Thursday, September 11, 2008

The world gets "bearder" everyday

I'm guessing some of you read this article on TOI, about a Muslim airman questioning the Indian Air Force's no-beard policy.

I was quick to dimiss the case. The two most common rebuttals are
(1) Technological: How do you fit that high tech helmet with a tight seal; remember it delivers oxygen among other things
(2) Secular: The armed forces would prefer "uniform" appearance (On a side note - I now realize why the dress-code is referred to as "a uniform", duh! I have my doofus moments). The armed forces is not the place for you to stake your individuality. Most armies, modern and ancient, have had the uniformity tenet.

But if this brings Govinda to mind i.e. "it happens only in India", take a gander at this very similar case in Israel. Worth a double take.

The technological problem apparently isn't a slam dunk, since women with long hair have no problem serving in the Israeli air force. They manage to find a way. The article however fails to mention it's dealing with hair on diametrically opposite sides of the head.

Second, on the notion of uniformity of appearance in the armed forces - we do make exceptions for Sikhs. Btw - last time I checked, the British and Canadian armies also make the exception.

If only all arguments were simple. That said, I would need an overwhelming argument proving that "uniforms" are explicitly discriminatory against a religion to overturn what is common sense for the army, navy and air force.

Which gives me an opportunity to rant against religions that require distinctiveness in appearance. First of all, keep that in your home and out of public view. Second, religion is supposed to be about what's inside. Consider this an equal offender statement against crosses, kirpans, ash and hats. Granted in a democracy I cannot (and don't particularly care to) enforce what you look like in public. But at least when you get near the military ... what's that phrase ... FALL IN LINE!

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