Last month, South Carolina’s fabled military college the Citadel announced it would not grant an incoming female Muslim student permission to wear a hijab along with the rest of her school uniform. At the time, Lt. Gen. John Rosa, the school’s president, said he hoped the decision wouldn’t discourage the prospective student from attending. The student, whose identity had been a mystery, has come forward to say she won’t attend the Citadel after all. Instead, she’ll study at a military academy in Vermont that has agreed to let her wear a headscarf underneath her uniform.
Sana Hamze is the student for whom the Citadel refused to make a uniform exception, and she spoke out this week in an interview with CNN’s Brooke Burke. Hamze, 17, said she’ll attend Norwich University in Vermont because it will allow her to wear a hijab, though the school said Hamze’s “religious headgear” must be in “authorized colors and fabrics that can be covered” by her uniform. “I didn’t think it was fair to choose between practicing my faith and attending the Citadel,” Hamze said of the controversial decision, adding that the U.S. military makes uniform exceptions for Sikhs who wear turbans and Muslim women who wear hijabs. A spokesperson for the Citadel previously said the school has never altered its uniform in its 175-year history.
Hamze said she dreams of being an officer in the Navy and of following in the footsteps of her grandparents, who served in the U.S. military. “Hearing their stories kind of put a sense of patriotism in me. And then as I researched it more, I realized that being part of the U.S. military is definitely something I wanted to be a part of,” she said in the interview. Hamze said the commandant from the Citadel called her on the phone personally to inform the her of the school’s decision, and that the conversation with him was brief. Burke pressed Hamze on why she thought the school should make an exception for her given that Christian students at the Citadel aren’t allowed to wear crosses, and male Jewish students aren’t allowed yarmulkes. Her response was, “If it’s good enough for the military, it should be good enough for you.” Watch the complete interview above.
Norwich University was founded in 1819 and it bills itself as the nation’s oldest military academy. It’s widely considered to be the birthplace of the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, or ROTC, a program offered on college campuses around the nation that prepares students for the armed forces.
Read the full story at The Associated Press.