of a very good friend of mine, the writer Mal Sen, was a commander of first Ghurkas in the retreat form Singapore. He was Anglo Indian, Lt Gen Lionel Sen, one of ther first Indian officers to attend Sandhurst in the 1930s, but that is another story.

    44. Ravneet — on 14th April, 2009 at 1:42 am  

      I don’t understand this “risk” issue and desire to “erase” all differences. First, Sikhs have been serving in militaries world-wide. For example, they do in Canada and the UK. These countries did not feel as though the Sikh physical identity was too much of a “risk”.

      Secondly, there is a difference between making sure everyone likes like one particular group versus incorporating diversity into a group-identity. Why is the standard, clean-shaven? If America had been founded by Sikhs, I assume we would require everyone to keep long-hair and a beard?

      Lastly, we are hearing about Sikhs serving with a turban and beard based on personal accommodations. We think the Army should not be picking and choosing on such an issue.

    45. Jai — on 14th April, 2009 at 11:42 am  

      Interesting discussion. Good points by Ravneet and Rumbold in particular, and of course Sunny’s remark about his brother is also pertinent.

      Regarding the suggestions that Sikhs should remove their facial hair and have short hair on their heads in order to be able to join certain armed forces in the West…..well, if that’s a non-negotiable impasse then it’s an unfortunate loss of potentially highly effective military personnel. At least in the cases of baptised Sikhs, for whom the removal of hair is as impossible as the notion of suggesting that Muslims should go uncircumcised.

      Incidentally, India has plenty of turban-wearing Sikhs in its military. It’s not a problem over there. In fact, until September 2007, for a couple of years the Chief of Army Staff was General J.J Singh, himself a keshdari Sikh and a decorated officer. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joginder_Jaswant_Singh

      Something I can add to the debate: Although turbans have historically become part of the visible outward identifiers for strictly-practising Sikhs, it’s worth mentioning that uncut hair, not the turban itself, is one of the 5 Ks.

      Therefore, I think an appropriate compromise would be for the military to have specially modified helmets for Sikhs with uncut hair — which isn’t actually a novel idea, because during the Indian subcontinent’s pre-colonial period, especially during the era of the Misls and Maharajah Ranjit Singh, many Sikh soldiers did actually wear such helmets (along with the rest of their armour) instead of turbans when on the battlefield.

    46. Rumbold — on 14th April, 2009 at 2:58 pm  

      Thanks Jai.

      Good point about kesh. I had forgotten to mention that. I wonder how many Sikhs would be happy with that compromise though?

    47. munir — on 14th April, 2009 at 3:26 pm  

      What a disgusting thread this is. All about how people should be allowed to wear their religious symobols so they can go and fight wars and kill people who never harmed them. If there that religious why do they want to go and kill in a pointless war?

    48. Jai — on 14th April, 2009 at 3:28 pm  

      wonder how many Sikhs would be happy with that compromise though?

      They should be, given the historical precedent for it.

      It doesn’t automatically mean many of them *will* be, of course, but one would hope that those Sikhs who are aware of this aspect of their history would be suitably flexible about the matter.

    49. munir — on 14th April, 2009 at 3:31 pm  

      Jai
      “At least in the cases of baptised Sikhs, for whom the removal of hair is as impossible as the notion of suggesting that Muslims should go uncircumcised.”

      Not exactly since circumcision isnt actually an obligation (though it is treated as such by Muslims-indeed Muslims who never pray or fast will insist on their sons being circumcised) and unlike removing the hair is hardly a reversable opeartion.

      A better analogy is the beard which is an obligation for Muslim men or the hijab for women.

    50. munir — on 14th April, 2009 at 3:36 pm  

      damon
      “Who knows what rot runs through their backward mindset?”

      Well we certainly know what runs through yours:

      “Who are these Pakistani people who can afford the fees of £9,000 a year?
      The children of the corrupt elite?
      And you’d think some questions might be asked when they applied for visas, about: ”where did you get the money?”
      If they are people from humble backgrounds from the NWFP - then a few alarm bells might ring I’d have thought.
      Goodness knows what they think (if the are very conservative Muslims) about the ”debauched depravity” of student life in England.”

      Damon
      “(I suppose it might depend on how American they were - in comparrison to the Gurkha’s who are actually from the Indian Subcontinent - and therefore might have some understanding of the village culture and customs of the Afghans).”

      Yeh cos the Hindu Gurkhas are automatically going to understand the villages of Muslim Afghans (of varying cultures)

      Well theyre all efnik aint they?

    51. The Common Humanist — on 14th April, 2009 at 3:38 pm  

      Hi Munir,

      Do you support the Talebans social policies in Pakistan and Afghanistan towards women? Would you have helped flogg that girl? Incidently, as the Taleban have just executed a couple for eloping together (love now illegal and punishable by death under Taleban Islam) would you agree with that judgement and punishment?

    52. munir — on 14th April, 2009 at 3:53 pm  

      Hi The Common “Humanist ” (surely Common zionist)

      Why do you believe only Muslims should be forced to condemn or defend what their co religionists do, when you dont ask this of others?

    53. Jai — on 14th April, 2009 at 4:04 pm  

      The Common Humanist,

      Hi Munir,

      Do you support the Talebans social policies in Pakistan and Afghanistan towards women? Would you have helped flogg that girl? Incidently, as the Taleban have just executed a couple for eloping together (love now illegal and punishable by death under Taleban Islam) would you agree with that judgement and punishment?

      I think you’ve finally got your answer in #52, namely “Yes”.

    54. Jai — on 14th April, 2009 at 4:07 pm  

      A better analogy is the beard which is an obligation for Muslim men

      Do you have a beard, Munir ?

    55. The Common Humanist — on 14th April, 2009 at 4:16 pm  

      Munir,

      They don’t have to and I do. But thanks for the response. Your whataboutery (Zionism? Really?) pretty much indicates that you do support them. I mean, I just asked for your opinion on behaviour that 90% + of Muslims worldwide would find abhorrant, yet I suspect that you run in circles where the Taleban are a-ok. And your far far right islamist mates read this blog and sooooo you can’t actually say anything bad about the nutters destroying the good name of your religion…. Very illuminating.

    56. Jai — on 14th April, 2009 at 5:17 pm  

      Very illuminating.

      Indeed, TCH.

      Do you have a beard, Munir ?

      Actually, scrap that question. Given Munir’s track record, I don’t think we can necessarily expect an honest answer to anything. I notice that he’s still being somewhat coy about declaring his self-evident Wahhabi/Taliban/Salafi-Jihadi sympathies.

      ***********************

      By the way, Munir, since this is a thread about Sikhs, aren’t you going to wish everyone a Happy Vaisakhi here: http://www.pickledpolitics.com/archives/4220#comment-158587 ? Today’s the 310th anniversary of the founding of the Khalsa, you know.

    57. Jagrup Singh — on 17th April, 2009 at 6:42 pm  

      Sikhs have a long military history. Many Sikhs from the Panjab have blood lines tracing back to the warriors who resisted Alexander the Great ultimately putting an end to his conquest. Guru Hargobind, the 6th spiritual master of Sikhism mustered the first Sikh army after his father Guru Arjan Dev became the first Sikh martyr. In April of 1699 (Nankshahi Calendar), known in present times as Vaisakhi Day, Guru Gobind Singh formalized the Sikh religion and established the order of Khalsa, creating the concept of the Sant- Saphai, meaning saint- soldier, putting into action a spiritual warrior who physically defends the oppressed while practicing self mastery. Sikhs have maintained their spiritual identity of uncut hair through the centuries, fearlessly serving in the military units of many armed forces around the world.

      In 1958, on July 26th, Harry Truman, the US President, promised equality of opportunity for everyone serving in the US armed forces. The promise has not been kept in the past several decades

    58. comrade — on 17th April, 2009 at 8:41 pm  

      43 During the Falklands war 1/7 Ghurkhas were deployed towards the end particularly on the final assault on Stanley. The Argentines complained to the UN that they were mecenaries until it was pointed out to them that all had sworn an oath of allegiance to the Queen and wore the Crown on their caps.

      The Ghurkhas, where wearing the above when they carried out the Jallianwala Bhag massacre in 1919 under the command of General Dyer killing over three hundred men,women and children. I wonder how many VCs this traitors recieved from their pay masters.

    59. Harry — on 26th April, 2009 at 3:49 am  

      The Indian Army has helmets specially designed to be worn over patkas, specifically for Sikh troops. These `Sikh’ helmets turned out to be better than the older `non-Sikh’ helmets, so non-Sikhs started using them too.

      Also, gas masks and nuclear-biological-chemical warfare clothing have been designed to fit around beards. For an example, see
      http://www.wikipatents.com/ca/2189378.html

      So there is no scientific reason for banning beards in a modern army.
      I don’t know whether having all soldiers with or without beards has any effect on cohesiveness and I would guess it’s hard to find scientific evidence on that.

      We shall have to see what the US Army does with these two Sikh men. Sikhs with turbans and beards HAVE joined the US Army before. Until the 1980′s it was allowed and since then some special exemptions have been made.

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