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Texas county allows Sikh deputy Sandeep Dhaliwal to serve in traditional turban and beard

Move reflects the diversity of the community too.

By Raif Karerat

WASHINGTON, DC: For the first time ever, a Texan Sheriff’s department will allow Sikh deputy Sandeep Dhaliwal to report for duty while wearing his religion’s traditional dastaar (turban) and beard.

Dhaliwal has been with the Harris County Sheriff’s department for over six years, but has not been permitted to don his dastaar or sport a beard until now.

Sikhs, as a matter of faith, do not cut their hair, and both men and women cover their heads in cloth turbans. These articles represent a Sikh’s commitment to equality, service, and justice.

“By making these religious accommodations we are joining the U.S. military and other law enforcement agencies across the country with observant Sikh Americans among their ranks. Harris County is no different. We are one of the most culturally rich and diverse communities in America,” Sheriff Garcia said in a statement Wednesday.

The post-9/11 landscape has seen misconceptions about Sikhs run rampant, with some choosing to discriminate against them based on their attire and skin color. The Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SADEF) states that it is currently difficult to ascertain the true number of hate crimes perpetrated against Sikh Americans because many incidents go unreported and Sikh-specific statistics are currently unavailable. However, since 9/11, the U.S. Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, the FBI, and United States Attorneys have collectively investigated over 800 bias incidents against Sikhs, Arabs, Muslims, and South Asian Americans.

“With this policy, one of the largest sheriff’s offices in the country has affirmed that a person does not have to choose between their faith and a career of service,” vaunted SALDEF’s Executive Director, Jasjit Singh, in an official release. “We believe that this announcement will inspire other local law enforcement units from around the country to follow in Harris County’s footsteps.”

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