Press Releases

CAIR Backs Push to Remove 181-Year-Old Ban on Head Coverings in the House of Representatives

Muslim civil rights group says Constitution protects religious attire of Muslims, Jews, Sikhs, Christians, Others 

(WASHINGTON, D.C., 11/19/18) – The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, today expressed support for a push by Democratic lawmakers to update a 181-year-old rule banning head coverings on the House floor to allow for a constitutionally-guaranteed religious exemption.

The rule, first implemented in 1837, state that every member shall remain “uncovered” during the sessions of the House. Current rules of comportment prohibit members of the House from wearing a “hat.” The new rule would clarify that religious head coverings, including Muslim head scarves (hijab), are not included in this ban.

The rule change was proposed by former House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Ranking Member of the House Committee on Rules Jim McGovern (D-MA) and Congresswoman-elect Ilhan Omar (D-MN). When she is sworn in next year, Omar will become the first member of Congress to wear hijab.

“We support the effort to update this anachronistic policy and to bring the House of Representatives into conformity with the Constitution and its existing protection of religious freedom,” said CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad. “Islamic head coverings, Sikh turbans, Jewish yarmulkes, and Mennonite bonnets are all expressions of religious belief and are therefore already protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution, which states that ”˜Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.’”

Awad said the rule change would be an acknowledgment of the increasing diversity in Congress, which reflects both the nation’s changing demographics and the political empowerment of marginalized communities.

For Background on This Issue, SEE:

Ivanka Trump Supports Allowing Headscarves in Congress Even Though Her Father Once Called for Muslim Ban

New Muslim Congresswoman Will Seek to Allow Religious Headwear in the House

Jefferson’s Manual and Rules of the House of Representatives

The Ban on Hats on the House Floor

Rules of the 109th Congress – Committee on Rules 

Last week, CAIR, Jetpac and MPower Change released a report, “The Rise of American Muslim Changemakers,” documenting the 127 American Muslims elected or appointed to public office since the election of Donald Trump in 2016 and the subsequent rise in anti-Muslim bigotry.

That report profiles newly-elected Michigan Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib, Minnesota Congresswoman Ilhan Omar and Cleveland City Council Member Basheer Jones, among many others.

SEE: CAIR, MPower Change and Jetpac Release Report on Muslim Political Mobilization in the Trump Era

CAIR is America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance understanding of Islam, protect civil rights, promote justice, and empower American Muslims. 

La misión de CAIR es proteger las libertades civiles, mejorar la comprensión del Islam, promover la justicia, y empoderar a los musulmanes en los Estados Unidos.


CONTACT: CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper, 202-744-7726,; CAIR Government Affairs Director Robert McCaw, 202-742-6448,


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