Tags: Muslim sailor | sues | hair | policy

Muslim Sailor Sues to Change Navy's Facial Hair Policy

By    |   Friday, 09 January 2015 11:39 AM

A Muslim sailor suing the Navy over its refusal to allow him to wear a beard said he was mistreated and wants to "get my career back."

Attorneys for Boatswain's Mate 2nd Class Jonathan Berts filed suit last month in federal court claiming he was the victim of discrimination because he requested permission to wear a beard for religious reasons.

Berts enlisted in the military in 2002. For years, the Navy permitted him to wear a beard because he had a skin condition. But when Berts subsequently asked to be able to have a beard as part of his Muslim faith, he was refused.

Berts, who is black, says his superiors prevented him from receiving a recommended promotion because of his beard. In addition, he claims to have suffered "a barrage of derogatory terms, anti-Islamic slurs, and inappropriate lines of questions about his religious beliefs and loyalty to the United States," the Daily Caller reported.

The suit further claims that Berts was transferred from a job as an instructor to an "abandoned, roach-infested building" where he spent his days by himself watching over office equipment.

Berts received an honorable discharge and was transferred to the Navy Reserve in January 2012. He told the Navy Times this week that he has attempted several times to re-enlist without success.

After the Navy liberalized its grooming policy last year to permit beards, Berts said he and his civilian attorney decided to team up with the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). Together, they filed suit against Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus and other military officials.

Berts seeks to return to active duty and to have his time-in-service updated as if he had never left the Navy.

"I believed I was wronged, and I would love to get my career back," he said.
Berts said he is not concerned about reprisals if he returned to active duty.

"I don't think I would take any more crap, because people are aware," he told the Navy Times. "I'm not afraid. I've been called a lot of bad things."

Berts expressed hope that his case might result in some training for senior leadership in the military.

CAIR, which sued the military last month on Berts' behalf, has itself been under fire for some time over allegations of links to the Muslim Brotherhood. In a 2009 court decision, it was confirmed as a participant in a conspiracy to provide funds to Hamas, an affiliate of the Brotherhood and a designated terrorist organization.

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A Muslim sailor suing the Navy over its refusal to allow him to wear a beard said he was mistreated and wants to get my career back.
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Friday, 09 January 2015 11:39 AM
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