In what is said to be a first and a rare exception, an active-duty Sikh soldier in the United States Army can temporarily grow his beard and wear a turban due to a religious accommodation.
Captain Simratpal Singh (27) who cut his hair on his first day at the United States Military Academy ten years ago, has since led a platoon of combat engineers in Afghanistan who cleared roadside bombs and was awarded the Bronze Star.
"It is wonderful. I had been living a double life, wearing a turban only at home, my two worlds have finally come back together. A true Sikh is supposed to stand out, so he can defend those who cannot defend themselves," Singh told The New York Times.
According to the report, Singh received the temporary accommodation last week and made his own camouflage turbans to wear to his first day of work.
However, since the religious accommodation is temporary, "this is a precedent setting case" Eric Baxter, a senior lawyer told the newspaper, adding that if the Army decides to give Singh a permanent religious accommodation, then all other religions will have to be included as well.
Singh also said that he was prepared to sue or leave the Army if the accommodation was not made permanent.
Earlier, besides two other Sikh's who received permission to grow their beards, two Muslims and a Jewish rabbi also have been granted accommodations since 2009 but all the people either served as chaplains or were in medical fields.
Singh is the first combat soldier to have been given such a religious accommodation before Singh.
However, the Army has said that the accommodations for future requests, will be on a case-by-case basis.