Norwich University, a nearly 200-year-old private military college in Vermont, has granted an accepted student’s request to wear hijab in keeping with her Muslim faith, a decision that was welcomed by some but also provoked outrage for some alumni and cadets.
The same student requested a similar exception to the required uniform from The Citadel, touching off a highly charged debate at the public military college in South Carolina where loyalty to the corps is a fundamental value and individual preferences are set aside to encourage unity. The idea that the first exception might be for a Muslim student was particularly polarizing, given the national discussion and starkly divergent views about the role of Islam in U.S. culture.
The Citadel denied her request.
It was the first formal request for a religious accommodation to the uniform at Norwich, spokeswoman Daphne Larkin said, so they reached out to peer institutions “and came to the conclusion that it makes sense for Norwich to continue to be dynamic in how we serve our students.”
“Regardless of their spiritual or religious affiliation, all students and employees should feel welcome and comfortable at Norwich University,” Norwich President Richard Schneider wrote in announcing the exception to the required Corps of Cadets uniform. “Norwich University is a learning community that is American in character yet global in perspective.”
Jewish cadets will also now be allowed to wear a yarmulke.
[Removed comment by terror group the Council on American Islamic Relations aka CAIR]
Some alumni were quite upset. “It’s the first private military academy” in the country, said Spencer Jacobs, who just graduated from a place that has been abiding by “the same guiding values for the last 200 years. The fact that this is changing right now is totally crazy.
“We have a common goal: Allegiance to the Corps of Cadets. … You have to live by the Norwich founding values. We encourage service to the nation and to others before ourselves. We put our uniformity before our self and work as a team.”
Jacobs, who was raised Jewish and converted to Christianity, said he respects the student’s religious convictions and her desire to practice her faith, and he respects the decision of the commandant. He loves Norwich, which he said taught him leadership, courage, honestly and selflessness. “But if you allow one person to come in and wear the hijab I’m sure anyone can come in and request any kind of accommodation.”
The university has a civilian program, he said, but those who elect the challenge and unity of the Corps of Cadets arrive on campus with little other than a few pairs of white boxers, white T-shirts and socks. “If you have a cross outside of your uniform you’re out of uniform…. Everyone is supposed to look the same because everyone is the same. Everyone is treated the same.”
Benjamin Polizotti, who attend Norwich for his undergraduate and graduate education, designed a multicultural center in Boston for his master’s thesis for the architecture degree he just received; “I’m all for diversity, all for coexistence, all for equality among all people,” he said. “… But my overall stance is the military is not a social experiment. It serves a single purpose – to ensure the safety and freedom of Americans and humans around the world. Norwich is no exception. It’s an asset to the U.S. military. Its job is to train responsible and capable leaders, not to cater to special interests.”
Allowing one exception will inevitably lead to more, he said. “It’ll start to spiral out of control … eventually people will say, ‘I don’t want to wear the uniform because it’s uncomfortable, or infringes on my right to express myself.”
Arriving on campus is like basic training, he said. “It strips one of individuality in order to promote being part of a dynamic team. It instills service before self as a guiding value of Norwich University. Camaraderie and cohesiveness, in my opinion, are the two traits that bind the team together. And individuality is corrosive to those values. This isn’t an argument against Islam or wearing a hijab. It’s all cultures, Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism. The reason everyone in the military and at Norwich wears a uniform is everyone is equal – everyone is the same – and everyone is part of something bigger than themselves.
Unless you are Muslim – then it’s only about Islam…and all the rules are changed. Even if “The Qur’an Does Not Mandate Hijab” writes Ibrahim B. Syed, Ph. D. President Islamic Research Foundation International, Inc.
“… as long as the dresses are not revealing or too tight, cultural variations can add tremendous diversity in the fulfillment of this guideline. Hijab, a terminology that is NOT to be found in the Qur’an or Hadith in the context of dress code.” Ibrahim Syed refers to Dr. Khaled Abou El Fadl’s studies of the Qur’an and Islamic law. Dr. Khaled Abou El Fadl is an accomplished Islamic jurist and scholar, and a Professor of Law at the UCLA’s School of Law. He previously taught Islamic law at the University of Texas, Yale Law School and Princeton University. A high-ranking Shaykh, Dr. Abou El Fadl also received formal training in Islamic jurisprudence in Egypt and Kuwait. Ibrahim Syed writes “Abou El Fadl argues that in contemporary Muslim societies people tend to become authoritative by imposing a single viewpoint to the total exclusion of others. Shariah (Islamic law) is then invoked to quash debate by people who are themselves not adequately qualified to do so.”
Pew Research found that only forty three percent (43%) of American Muslim women wear hijabs according a National Public Radio report. The majority of American Muslim women do NOT wear hijabs. Rasmieyh Abdelnabi, 27, grew up attending an Islamic school in Bridgeview, Ill., a tiny Arab enclave on Chicago’s southwest side. It’s a place where most Muslim women wear the hijab. Abdelnabi explains why she stopped wearing the hijab. She says that Islam teaches modesty — but wearing the hijab is taking it a step too far. “I’ve done my research, and I don’t feel its foundation is from Islam,” she says. “I think it comes from Arab culture.” Read more at NPR.org
There is little debate online as to whether the Qu’ ran mentions hijabs because it does not. Wearing a hijab is clearly driven by culture and custom and is not a religious requirement. However, Islamists who want to Islamize America instead of assimilate into American culture are pushing these Sharia style customs.
The hijab is a symbol of oppression that is fostered by strict adherents of Sharia law which is antithetical to the rights afforded under the United States Constitution. Changing the dress code to accommodate the wearing of the hijab dangerously elevates Sharia over the United States Constitution.