Move Comes Amid Rise In Hate Crimes Against Sikhs, Often Mistaken For Muslims In Country
An active duty US army captain of Sikh faith has been allowed to keep his beard and turban in a temporary relaxing of service rules, even as Sikhs in America, often mistaken for Muslims, continue to be the target of hate crimes and discrimination.In a week during which the US military showed some sign of religious accommodation for soldiers from other faiths, including Sikhism and Islam, three turbaned Sikh Americans were denied entry to a football game in San Diego and racially profiled by security and some spectators.

The incident, coming amid reports of stray attacks on mosques and gurdwaras across the country , illustrated the continuing tension over race and religion, exacerbated in recent times by incendiary political rhetoric from the likes of Donald Trump.

The three Sikh-Americans were eventually allowed to the Qualcomm stadium for the NFL game, but when they were about to leave after loading their bags into their car, they were reported for “suspicious activity“ by a spectator, resulting in the vehicle being searched and further delays.

Such profiling has been endemic since 911, when Sikhs began to be mistaken for bin Laden’s followers because of their distinctive turbans, and ignorant Americans would often yell “Osama!“ at them, and in some instances, even harm them physically .

In a recent Facebook flap, a provocateur posted a photo of Darsh Singh, the first turbaned Sikh to play the National Collegiate Basketball League (NCAA) with the caption “Nobody wants to guard Muhammad, he’s too explosive.“

“Everybody is kind of con fusing us with the turbans, be cause what you see on TV is mostly the terrorists, they we ar turbans,“ Verinder Malhi one of the men who faced ha rassment in San Diego fumed in dodgy syntax in a TV inter view, before managing to con vey . “We are Americans at the end of the day . And we are not supposed to be afraid of fellow Americans.“

For Sikhs in America, the US military’s move to allow Capt. Simratpal Singh to keep his beard and turban is some what of an emollient in these trying times. Singh, who led a platoon of combat engineers to clear roadside bombs in Afghanistan and was awarded a Bronze Star for his service was forced to shave under current service rules.

“It is wonderful. I had been living a double life, wearing a turban only at home,“ he told the New York Times. “My two worlds have finally come back together.“

But the relief may be short-lived. While the army is slated to decide whether to permanently exempt soldiers from the mandatory “no be ard” policy by the year-end political temperature in the country over minority loyalty to America is heating up, even as the country’s judiciary has struck down the military‘s contention that beards and turbans constitute a safety hazard.

Republican frontrunner Donald Trump’s recent remarks about a moratorium on Muslims entering America, while exempting Muslims of US-origin and citizenship, has riled even the military , with the Pentagon delivering a sharp message about its potential to cause unrest within the armed forces. As of 2011, an estimated 3500 muslims served in the US military.