Citadel denies Muslim student's hijab request; family considers legal action

Incoming Citadel freshman known as knobs stand in formation as they read from the Guidon while waiting to be issued a uniform at The Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina

Story highlights

  • The family believes Citadel's decision contradicts U.S. military precedent
  • If granted, the request would disrupt the school's core principal, Citadel says

(CNN)The Citadel, the prestigious South Carolina military college, has denied a prospective Muslim student's request to wear a hijab -- but the issue is far from resolved.

The woman's family is now considering legal action, citing the fact the Citadel is a public university, said Ibrahim Hooper with the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
    "We believe that it's a constitutional obligation for a public institution to offer religious accommodation to students," he said.
    Hooper says precedents for religious accommodation in the U.S. military contradict the Citadel's decision.
    "Our U.S. military allows hijabs, beards, turbans, yarmulkes," he said. "It makes you wonder why the Citadel thinks they're somehow better than our nation's military."

    A decision between uniformity and faith

    The student, who does not want to be named, was accepted into the Citadel and was planning on attending as part of the graduating class of 2020.
    In April, the Citadel announced it was considering a request from the student that she be allowed to wear a hijab in accordance with her faith. A hijab is a head covering worn by some Muslim women.
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    The school ultimately decided to deny the request.
    Citadel President Lt. Gen. John Rosa said the school respects students' religious views, but could not accommodate a request that would disrupt the school's core principles.
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    "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," he said in a statement Tuesday.
    He added the school takes a cadet's beliefs into consideration -- whenever it's possible.
    "Accommodations for prayer and dietary needs are common at the college," Rosa said.
    Rosa added he hoped the student will still enroll. But Hooper says she won't -- "without religious accommodation."
    "They were obviously heartbroken," Hooper said, speaking for the family. "The father says the prospective student was in tears. She believes it's unfair that she has to choose between her faith and attending the Citadel."