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Muslim Student Picks Military College That Will Allow Her to Wear Headscarf


FILE - Citadel cadets march in formation at the military college in Charleston, South Carolina.

FILE - Citadel cadets march in formation at the military college in Charleston, South Carolina.

A Muslim high school student from Florida who hopes to become a U.S. Navy officer will have a chance to attend a military college and wear a religious head covering along with her uniform.

Sana Hamze had hoped to attend The Citadel, a public military school in South Carolina, but the prestigious institution denied her request to wear a headscarf.

Instead, the 17-year-old announced Wednesday that she will now attend Norwich University, which touts itself as the nation's oldest private military college and the birthplace of the ROTC, or Reserve Officers’ Training Corps.

Citadel's president, retired Lt. Gen. John Rosa, said last month that while the school "recognizes the importance of a cadet's spiritual and religious beliefs," and makes accommodations for prayer and dietary needs, uniformity is the cornerstone of this 4-year leader development model."

The decision made national headlines and reignited the debate about religious freedom and the military ideal that requires uniformity and teamwork over individualism.

Hamze says she told the Citadel commandant she did not think it was fair that she had to choose between her religion and her education there. Not wearing the hijab was not an option, given her beliefs, she said.

Norwich University agreed to her request that she be allowed to cover her head with the hijab, and cover her arms and legs during physical training with the Corps of Cadets.

"As educators of future leaders, it is our duty to matriculate a diverse student body that reflects our society,'' Norwich President Richard Schneider said. "Norwich prepares traditional students and the young men and women of our Corps of Cadets to welcome and respect diversity and to be inclusive of all people.''

Sana's father, Nezar Hamze, said they are considering legal options against The Citadel, and are working with a lawyer at the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which advocates on behalf of Muslims. Nezar Hamze is regional operations director for the council's Florida chapter.

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