The Citadel: Hijab Ban Could Spark Lawsuit

The Citadel’s hijab ban, which was challenged by a newly admitted female cadet, may spark a lawsuit. Although the South Carolina military college adheres to a strict dress code, school officials were willing to consider modifying the dress code for the unnamed Muslim student. However, on Tuesday morning, the unnamed woman was informed the dress code will not be relaxed to accommodate religious clothing or regalia.

As explained in the Citadel’s Blue Book of regulations, the military college has an extensive dress code, which was designed to “reflect pride in the Corps of Cadets.”

First and foremost, cadets are prohibited from mixing their uniform “with civilian clothing,” including any religious clothing. Although medical and religious tags are permitted, they must be “covered by the undershirt and… not visible.”

Female cadets are permitted to wear “hair-holding devices,” however, they are “authorized only for the purpose of securing the hair.” Hair and headpieces that obscure the head or hair, including bows, decorative barrettes, and large, lacy scrunchies, are prohibited.

In an official statement, published by the Post and Courier, President Lt. Gen. John Rosa explains the Citadel’s dress code and why hijabs are prohibited.

“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… 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.”

Although the Citadel will not allow cadets to wear a hijab, the military college is generally sensitive to their students’ religious beliefs. Former Muslim student Abdulrahman Muhammad, who graduated in 2015, said the military college provided him with halal meals and transportation to a mosque in Charleston for religious services.

Muhammad admits the female cadet’s request to wear a hijab has caused “a sticky situation.” However, in his opinion, “the school is doing their job and their due diligence to try and accommodate a need.”

ABC News reports the student is unlikely to attend the Citadel as planned unless school officials reconsider their decision about the hijab ban. The woman’s family said they are considering a lawsuit against the school.

It is unclear whether the Citadel’s hijab ban violates any law. However, in 2014, the Pentagon increased accommodations to military uniforms for soldiers with “sincerely held beliefs.”

As long as the clothing and regalia do not interfere with “military readiness or unit cohesion,” soldiers may apply for a dress code waiver, which could allow them to grow beards and wear religious clothing and regalia, including hijabs.

Although some have argued that the policy gives commanders too much leeway to determine whether religious clothing and regalia interfere with “military readiness or unit cohesion,” most agree it is a step in the right direction.

Traditionally, the Citadel adhered closely to United States military dress codes and regulations, as many students attend the college with plans to join the military upon graduation. However, college officials have determined they will stick to their current dress code and will not make accommodations for religious clothing and regalia.

The decision was applauded by Nick Pinelli, who was vocal in his opposition to the proposed accommodations. In a Facebook post, Pinelli said the 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.”

Lt. Gen John Rosa said he hopes the unnamed female cadet will appreciate and understand the decision and will attend the school as planned. However, representatives for the student and her family said she will only attend the Citadel is she is permitted to wear a hijab.

[Image via Daniel Jedzura/Shutterstock]