The US Air Force updated its dress code policy to outline its approval of Sikhs and Muslims wearing articles of faith while they serve which is a huge step towards equality
Under the new guidelines, which have just recently been finalized, Muslims and Sikhs can wear turbans, beards, unshorn hair and hijabs, as long as their appearance is ‘neat and conservative’.
A final review for the religious accommodation must take place within 30 days for the United States, and 60 days for all other cases, which means most people in the air force can expect the accommodation to continue throughout their career.
Before the new guidelines, Sikhs and Muslims in the air force would have to make individual requests for religious accommodations, which would be decided on a case-by-case basis, in an often lengthy process. Now, the new accommodation should formally standardize the approval of wearing articles of faith.
While the news will be welcomed by many Sikh and Muslim communities, advocates say the military needs to go even further.
Ibrahim Hooper, national communications director for the Council of American-Islamic Relations, said in a statement:We support these new guidelines as a step toward religious accommodation and inclusion for military personnel of all faiths.
Now, the Sikh Coalition and the Sikh American Veterans Alliance (SAVA) are calling on the US military to allow religious minorities to serve without any exceptions.
‘Sikhs have served honorably and capably in the US Armed Forces and other militaries around the world,’ Giselle Klapper, a staff attorney for the Sikh Coalition, said.
‘And, while we are eager for a blanket proclamation that all observant Sikh Americans can serve in every branch of the military without seeking accommodations, this policy clarification is a great step forward towards ensuring equality of opportunity and religious freedom in the Air Force.’
The Department of Defense should initiate a broader policy, which applies to all the different branches of the military – not just the air force – according to SAVA president Kamal Singh Kalsi.