A new report by the Air Force Times reveals that the U.S. Air Force dress code will now allow hijabs, turbans, and beards for all of its Sikh and Muslim servicemen.
Previously, the Air Force permitted its servicemen to apply for religious accommodations, which were addressed on a case-by-case basis.
The news, released last week, revealed that U.S. airmen will be permitted to use religious exemptions in order to wear such items during active duty.
The guidelines stipulate that such items need to be worn in a “neat and conservative manner” and be in colors that closely resemble the airman’s uniform. No patterns are permitted unless it matches the traditional camouflage pattern of the military uniforms. The items must also be worn in a “manner that presents a professional and well-groomed appearance.”
Airman 1st Class Gurchetan Singh told the outlet, “I am grateful to hear of this policy change, because it codifies in writing what I already know: The U.S. Air Force values the service and contribution of religious minorities like me.
“Accommodations, after all, aren’t about special treatment — they are about ensuring that religiously observant Sikhs and others don’t have to choose between staying true to our faith and serving our country,” Singh added.
According to CNN, certain advocacy groups say this is just one step in a series of many that need to occur in order to achieve equality.
SAVA President Kamal Singh Kalsi said that the U.S. Department of Defense should expand the policy to apply across all branches of the military.
“The Department of Defense should have a consistent and department wide policy on religious accommodation,” Kalsi said. “Those who are committed and qualified to serve our country in uniform should be able to do so in a more streamlined and efficient manner.”
Ibrahim Hooper, national communications director for CAIR, said, “We support these new guidelines as a step toward religious accommodation and inclusion for military personnel of all faiths.”
Giselle Klapper, staff attorney for the Sikh Coalition, announced that the new update is a “great step forward” in “ensuring equality.”
“Sikhs have served honorably and capably in the U.S. Armed Forces and other militaries around the world, 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,” Klapper said.