New York : Forty-one members of the US House of Representatives have written to defense secretary Robert Gates to permit Sikhs wearing their religious symbols to join the military.
Sikh organisations have been lobbying with US lawmakers after the refusal by the army to let two Sikhs with turbans join active duty a few months ago.
Captain Kamaljit Singh Kalsi, a doctor, and Second Lieutenant Tejdeep Singh Rattan, a dentist, were told to remove their turbans by the military when they were about to enter active duty after completing their preliminary programme.
In their letter to Gates, the lawmakers say: “We do not believe that any American should have to choose between his religion and service to our country, and urge you to take all necessary steps to ensure that these two officers – and other Sikhs that may wish to serve – are able to maintain their articles of faith.
“Including Sikh Americans will enrich the military’s understanding of diverse cultures, languages, and religions, thereby allowing us to fully appreciate not only the rich fabric of our own country but also the lands where we send our soldiers into harm’s way.”
Citing the example of Canada, Sweden and other countries where Sikhs are allowed to wear their symbols in the armed forces, Sikh organisations led by Sikh Coalition have urged Secretary Gates to end this discrimination by the US army.
The coalition said they will continue their ‘Sikh right to serve’ campaign till the US military changes its “exclusionary policy” against Sikhs.