Sikh College Student Wins Battle With Army Over Hair, Turban

MINEOLA, N.Y. (AP) -

A Sikh college student from New York said Monday he is excited about a federal court decision that will permit him to enroll in the U.S. Army’s Reserve Officer Training Corps without shaving his beard, cutting his hair, or removing his turban.

U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson issued the ruling Friday in Washington, D.C., saying 20-year-old Iknoor Singh’s adherence to his religious beliefs would not diminish his ability to serve in the military.

“I didn’t believe it at first when I heard about the decision,” said Singh, who lives in the New York City borough of Queens.

He told The Associated Press in a telephone interview Monday: “It was kind of surreal. This is something I have been fighting for for two or three years. I’m excited and nervous, very excited to learn.”

Under a policy announced last year, troops can seek waivers on a case-by-case basis to wear religious clothing, seek prayer time or engage in religious practices. Approval depends on where the service member is stationed and whether the change would affect military readiness or the mission.

Currently, only a few Sikhs serving in the U.S. Army have been granted religious accommodations.