US Air Force allows on-duty exemptions for turbans, hijabs and beards on religious basis in updated dress code

The wing's new guidelines that came out last week state that religious symbols should be sported in a 'neat and conservative' manner


                            US Air Force allows on-duty exemptions for turbans, hijabs and beards on religious basis in updated dress code
(Getty Images)

The US Air Force has made it official that airmen would be allowed to seek a religious exemption to wear turbans and hijabs and sport beards while on duty.

Last Friday, the new guidelines were issued by the wing’s secretary and they said the religious headgear and beards needed to be sported "in a neat and conservative manner", according to a report by Air Force Times.

Earlier, the American air force had granted religious exemptions on a case-by-case basis.

In 2017, the army released rules that clarified the terms and process of requesting religious accommodations for the soldiers. Next year, Staff Sgt Abdul Rahman Gaitan became the first Muslim aviator to receive a beard waiver for religious reasons, the report added.

Harpreetinder Singh Bajwa was first to get exemption in 2019

In 2019, Harpreetinder Singh Bajwa, a practicing Sikh and crew chief at the McChord Air Force Base, became the first member of the air force to get an exception for wearing a turban in uniform. 

According to the new air force guidelines, the turbans and hijabs must be in subdued colors that closely resemble the uniform assigned and have no particular patterns unless made in a camouflage pattern matching the uniform sported. 

The new rules stated that beards must be maintained to a length not growing more than two inches from the bottom of the chin. Mustaches must also be trimmed and should not hide the upper lip.

The turbans, hijabs and beards must be sported in a "manner that presents a professional and well-groomed appearance." The new guidelines were welcomed by many. 

"I am grateful to hear of this policy change because it codifies in writing what I already know: The US Air Force values the service and contribution of religious minorities like me," Airman 1st Class Gurchetan Singh told Air Force Times.

"Accommodations, after all, aren't about special treatment — they are about ensuring that religiously observant Sikhs and others don't have to choose between staying true to our faith and serving our country."

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