Military College Denies Muslim Cadet's Request to Wear Hijab at School
If you're looking for an environment that encourages you to express yourself freely, you should probably avoid the Citadel — one of the United States' oldest military colleges.
On Tuesday, the Citadel's administrators announced they would not permit a Muslim cadet to wear her hijab on campus, BuzzFeed reported. The cadet, whose name has not been released, had been admitted to the school and requested an exception to the Citadel's dress code for religious reasons.
The decision ends a month-long debate that started in April after another Citadel student, Nick Pinelli, wrote a Facebook post bemoaning the school's decision to even consider the request.
"If I valued liberal ideology, I would go to UC Berkeley," Pinelli wrote. "If I valued conservative ideology and wanted to challenge myself in a military environment, I would go to the Citadel."
The Citadel's administrators explained their final decision in a statement to BuzzFeed, saying uniformity was essential to the learning environment they were trying to foster.
"Uniformity is the cornerstone of this four-year leader development model," Citadel President Lt. Gen. John Rosa said in the statement. "The standardization of cadets in apparel, overall appearance, actions and privileges is essential to the learning goals and objectives of the college."
The Muslim cadet's predicament calls to mind others whose faith requires them to wear prescribed attire.
In April, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers ruled that Capt. Simratpal Singh — a Sikh-American combat veteran who served in Afghanistan — would be allowed to wear his turban while on active duty.
Like the Jewish yarmulke, the turban in Sikhism and the Muslim hijab are for many practitioners essential to the practice of their religion. Asking to be allowed to wear them is not like asking to wear a baseball cap or a tie-dyed T-shirt. It's a religious requirement — not a fashion statement.
"For some Muslim women, wearing hijab is a core tenet of their religious practice," the ACLU wrote in a letter to the Citadel in April, urging the school to accommodate the woman's request. "Being forced to remove it is humiliating, and for many Muslim women, no different than being compelled to strip in front of others."
The Citadel has made their decision. Administrators said they still wanted the woman to attend the institution, but did not indicate whether she had decided to attend. She would have been the only Muslim woman enrolled at the school.