Thursday, Sep 29, 2022
×
Outlook.com
×

Who Is Hindu Airman Who Got US Air Force's Permit To Wear 'Tilak' On Duty?

Shah is a follower of Bochasanwasi Shri Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha, whose followers wear a red dot on the forehead, which is known as a chandlo. It's surrounded by an orange U-shaped symbol.

Senior Airman Darshan Shah
Senior Airman Darshan Shah US Air Force

As India debates whether to allow Muslim girls to study in hijabs, the US Air Force has permitted a Hindu serviceman to wear a tilak on his forehead while on duty in his uniform, winning appreciation from religious freedom advocates in the country.

Senior Airman Darshan Shah, currently posted at the Warren Air Force Base, Wyoming, received permission to wear “Tilak Chandlo” on his forehead last month.

Shah is a follower of Bochasanwasi Shri Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha, whose followers wear a red dot on the forehead, which is known as a chandlo. It's surrounded by an orange U-shaped symbol. Shah, who also lived in India with grandparents for two years, had worn it since childhood. 

Shah described the symbol as a major part of his identity and said he feels “amazing” after receiving the permission. 

He was quoted as saying in an air force press release, "Wearing the Tilak Chandlo every day to work is amazing, to say it in one word. People around my workplace are giving me handshakes, high-fives and congratulating me, because they know how hard I've tried to get this religious accommodation approved."

Shah's case has been appreciated by religious liberty advocates such as Michael Berry, Director of Military Affairs and Senior Counsel for Texas-based non-profit First Liberty Institute.

He told Military.com, “When our military finds a way to accommodate sincerely held beliefs, that's good for the Constitution. I think it boosts morale and esprit de corps, which I think makes us a stronger military."

The US military has over the years modified their regulations to allow Sikh men to wear turbans, Muslim men to keep beards, and Muslim women to wear hijab. 

Meanwhile in India, the Karnataka High Court recently upheld a ban on girls wearing hijab in school premises. On Saturday, a university in Madhya Pradesh initiated an inquiry after a right-wing Hindu organisation produced a video of a girl in hijab offering namaz inside a classroom. 

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement