The Department of Defense released regulations on Wednesday to protect the rights of service members to wear a turban, scarf, or beard, to display their religious beliefs—as long as the practices don’t interfere with “military discipline, order, or readiness.”
“We welcome the important decision to broaden the religious rights of American military personnel,” a statement from the Council on American-Islamic Relations read, “We hope it will allow all those in uniform to practice their faith while serving the nation.”
Eligible areas for religious accommodation include hair, grooming practices, religious body art, such as tattoos or body piercings.
Requests for religious accommodation will be decided on a person-by-person basis, but will ultimately be denied only if the item interferes with the use of military equipment, poses a health or safety hazard, or interferes with wearing a military gear or the completion of the ‘military mission.’
The new regulations are receiving praise by leaders of national Muslim American groups, but is still receiving criticism from some Sikh American organizations, who feel that it is not adequate enough. Some individuals, for instance, may still be turned down.
“Unfortunately, this continues to make us have to choose between our faith and serving our country,” said Jasjit Singh, executive director of the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund, “It has been a work in progress, but we were hoping they would go further.”