WASHINGTON – Muslims serving in the US Army will be allowed to grow beards or don a hijab after new steps were announced on Thursday, January 5, to accommodate customs of religious minorities.
“Our goal is to balance soldier readiness and safety with the accommodation of our soldiers’ faith practices, and this latest directive allows us to do that,” Lieutenant Colonel Randy Taylor said in a statement cited by Reuters.
The uniform policy of the US army were revised in a memorandum signed this week by Army Secretary Eric Fanning.
The memorandum sets appearance standards for people seeking religious accommodations to wear beards, turbans and hijabs.
The new rules permit religious accommodations for beards, but they may not be longer than 2 inches unless rolled or tied up.
For hijab, the new rules said they must be of a similar color to the uniform and be free of designs or markings, unless they are camouflage and worn with a camouflage uniform.
The new rules were welcomed by the Sikh Coalition.
“We are pleased with the progress that this new policy represents for religious tolerance and diversity,” said coalition Legal Director Harsimran Kaur.
A similar decision to allow bears and turbans was taken late last month
The new rules allow Sikh and Muslim officers to grow beards of 1.27cm long for religious reasons, in a move aimed recruiting more minorities.
Wearing a beard is a Sunnah in Islam.
On the other hand, Islam sees hijab as an obligatory code of dress, not a religious symbol displaying one’s affiliations.