Last updateTue, 17 Mar 2015 2pm

Sikh soldier's turban sparks row over centuries-old tradition

The Ministry of Defence has become embroiled in a race row after a Sikh soldier was given permission to wear his turban instead of the iconic bearskin fur cap worn by guards at Buckingham Palace.

According to a report in the Mail on Sunday, Guardsman Jatinderpal Singh Bhullar, 25, will become the first soldier to do away with the centuries-old tradition when he goes on parade for the first time later this week.

Bhullar, who is originally from Birmingham, is currently based at London's Wellington Barracks, home to F Company of the Scots Guards who are responsible for ceremonial duties and guarding the Queen. 

The Guardsman's deployment however, has caused discontent among his colleagues.

The Mail on Sunday quoted some serving non-commissioned officers of the Scots Guard as saying that the "allowances made for Bhullar will make the whole company look ridiculous" and that the "Ministry of Defence was compromising centuries of history for the sake of one soldier."

A retired officer of the regiment was quoted as saying: 'It should be regiment first and religion second. A guardsman is not a guardsman if he's not wearing his bearskin.

'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.'

Bhullar's father Surinder defended his son's stance, telling the newspaper: "He deserves respect and he will stay strong. That includes wearing his turban instead of a bearskin, no matter what other soldiers say. He is observing his religion."

A Ministry of Defence spokeswoman said: '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.

Bhullar had reportedly been a bricklayer before joining the army's elite parachute regiment.  After dropping out of airborne training, he joined the Scots Guards, passing out in November. 

He is one of 20 British-born Sikhs currently serving in the Army.



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