The state-run Citadel military college in Charleston has denied a request by a newly admitted student to wear a traditional Muslim headscarf.
The Citadel revealed last month it was considering the woman’s request to wear the hijab. But college president retired Lt. Gen John Rosa said in a statement Tuesday that the college has denied the request after review, saying it goes against the rigid dress code.
“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 the statement. “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.”
The Citadel’s dress code requires female cadets keep their hair in a short style no more than three inches in length and no cadet is allowed to wear visible religious symbols on the outside of their clothing.
U.S. Defense Department guidelines permit service members to wear beards, yarmulkes and turbans for religious reasons, but allows the branches to determine those exceptions on a case-by-case basis. The Citadel is not a branch of the military, however, and does not fall under those guidelines.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations criticized the decision and said the woman is considering whether to file a lawsuit over what they consider restrictions on her First Amendment religious rights.
“We believe the desire to maintain an outdated ‘tradition,’ which was the same argument used to initially deny admittance to African-Americans and women, does not justify violating a student’s constitutional rights,” CAIR Senior Staff Attorney William Burgess said. “Our nation’s military currently accommodates religious attire in the form of headscarves, beards and turbans. The Citadel should offer the same accommodations.”