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Hindu religious waiver approved

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Anthony Munoz
  • 90th Missile Wing Public Affairs

Almost a month later, Darshan Shah is still processing the fact that his religious accommodation waiver was approved. February 22, 2022, marks the first day he was authorized to wear a Tilak Chandlo while in uniform.

After news that Shah was seeking a religious waiver began circulating online group chats, he received support from around the globe. One of his cousins in Australia contacted him to express her excitement along with other people from various locations.

“My friends from Texas, California, New Jersey and New York are messaging me and my parents that they are very happy something like this happened in the Air Force,” said Shah. “It’s something new. It’s something they’ve never heard of before or even thought was possible, but it happened.”

The primary leader of Shah’s sect, Guruhari Mahant Swami Maharaj, shared a phone call to discuss the waiver from India after several Hindu saints contacted him regarding Shah’s perseverance.

“He was very happy,” said Shah. “He said that what I did was never seen before, and he gave me blessings.”

Shah is also receiving plenty of support from his colleagues at the Mighty Ninety.

“Wearing the Tilak Chandlo every day to work is amazing, to say it in one word,” said Shah. “People around my workplace are giving me handshakes, high-fives and congratulating me, because they know how hard I’ve tried to get this religious accommodation approved.”

The ability for Shah to combine both of his main identities allows for him to feel both relieved and proud since his fight for the waiver stems back to basic military training. While in BMT, Shah was told to wait until tech school to pursue the waiver, where he was then told to wait until he reached his first duty station.

“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. “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. It’s given me a load of great friends and an overall understanding of who I am in this world.” 

Shah is grateful that he lives in a country where he has the freedom to openly express his religious freedom, both in and out of uniform.

“We live in a country where we’re allowed to practice and have faith in what we want,” said Shah. “That’s what makes this such a great country. We’re not persecuted for what we follow or believe. If it wasn’t for the first amendment, I wouldn’t be able to do this at all. I wouldn’t be able to be who I am while being a military member or even a citizen.”

The 90th Missile Wing Chaplain Corps can be reached at (307) 773-3434 for more information regarding freedom of religion in an Air Force context.

An article discussing Shah’s journey to obtaining his religious waiver can be found here.