The British Army is embroiled in a damaging row after a Sikh soldier was allowed to wear a turban rather than a bearskin on ceremonial duties suffered abuse from his colleagues.
Guardsman Jatinderpal Singh Bhullar, 25, who joined the Scots guards in 2012, has been given the permission to wear a turban outside Buckingham Palace, breaking hundreds of years of tradition. The decision by army chiefs has proved controversial among Bhullar’s fellow soldiers, the Daily Mail reports.
The Army’s Sikh chaplain said that Bhullar was passed many taunts about his turban and his refusal to cut his hair and his beard, the report said. Bhullar is based at Wellington Barracks in Birdcage Walk. The base is used by soldiers from the Scots Guards' F Company, who at present are responsible for public duties and guarding the Queen, the report added.
According to military sources, Bhullar, who is from Birmingham, is expected to parade for the first time next week. When he marches with his colleagues he will become the first guardsman not wear a bearskin.
Traditionalists in the Scots Guard said the allowances made for Bhullar will make the whole company look ridiculous to tourists and onlookers. “It should be regiment first and religion second. A guardsman is not a guardsman if he's not wearing his bearskin,” David Cuthill, chairman of the Dundee branch, said.
“Hundreds of years of tradition should be protected. I appreciate his predicament, but if all the other guardsmen are in bearskins and he is in a turban, it is going to look ridiculous,” he added.
As a devout Sikh, it is mandatory for Bhullar to wear a turban. It is intended to protect his hair, when he never cuts, and to keep it clean. “The Army takes great pride in its diversity. Discussions are underway between this unit, the Sikh community and the MoD. The individual will have the full support of the Army and his colleagues,” a ministry of defence spokeswoman said.