Kerre McIvor

Kerre McIvor is a Herald on Sunday columnist

Kerre Woodham: Army uniformity all part of the job

18 comments

I was interested to read the story of British soldier Jatinderpal Singh Bhullar, who is a member of the Scots Guard F company.

That's the company responsible for public duties and guarding the Queen. Guardsman Bhullar is a Sikh and he has asked for and received permission from his army bosses to wear his turban instead of the traditional bearskin hat when he's on duty.

That has sparked a debate within Britain over the rights and wrongs of the decision. I'm with those who say he should conform.

Bhullar says as a devout Sikh he cannot cut his hair or beard and his hair must be covered at all times with his turban. That's fine - I understand and respect that.

I would be horrified if he was told that he could only join the military if he had to have a short back and sides - that would be in direct contravention of his religious beliefs. But he can still wear his turban underneath his bearskin.

Indeed there are images of Bhullar wearing a hard hat over his turban during his airborne training, so clearly there are no objections to headpieces covering the turban. And besides, there are all sorts of turbans: day-to-day ones; sporting turbans; ceremonial turbans.

It's not as if there is one turban that rules them all and that must be worn and be seen to be worn.

Sikhs have a proud history and are considered to be great fighters.

Turban-wearing Sikhs have fought alongside British armies in wars for more than 100 years - but they wore turbans within their own regiments. It was part of their uniform.

A uniform is a uniform for a reason - it brings people from different backgrounds together and makes them a team - and the Scots Guard ceremonial dress is a bearskin hat.

Bhullar knew what he was signing up for when he joined the Guard. Now he's trying to change the rules. A bit like the parents who enrol their child in a school, sign the piece of paper that says they promise to abide by the rules, then complain to anyone who'll listen if their darling is sent home for dyeing his hair pink or wearing the wrong shoes.

I'd love to hear from Sikhs in New Zealand. why are you not able to wear a hat over your turban? It seems provocative to ask for a dispensation to be the only person in the company to look different. Traditions and customs are important, but surely they are just as important to the Scots Guard as they are for Jatinderpal Bhullar.

- Herald on Sunday

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