For 174 years, the Citadel, a military college in South Carolina, has never granted an exception to its uniform requirements. But that could soon change after a student requested that she be allowed to wear a hijab, or head scarf, in keeping with her Muslim faith.
“The college is reviewing the request at this time,” Citadel spokesman Col. Brett Ashworth said in a statement, ABC News reported.
At the Citadel, regulations require students to wear their uniforms "at all times when performing any duty." Only in a handful of circumstances are cadets excused from wearing their uniforms, such as if they are at the beach. In that case, "Cadets will change into appropriate swimwear upon arrival and change back into uniform when departing."
A spokeswoman for the school said that she was not aware of the school ever having made exceptions to these rules, for religious purposes or any other, the Washington Post reported.
News of the student's hijab request spread on social media, drawing mixed reactions. The matter became the latest episode in a ongoing national discussion, often escalating into controversy, over the role of Islam in the U.S. amid growing anti-Islamic rhetoric — and backlash against that vitriol.
Kudos to this young Muslim woman pushing the US Military to end its discriminatory ban against religious minorities!https://t.co/o6D1Ll0PtZ
— Simran Jeet Singh (@SikhProf) April 16, 2016
@CitadelSports DO NOT ALLOW THE HIJAB!!! This is not the Middle East, blend with U.S. culture.This demand is DISGRACEFUL, leave Citadel!
— Denise Bronsdon (@DeniseBronsdon) April 15, 2016
On a page on its website titled "Campus Religious Activities," the Citadel describes itself as "fortunate to have over 20 campus pastors or ministry directors representing seventeen diverse religious groups," including Muslim denominations. "These leaders work together to maintain a strong religious foundation for the cadet's ethical and moral formation," it adds.
The school's religious accommodation policy explains, "The Citadel will approve requests for accommodation of religious practices unless accommodation will have an adverse impact on a competing institutional interest.”
The Citadel currently has three Muslim students, ABC News reported.