The Royal Navy has changed its rules to allow Rastafarians to keep their long hair and beards as the head of a new association has called for the end of the drug-taking stereotype.
The Co-chair of the Defence Rastafarian Network has said work is still required to break the myths around drug use and ethnicity regarding the religious and cultural movement, saying stereotypes must be challenged.
Lieutenant Shabaka Kenyatta, 38, an officer in the Royal Navy, believes many people associate Rastafarians with “the things that people see on TV” such as marijuana and drug taking.
However, Lt Kenyatta, a marine engineer, said there is “zero tolerance for drugs” in the armed forces.
“One of the biggest myths is that all Rastafarians smoke weed. That was one we had to shut down quickly,” he said.
He said another myth is that Rastafarians all have to be black.
“We have to be there to increase awareness that it is not about being black or white,” he told the Telegraph. “It’s open to anyone and everyone, it’s a way of life to follow.”
“You have bald-headed rastas [and] don’t necessarily have to have dread[locks] to be a rasta, you don’t have to be from the Caribbean, Africa or Ethiopia”.
The Defence Rastafarian Network (DRN) was set up in 2017 and comprises almost 300 members from all three services and the MoD civil service. Most come from the army.