A Muslim student admitted to the Citadel has requested to wear her hijab, but that request has been turned down, according to Religion News Service:
“Uniformity is the cornerstone of this four-year leader development model,” [Citadel president John] Rosa said in a statement Tuesday (May 10). “This process reflects an initial relinquishing of self during which cadets learn the value of teamwork to function as a single unit.”
Rosa hopes the student will decide to attend. The statement has drawn criticism from voices including the Council on American-Islamic Relations. National Public Radio reports:
Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said the student cannot attend without the accommodation. “Wearing hijab is viewed as a religious obligation,” he told NPR via email.
CAIR said in a press release that it is “considering legal options to challenge” the decision.
Sherine Hafez, whose work focuses on women’s studies and Muslim societies, tells The Two-Way that she thinks gender intersects with religion in this case. As a professor, she has seen students who wear headscarves underestimated or presumed “docile.”
“It’s not just a religious issue, but it is a feminist one because they are women,” says Hafez, an associate professor of gender and sexuality studies at the University of California, Riverside.
Other Muslims support the Citadel’s decision. From the Washington Post:
Asra Nomani, an author and co-founder of the Muslim Reform Movement, applauded the Citadel’s decision. “Women and girls, of course, should have a right to wear — or not wear — the headscarf in society, if they wish, but it is truly an insult to the struggle for secularism and civil rights in this country to conflate the headscarf with the struggle for religious and civil liberties in the United States,” she wrote in an email.
She believes the hijab is not required for Muslims, but is an interpretation by “a fundamentalist, puritanical, political Islam.” In her opinion, “Including the headscarf in the Citadel uniform would be equal to including the side curls, or payot, worn by some men and boys in Orthodox Judaism.”
Should a hijab be allowed with military uniform? Is the “relinquishment of self” antithetical to faith?