The US Air Force has updated its dress code to include a process for active duty Sikhs and Muslims, allowing for them to seek exemptions so they can wear beards as well as turbans and hijabs for religious reasons.
Under the new guidelines finalized last week, airmen are able to request a waiver to sport such articles of faith as long as their appearance is “neat and conservative,” according to the Air Force Times.
The Air Force has previously granted members permission to wear beards, turbans and hijabs for religious reasons. Previously, Sikhs and Muslims serving in the Air Force would individually request religious accommodations – which were then approved on a case-by-case basis.
In 2018 Staff Sgt. Abdul Rahman Gaitan became the first Muslim airman given permission to sport a beard, and a year later, Airman 1st Class Harpreetinder Singh Bajwa was allowed to wear a turban beard and long hair.
The latest update to the dress code also outlines a formal timeline for waiver approvals so to prevent lengthy wait times.
“We support these new guidelines as a step toward religious accommodation and inclusion for military personnel of all faiths,” Ibrahim Hooper, national communications director for the Council of Islamic Relations said in a statement to CNN.
The Sikh coalition and the Sikh American Veterans alliance also offered praise for the change in policy and called for more inclusiveness moving forward.
“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,” Giselle Klapper, a staff attorney for the Sikh coalition, said.
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