The Citadel Won’t Allow Incoming Cadet to Wear Hijab

Updated May 11, 2016
A graduation photo of female cadets at the U.S. Military Academy had come under scrutiny because of the women’s raised fists.A graduation photo of female cadets at the U.S. Military Academy had come under scrutiny because of the women’s raised fists.

As The Citadel, the Military College of South Carolina drew a line in the sand Tuesday in the name of “uniformity,” the U.S. Military Academy (USMA) stood down and headed off a potentially controversial situation of its own.

In response to a newly accepted Muslim student’s request to wear a headscarf known as a hijab, The Citadel said it will not allow it.

“Uniformity is the cornerstone of this four-year leader development model,” said Citadel President John Rosa, adding that cadets learn teamwork through a “relinquishing of self.”

Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said he spoke with the woman’s family and was told she cannot attend the Charleston school in the fall without some sort of accommodation as wearing the hijab is part of her religious obligation. He also said that the family is considering its legal options.

Rosa said he remains hopeful that the student, whose name has not been released, would choose to still attend The Citadel without the accommodation. The Citadel, a public college, admitted its first female cadet in 1995.

Meanwhile, the USMA determined that no punitive action will be taken after an inquiry concluded that 16 African-American female cadets who appeared in a photograph with raised fists did not violate regulations.

“As members of the Profession of Arms, we are held to a high standard, where our actions are constantly observed and scrutinized in the public domain,” said Lt. Gen. Robert L. Caslen Jr., USMA superintendent, in a letter. “We all must understand that a symbol or gesture that one group of people may find harmless may offend others. As Army officers, we are not afforded the luxury of a lack of awareness of how we are perceived.”

The photo had come under scrutiny after a blogger interpreted the raised fists to be a salute to the Black Lives Matter movement. Such a gesture would have potentially run afoul of the ban against political expression or advocacy by military personnel.

The inquiry concluded that the photo was among several taken in the spur of the moment. It was intended to demonstrate “unity” and “pride,” according to the findings of the inquiry.