Marines Reluctantly Let a Sikh Officer Wear a Turban on Duty

“It’s change into pretty routine, and there have been only a few points. That’s what makes the Marine response on this case so stunning,” stated Giselle Klapper, a civil rights lawyer with an advocacy group, the Sikh Coalition, which has helped Sikh troops apply for exceptions.

However the Marine Corps doesn’t prefer to retreat and has by no means given a lot weight to what the opposite army branches do. It’s the smallest department and regards itself as essentially the most elite. It has usually resisted adjustments for years after the remainder of the army moved on. The Corps was the final department to permit Black males to enlist, and it balked at a 2015 mandate to permit girls to serve in fight.

The Corps’s argument, time after time, has been that change might hobble its capacity to struggle.

“So as to construct squads that may transfer ahead in a fight surroundings the place persons are dying, a sturdy group bond is required,” Col. Kelly Frushour, a spokeswoman for Marine Headquarters, stated in written responses to questions from The New York Occasions about Lieutenant Toor’s case. “Uniformity is likely one of the instruments the Corps makes use of to forge that bond. What the Corps is defending is its capacity to win on the battlefield, in order that the Structure can stay the legislation of the land.”

Requests for lodging have been uncommon within the Corps. Amongst roughly 180,000 active-duty Marines, there have been simply 33 functions lately for exceptions to uniform rules on spiritual grounds, together with requests regarding lengthy hair, beards or extra modest bodily coaching clothes. About two-thirds of the requests have been accepted, however earlier than Lieutenant Toor, nobody had been given permission to put on a beard or seen spiritual headwear.

Lieutenant Toor grew up in Washington and Ohio, the son of Indian immigrants. His father wore a beard, a turban and different symbols of Sikh spiritual devotion, together with a easy metal bracelet and small blade that should remind devoted Sikhs that they’re anticipated to behave as virtuous — and if needed, armed — defenders of the harmless and oppressed.

Rising up within the wake of the terrorist assaults of 2001, Lieutenant Toor knew that many People wrongly related Sikhs with harmful spiritual fanatics. He hoped his army service would assist change that.

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