Social Media Reacts to the Citadel's Hijab Rejection

May 10th 2016

Danielle DeCourcey

A prospective Muslim cadet's request to wear a Hijab at The Citadel, a public military college in South Carolina, is sparking an intense debate over tradition and religious freedom.

The Citadel

The Citadel has a strict uniform dress code.

The school's 70 page "Blue Book" includes regulations on everything from female hairstyles to the pace at which students must walk on campus.

Citadel Cadets

However, its recent decision to deny a female Muslim applicant's request to wear a Hijab is stoking some controversy, and a potential lawsuit.

Ibrahim Hooper, a family spokesperson from the Council on American-Islamic Relations told ABC News that he spoke to the prospective cadet's family on Tuesday and they are considering legal action against the school after officials called to deny her request to wear a Hijab in training.

The Citadel's decision prompted some strong support for the school on Twitter.

The announcement also prompted some blatant xenophobia.

Some did voice their support for the student and her request for a head covering.

The Citadel officials said the decision was based on their effort to maintain a strictly regimented culture for cadets. College President Lt. Gen. John Rosa released a statement on The Citadel's website Tuesday saying that he hopes the student will still enroll, but the school can't accept her religious accommodation. Here is part of the statement below:

"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. This process reflects an initial relinquishing of self during which cadets learn the value of teamwork to function as a single unit."

Rosa goes on to say that the school respects cadets' religious beliefs and other religious accommodations are routinely made for enrollees.

"The Citadel recognizes the importance of a cadet’s spiritual and religious beliefs, providing services for specific needs whenever possible. For example, during the first week of school faith-based organizations on campus and from the community meet with freshmen cadets. Cadet religious officers arrange transportation to churches, mosques, synagogues and other places of worship for those without cars. Accommodations for prayer and dietary needs are common at the college."

The Citadel's regulations are based on the idea that uniforms foster a cohesive military unit, but such traditions have been challenged lately.

The Army recently loosened it's regulations in 2014 to allow some religious head covering for active duty military, according to the Huffington Post. Service members have to apply for the ability to wear the item.

In 2015, the Marines revised its hairstyle regulations to include locks and twists, in response to concerns that their guidelines were implicitly discriminatory to Black women.

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