Captain Simratpal Singh was granted a permanent accommodation to wear his turban and beard in April 2016.

Turbans, hijabs And beards now authorized under Army regulations

By Sarah Grace Hart, Teen Vogue

The U.S. Army released updated “grooming and appearance regulations” earlier this week that will now make it easier and more inclusive for Sikh and Muslim Americans serving in the military to keep religious pieces of clothing and grooming styles (such as the hijab, turban, and beard) intact.
This decision will be added to the Army Regulation 670-1 which defines the Army uniform appearance standards.

army-hijabs.jpgSome of these accommodations became permanent back in April 2016, but the new rules were officially released by the U.S. Army this past Tuesday. Previously, the decision to allow a member to not shave a beard or wear religious headdress were made on a case-by-case basis, the Huffington Post reports. This decision has been adopted by the NYPD recently as well, stating that they will allow their officers to wear turbans and facial hair for religious reasons.

Lt. Col. Randy Taylor, an Army spokesman, said in a statement on the recent policy change regarding pieces of religious faith, “We believe in preserving the First Amendment right of free exercise of religion for those who want to serve in the U.S. Army.” This decision has been one of much debate for many years. Former chief chaplain for the Army, Douglas Carver said that it takes time due to the fact that, “The military is strong on tradition and order. When you’re going to have someone who looks different in the ranks, it takes a lot of discussion and exploration and advisement.”

While turbans and facial hair are at the forefront of this policy change, hijab-wearing Muslim Americans serving in the military have also fought hard for this change. Sana Hamze, a freshman at Norwich University (America’s oldest private military college), became the first student allowed to wear her hijab under her uniform at the University.

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The Army has recently striven for inclusivity of all its members on the foundation of gender, ruling that transgender members can serve openly. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter said in a statement, “We can’t allow barriers unrelated to a person’s qualifications prevent us from recruiting and retaining those who can best accomplish the mission.”

Although the transgender ruling tackled a different issue, the message is a clear one. Having an inclusive military is important, especially in a nation as diverse as the United States.

By Sarah Grace Hart, Teen Vogue

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