The Citadel Denies Uniform Exception for Hijab

Update: New articles identify the student as Sana Hamze.

Update: Norwich University in Vermont has reportedly granted the same unnamed applicant the right to wear a hijab in her uniform. CAIR implies the student may yet take legal action against the Citadel.  Alumni from Norwich reacted similarly to those at the Citadel, with at least one noting Norwich has a civilian program for those who do not wish to adhere to the rules of the military corps of cadets.

citadelThe Citadel, “The Military College of South Carolina,” has denied a request for a waiver from an incoming cadet to wear a hijab with her cadet uniform, among other exceptions. From the President of The Citadel, retired LtGen John Rosa:

The Citadel has relied upon a highly effective educational model requiring all cadets to adopt a common uniform. Uniformity is the cornerstone of this four-year leader development model. 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 Citadel recognizes the importance of a cadet’s spiritual and religious beliefs, providing services for specific needs whenever possible…

The prospective cadet, who had already been accepted, is now reportedly exploring her “legal options,” as reported by CAIR.  Ibrahim Cooper of CAIR also said

There are Muslim women wearing hijab in our nation’s military.

though it is not immediately clear that’s true, unless uniform exceptions were made extraordinarily quietly.  (And if they were, the Sikh exception just gained significant support.)

It’s an interesting situation for The Citadel, which isn’t technically a government organization (it isn’t the US military) though it does receive public funds.

Should The Citadel make uniform accommodations for religious adherents? Ultimately, they should. It would be to their benefit, and ultimately the benefit of the Corps of Cadets.

Should The Citadel be forced by outsiders to make those accommodations? Given The Citadel’s somewhat unique status as a public institution, that’s a stickier question.

Interestingly, there is no public record that a cadet at either VMI or any of the military service academies has been granted a uniform exception for religious reasons, either, so The Citadel may be leading the way on this question.

As an aside, LtGen Rosa was the Superintendent of the US Air Force Academy from 2003 to 2005 — leaving just as Michael “Mikey” Weinstein began his assaults on religious liberty at the school.

Also at Stars and Stripes, Religion News ServiceNPR, Christian Science Monitor, the Washington Post, and the New York Times.