Muslim student's family considering legal options in Citadel's decision

Muslim student's family considering legal options in Citadel's decision
Published: May. 10, 2016 at 1:37 PM EDT|Updated: May. 10, 2016 at 11:11 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - A spokesman for the family of a newly-accepted Muslim student at The Citadel says they are considering legal options following the Commandant of Cadets' decision to reject the student's request to wear a head cover.

Ibrahim Hooper with the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Washington said he spoke with the family Tuesday morning after Citadel officials called to tell the woman she could not wear a hijab.

According to a statement from Lt. Gen. Jon Rosa, an American Muslim student accepted to the Class of 2020 asked to wear a head cover, called a hijab, along with the Citadel's standard blue, black and white uniform.

"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," reads the statement.

"The standardization of cadets in apparel, overall appearance, actions and privileges is essential to the learning goals and objectives of the college," it continues. "This process reflects an initial relinquishing of self during which cadets learn the value of teamwork to function as a single unit."

Lt. Gen. Rosa says The Citadel recognizes the importance of a cadet's spiritual and religious beliefs and provides services for specific needs whenever possible.

"Cadet religious officers arrange transportation to churches, mosques, synagogues and other places of worship for those without cars," he said. "Accommodations for prayer and dietary needs are common at the college."

Abdul Mjeed, the Sheik of The Central Mosque of Charleston said Tuesday he answered questions from Citadel officials to help them better understand the religion.

"[They] asked me if it was mandatory for a woman in Islam to wear the hijab or wear that scarf," he said. "I said yes it is."

According to Mjeed all women over 10-years-old who practice the religion, must wear the head scarf.

If they don't, it can be considered a sin.

Female members of the mosque said they respect the decision made by the Citadel.

"Every institution has their own policies and rules that we need to respect them," said Reshma Khan, the Women's representative at the mosque.

However Khan and Ruby Abid, another member, said they do have some reservations about the decision and what it could have meant to society today.

"If they would have allowed her to wear the scarf it would have been very positive in these current days of Islamic-phobia," Abid said.

"It would have broken a lot of barriers and it would have given us a warm feeling," Khan added.

Suzanne Chisholm is a graduate of the Citadel.

She said she stands by the decision made, saying she had to make sacrifices herself in order to become part of the Citadel community.

"I had to wear a uniform I didn't want to wear," Chisholm said. "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."

"This world is full of choices," Abid said. "If she (the Muslim student) happens to not choose this choice, maybe there is something better waiting for her."

Hooper said the prospective cadet is disappointed that the school rejected her request, and will not attend the Charleston school this fall unless there is a change.

Copyright 2016 WCSC. The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved.