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Sikh doctors shave their beards due to Covid-19

image courtesy of the Montreal Gazette

image courtesy of the Montreal Gazette

Published May 17, 2020


DURBAN – As the world faces the Covid-19 pandemic, things that people have considered to be normal have had to be re-evaluated to ensure minimal spread of the virus, especially for essential workers.

Two doctors in Canada, who are of Sikh faith and happened to be brothers, made the difficult decision to remove their beards which was, unfortunately, preventing them from wearing the N95 masks.

Sikhism is a religion founded in Punjab, a northern state of India, in the late 15th century.

These doctors had to choose between two pillars of Sikhism which are Sewa and Kesh. Kesh which is considered an essential part of Sikh faith, is the practice of allowing the hair to grow naturally and a symbol of respect for the perfection of God’s creation. Sewa is the act of selflessly helping others without any reward or gain.

In a video posted on YouTube, Dr Sanjeet Singh-Saluja, who is an emergency doctor and physician at McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) in Montreal, explained their decision to shave their beards in order to continue to treat patients as well as be able to stay protected from Covid-19.

video courtesy of the Montreal Gazette

Sikh doctors that shaved their beards due to covid-19

Dr Singh-Saluja said: "This is a decision made after many weeks of soul searching and many sleepless nights. This is a very difficult decision for us, and one we feel is necessary in this time of need. This is a decision that has left me with great sadness, and I truly mourn the loss of something that has been a major part of my identity."

Meanwhile, the North American Sikh Medical and Dental Association (NASMDA) wrote a letter to its members stating that they have collaborated with the Sikh Coalition, which is a rights group, to provide both legal support and guidance to healthcare workers in a similar predicament.

Dr Jaspal Singh, a professor of medicine at the Atrium Health and the Levine Cancer Institute in Charlotte, North Carolina, told CNN: "Sikh healthcare workers should not be forced to make a choice between their career and their faith. Forcing people to compromise their constitutionally-protected beliefs is unacceptable".

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