American Muslim Citadel student requests to wear hijab; President, Commandant, Board deny request

Lt. Gen. John Rosa, Citadel President, has released a statement regarding an American Muslim Citadel student’s religious request to wear a hijab at the South Carolina military college.

A statement from the President of The Citadel:

An American Muslim student admitted to the Class of 2020 requested a religious accommodation to wear a head cover, called a hijab, with the standard uniform of the South Carolina Corps of Cadets. While we hope the student will enroll in the college this fall, the Commandant of Cadets, after considerable review, determined the uniform exception cannot be granted. Captain (Retired) Geno Paluso’s decision was made with my support and the support of The Citadel Board of Visitors.

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. Upon graduation, The Citadel’s graduates are prepared to enter a life committed to principled leadership in military service and civilian careers.

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 diversity of religions and cultural backgrounds represented in the Corps enriches the overall cadet experience and better prepares graduates to become principled leaders in all walks of life, underpinned by The Citadel’s core values of honor, duty and respect.

Lt Gen John Rosa, USAF (Ret)
Citadel President

In addition, a spokesperson for the family of the student, Ibrahim Hooper with the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Washington, says she is unable to attend The Citadel if she is not able to wear a hijab.

He said that the Citadel’s decision is unconstitutional, and his organization is considering legal action.

“Unfortunately this decision shows a lack of inclusion on the part of a major academic institution in the United States, and that’s not a message we want to send at this particular moment in time,” Hooper said.

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