USA

US Marine Corps allows Sikh officer to wear turban, but sets limitations

Sukhbir Toor plans to sue Corps if he is not granted full religious accommodation

By Jasleen Kaur -- September 27, 2021 2:09 pm -- Updated:Feb 15, 2021

A 26-year-old Sikh-American officer, Sukhbir Toor, in the United States Marine Corps has been allowed to wear the turban, but with a few limitations. He now plans to sue the Corps if he is not granted full religious accommodation, say reports.

First Lt Sukhbir Toor's turban is a first in the 246-year history of the US Marine Corps, which has almost never allowed deviations from its hallowed image. “I finally don’t have to pick which life I want to commit to, my faith or my country. I can be who I am and honour both sides,” Toor reportedly said in an interview.

The Marines reluctantly let a Sikh officer wear a turban. He says it's not enough

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However, Sukhbir Toor, who grew up in Washington and Ohio and is the son of Indian immigrants, has been allowed to wear the turban while on duty with limitations. He “can wear a turban in daily dress at normal duty stations, but not while deployed to a conflict zone, or when in dress uniform in a ceremonial unit, where the public could see it.”

The Sikh-American officer has reportedly “appealed the restrictive decision to the Marine Corps commandant, and he says that if he does not get a full accommodation, he will sue the Corps". “We’ve come a long way, but there is still more to go,” he said.

The Corps has maintained that “uniformity was as essential to a fighting force as well-oiled rifles”.

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The Marines Reluctantly Let a Sikh Officer Wear a Turban. He Says It's Not Enough. - The New York Times“In order to build squads that will move forward in a combat environment where people are dying, a strong team bond is required,” Col Kelly Frushour, a spokeswoman for Marine Headquarters, said in written responses on Toor’s case.

Toor’s request to wear the turban went all the way to “top Marine Corps authorities”. Their initial response in June was largely a denial of his request, the report said.

Sikh-American officer said the limits meant that “I would have to either sacrifice my career or my ability to practice my religion.”

Considering Cuts to the U.S. Marine Corps' Infantry ForceToor appealed to the commandant of the Marine Corps, and the Corps agreed partially, allowing him to wear the turban with certain limitations, according to the report.

As per available information, nearly 100 Sikhs currently serve in the Army and Air Force wearing full beards and turbans. Sukhbir Toor had joined the US Marines after college in 2017.

-With inputs from agencies