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Citadel: Muslim Student Can't Wear Hijab

An incoming Muslim freshman is considering legal action after a military college said it wouldn't allow her to wear a hijab, an Islamic-style head scarf.

The student was accepted to the Citadel as part of the class of 2020, WCSC reports. On May 10, she was informed the school would not permit her to wear a hijab.

Lt. Gen. John Rosa, the schools' president, released a statement explaining the decision:

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. 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 said the decision was not meant to disparage religion. The school accommodates students of various faiths, Rosa said, by connecting them with local congregations. The school also provides transportation to mosques, churches and synagogues for students who don't have cars, and makes "accommodations for prayer and dietary needs."

Members of the Central Mosque of Charleston said they understand the Citadel's decision, but think school officials passed up an opportunity to break "a lot of barriers" and show the Muslim community that they respect its traditions, WCSC reports.

"Every institution has their own policies and rules that we need to respect them," Reshma Khan, who speaks for the female members of the mosque, told WCSC.

Others, like Citadel graduate Suzanne Chisholm, say it's the student's responsibility to follow school policies, and not the school's responsibility to make exceptions. 

"I had to wear a uniform I didn't want to wear," Chisholm told WCSC. "I had to cut my hair. I had to follow a bunch of rules and regulations that I didn't want to follow, but if I didn't want to do those things then I shouldn't have gone to the Citadel."

The Citadel, also known as the Military College of South Carolina, serves about 3,500 students, including those who intend to enter the military as commissioned officers.

Sources: WCSC, ABC News / Photo credit: Nick Leonard/Wikimedia Commons

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