I must strongly voice my objection to "Bad decision on Sikh officer" (letter, Oct. 27), about the Army’s decision to allow a Sikh officer to wear his hair and turban in accordance with his Sikh faith.

The wear of unshorn hair and traditional headgear by Sikhs is not a matter of discipline, as argued by the author. These practices are key tenets of a religion practiced by more than 20 million people. Requiring Sikhs, who have a long and proud martial tradition, to completely abandon these practices as a blanket precondition to uniformed service is essentially asking Sikhs to choose between serving their country and abandoning their faith. There is a better way that accommodates more Sikhs while maintaining vital operational requirements.

Practicing Sikhs should be allowed to serve in most military occupational specialties if they agree to wear helmets or other military headgear when required. Many Sikh soldiers and aviators in the Indian army and air force currently wear helmets while practicing their faith; to do this, they wear their hair under the helmet with a very thin hair covering called a patka, an alternative to the traditional Sikh turban. This is a reasonable religious accommodation that upholds the vital operational requirement for wear of combat helmets and other military headgear.

I hope the Army and Department of Defense will grant more waivers, or consider changing the policy completely for those Sikhs who agree to wear combat headgear when required.

By accommodating religious practices when operationally feasible, we show the true strength and flexibility of our democracy.

Maj. Thomas F. CrumleyCamp Arifjan, Kuwait

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