(WASHINGTON, D.C., 5/10/16) â€“ The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nationâ€™s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, today said it is considering legal options to challenge a decision by The Citadel military college in South Carolina to deny a newly-accepted Muslim studentâ€™s request to wear a religious head scarf, or hijab.
The school, which is a publically-funded institution, told the Muslim student about the denial of religious accommodation in a phone call this morning.
- SEE: The Citadel Will Not Allow an Exception to the Uniform to Let a Muslim Student Wear Her Hijab
- Muslim Family Considers Suit Against Citadel Over Headscarf (AP)
In a statement, CAIR Senior Staff Attorney William Burgess said:
â€œThe Citadel violated the studentâ€™s right to a religious accommodation under the First Amendment and the South Carolina Religious Freedom Act, which makes it illegal for a state institution to place a burden on a personâ€™s ability to practice his or her faith without the most compelling justification.Â
â€œWe believe the desire to maintain an outdated â€˜tradition,â€™ which was the same argument used to initially deny admittance to African-Americans and women, does not justify violating a studentâ€™s constitutional rights. Our nationâ€™s military currently accommodates religious attire in the form of headscarves, beards and turbans. The Citadel should offer the same accommodations.
â€œNo student should be forced to choose between her faith and an education that can facilitate future service to her nation.â€
CAIR is working with the family to decide on legal options in the case.
The Citadel only began admitting female students in 1995. The controversy generated by admitting women resulted in the first female cadet having to be escorted by U.S. marshals. The first African-American student was admitted in 1966.
Earlier this year, the U.S. Army granted a Sikh officer permission to wear a turban over his long hair and a beard with his uniform.
In 2014, CAIR welcomed an updated Pentagon policy on religious accommodation for military personnel. That updated policy changed rules governing religious accommodations that include beards, turbans and other religious symbols. Under the new policy, the military will make every effort to accommodate “individual expressions of sincerely held beliefsâ€ unless it could have an â€œadverse impact on military readiness, unit cohesion, and good order and discipline.â€
CAIR has dealt with past requests for religious accommodations by Muslim military and ROTC personnel.
In 2011, CAIR successfully urged the Department of Defense (DOD) to allow Muslim and Sikh students who wear an Islamic head scarf (hijab) or a turban to participate in the Junior Reserve Officersâ€™ Training Corps (JROTC).Â Â
- Video: JROTC to Allow Hijabs, Turbans (CAIR)
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CAIR is America's largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.
If you believe your rights have been violated, you may call CAIR's Civil Rights Department at 202-742-6420 or email email@example.com.
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