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FREEDOM OF RELIGION

A Hindu in the US has won the type of religious accommodation that Muslims in India are losing

FE WARREN AIRFORCE BASE
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The idea of freedom of religion through symbolic display isn’t restricted to India as signified by the hijab row.

On Feb. 22, the US Air Force granted approval to Darshan Shah, an aerospace medical technician assigned to the 90th Operational Medical Readiness Squadron in Wyoming, to wear a tilak chandlo (holy mark on the forehead) in uniform.

Born into a Hindu family, Shah is originally from Eden Prairie, Minnesota. Ever since attending the basic military training in June 2020, he had been seeking a waiver in the uniform rules to wear the tilak chandlo while on duty.

“Not only was I wearing the uniform, which is one of my main identities, being a member of the Air Force, but I was also wearing my tilak chandlo,” said Shah, according to a US Air Force website. “It’s who I am. Wearing it is special. It’s my way of getting through hardships and difficulties in life. It provides me guidance…”

The decision by US Air Force has garnered a lot of support from several Hindus across the world. The leader of the sect Shah belongs to shared a phone call from India to discuss the waiver after several Hindu saints spoke to him about Shah’s perseverance.

Around the same time, India has faced turmoil caused by the hijab row in the southern state of Karnataka.

It began some weeks ago when one Karnataka decided to disallow, henceforth, the woman’s headcover on campus. Several Muslim families with woman students of the institution were outraged and boycotted classes. The row ballooned after other colleges in Karnataka began implementing similar bans.

Following days of protests, the Karnataka high court, a few days ago, upheld the ban on hijab. The row has now moved on to some temples in Karnataka now banning Muslim traders from taking part in their fairs and religious festivals.

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