WASHINGTON: The Defense Department released regulations Wednesday ensuring the rights of religious-minority service members to display their beliefs outwardly — such as wearing a turban, scarf or beard — as long as the practices do not interfere with military discipline, order or readiness.
The new rules will make it possible for Sikhs and members of other faiths to receive such waivers routinely, when possible. Orthodox Jewish service members will be allowed to wear yarmulkes while in uniform, and Muslim service members could wear beards and carry prayer beads.
The spokesman said department officials believe the new instruction will enhance commanders’ and supervisors’ ability to promote the climate needed to maintain good order and discipline, and will reduce the instances and perception of discrimination toward those whose religious expressions are less familiar to the command. “The Department of Defense places a high value on the rights of members of the military services to observe the tenets of their respective religions and the rights of others to their own religious beliefs,” Christensen said, “including the right to hold no beliefs.”
“We hope these new regulations lead to religious tolerance and understanding of the various faith traditions our servicemen and women practice in the military,” said CAIR-Chicago Executive Director Ahmed Rehab.
CAIR-Chicago has dealt with past requests for religious accommodations by Muslim ROTC personnel. In 2011, CAIR-Chicago client Shahrazad Ghusain, a Muslim female high school student, was denied the ability to wear her hijab by the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps based on uniform requirements. CAIR-Chicago monitored the ROTC’s decision on Ghusain’s request for a religious waiver to the uniform policy, which was ultimately accepted. To see full details of this case please see CAIR-Chicago’s 2011 Annual Report.