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The United States Army recently decided to allow a Sikh captain/physician to wear Sikh articles of dress while on active duty.

Capt. Kamaljeet Singh Kalsi will enter active duty in the Summer 2010. Thanks to his individual appeal, he will be allowed to continue wearing his dastaar and kesh while on active duty.

Kesh what?

Baptized Sikhs are required to keep five articles of faith at all times.  These are:

  1. Uncut hair (considered a part of the body, can be covered with a turban)
  2. A comb (which must be used at least twice a day)
  3. A bracelet (a reminder of vows)
  4. A sword (for self-protection only)
  5. Under shorts (a reminder of self-restraint)

Uncut hair is called kesh and dastaar is the turban used to protect it. These symbols show one’s devotion to the Sikh religion. Religious garments have deep meaning; asking someone to remove a garment could make them feel as though they are denying their religion.

Learn more about challenges to the turban and other head coverings on

What’s the point?

The Army decision goes against the 1986 Army ban on “conspicuous” religious articles of faith. Sikhs will likely continue to ask for permanent change to the ban.  

The decision seems to imply that the Army is beginning to accept and understand Sikh culture. Religion Transcends encourages US institutions to continue to be open to the traditions of the world’s religions, allowing rather than banning balanced religious symbolism.

Want more Sikh news? Watch Religion Transcends for a Sikh holiday backgrounder next week.

Created by, 2009

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