US military academy rejects student’s hijab request

WASHINGTON (AA) – An elite American military college has decided to deny a recently-accepted Muslim female student’s request to wear the hijab.

Citadel President Lt. Gen. John Rosa said in a statement Tuesday that after consideration, the school will not be able to accommodate the student’s request to wear the head covering used commonly by some Muslim women. Her name has been withheld due to privacy considerations.

“As the Military College of South Carolina, The Citadel has relied upon a highly effective educational model requiring all cadets to adopt a common uniform,” Rosa said in a statement.

He said the academy seeks to provide for the cadet’s specific needs “whenever possible”, and pointed to the shuttling of students to churches, mosques, synagogues and other places of worship.

“Accommodations for prayer and dietary needs are common at the college,” he said.

While three Muslims currently attend the school and several others have graduated in the past, this was the first request for a hijab exemption.

A spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which says it is the largest Muslim-American advocacy group, said that the student will not attend the school unless an exemption is made.

She told the school’s commandant this morning that it is not fair to choose between her faith and attending the Citadel, Ibrahim Hooper said, noting that the family is currently examining legal recourses.

Founded in 1842, the South Carolina military college is known for its strict attire and conduct codes, as well as its high academic standards.

The Citadel’s religious accommodation policy states that the college “places a high value on the rights of cadets to observe tenets of their respective religious faiths.”

In addition: “The Citadel will approve requests for accommodation of religious practices unless accommodation will have an adverse impact on a competing institutional interest,” the policy says, but adds that religious accommodation “cannot be guaranteed at all times.”

Corey Sailor, also an advocacy group spokesman, said: “When somebody wants to serve their country and is trying to observe freely held religious beliefs, I think the extra effort can be made.

“It is extremely important that institutions like the Citadel understand that because we have a diverse country, they have to be willing to deal with diverse beliefs,” he said. “The Citadel can look to the military for guidance on this.”

The U.S. military recently accommodated three Sikh service members hoping to keep their beards untrimmed, and cover their heads with turbans.