US military college denies student’s request to wear hijab

Published May 11th, 2016 - 08:41 GMT
The Citadel Military College in South Carolina announced it would not permit a uniform exception for an incoming student who wears hijab. (The Citadel)
The Citadel Military College in South Carolina announced it would not permit a uniform exception for an incoming student who wears hijab. (The Citadel)

The Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina, on Tuesday made a final determination to bar its student body from wearing a Muslim headscarf called a hijab -- a decision that may now lead to a lawsuit against the school.

The college decided to reject the request of an incoming female student almost a month after announcing it would consider the proposition.

The school's president, retired Air Force Lt. Gen. John Rosa, explained the move in a statement Tuesday.

"While we hope the student will enroll in the college this fall, the Commandant of Cadets, after considerable review, determined the uniform exception cannot be granted," he said, noting that the commandant, Geno F. Paluso, was the one who made the final decision.

"Paluso's decision was made with my support and the support of The Citadel Board of Visitors," Rosa added.

The student, a member of the class of 2020, did not speak to the media following the college's decision but a representative of the Council on American-Islamic Relations did.

"They obviously are heartbroken," Ibrahim Hooper said. "It's very disturbing."

Rosa said the college's decision to deny the request has everything to do with the institution's mission, and nothing to do with discrimination.

"Uniformity is the cornerstone of this four-year leader development model," he said. "The standardization of cadets in apparel, overall appearance, actions and privileges is essential to the learning goals and objectives of the college. This process reflects an initial relinquishing of self during which cadets learn the value of teamwork to function as a single unit."

The student previously said that wearing a hijab, in accordance with her Islamic faith, is a requirement for her attending college -- indicating that she might now seek higher education elsewhere.

Additionally, the woman's family is considering legal action against The Citadel, with CAIR's help.

"It's an important civil rights matter," Hooper said. "This is not the end of the issue."

"All requests for accommodation of religious practices are assessed on a case-by-case basis and should be approved by commanders when accommodation will not have an adverse impact on mission accomplishment, including military readiness, unit cohesion, standards, or discipline," U.S. Department of Defense spokeswoman Lt. Col. Gabrielle Hermes said.

One cadet from the school wrote in a Facebook post that he applauds The Citadel's decision.

"I believe a thoughtful decision was made by the Board of Visitors, the commandant of cadets, and the president," he said. "This decision is one that focuses on both the importance of freedom, as well as the importance of the 174-year-strong system that has bettered thousands of lives and has created thousands of leaders in the public and private sectors."


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