Lifting the ban out of turban: Military sanctions the use of religious articles during duty

After decades of fighting for the right to wear articles of religious expression, the Pentagon has finally sanctioned the use of items such as the turban, yarmulke and headscarves during their military stint. This clause also incorporates the permitting of other religious symbolism to be retained such as long beards, tattoos and piercings that may cater to a soldier’s personal well being. Author David Alexander reports in his article that “the military departments will accommodate individual expressions of sincerely held beliefs (conscience, moral principles, or religious beliefs) of service members” unless it might affect military readiness or unit cohesion, the updated policy on religious accommodation said”. This can be considered a giant leap in embracing the multicultural ethos with open arms rather than constantly oppressing the needs of those who are proud to be American yet stay true to their ethnic roots. It opens up brand new doors for those who wish to enlist and serve in the military but was previously hindered because of their religious or ethnic diversity. Putting one’s life on the line for one’s country every time you step on the battlefield is no easy feat. Only those who possess courage and integrity can successfully become a part of a complex military unit and survive in conditions that are often unimaginable to the common civilians and they should be extended the courtesy to uphold their values and morals at work.

Allowing such accommodations make these soldiers feel more welcomed in their unit and create a sense of contentment, which could potentially increase their commitment to their military duty. In relation to this new policy, Sikhs, Muslims, Jews and Wiccans alike are overjoyed at the possibility of being able to maintain their personal and religious identity while serving their country. The backlash in the past that prevented this policy from being adopted earlier came from the criticisms about whether headscarves and long beards will impede a soldier’s ability to perform effectively. However, as the article points out, several observations have proven that the use of a thin turban like a bandana while wearing a helmet is efficient and there have been no reported concerns with gas masks not being able to fit through long beards. Although a step forward in the right direction, it seems as if there needs to be a better regulation of how this policy is carried about. The article conveys that a service member who wants to wear a beard or article of clothing for religious reasons must seek accommodation, from the military each time he or she changes units. This could translate into months of waiting for approval and create hesitancy in those wishing to join the military.

As discussed in lecture, civil religion and traditional religion are two distinct groupings and often run parallel to each other yet this new development could potentially be where the two intersect in harmony. The attachment a soldier may feel towards his or her country and its citizens may stem from a sense of nationalism that cannot be indulged if one’s sense of liberty and freedom of religious expression is being sacrificed. The worldview that was intolerant of other religion and culture that the western society formerly had upheld is slowly disintegrating with steps such as this from the Pentagon to include the needs of all its citizens. It is important to note that unknowingly, as worldviews are transmitted onto the upcoming generations, the adverse effects of culturally constructed stigmas can also be carried through and implement the future generations in a negative way. By introducing such positive attitudes towards diversity, the rigid barriers that religion and politics have created for one another can eventually dissolve.

– PLK

#349

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