According to the Council on American-Islamic Relations the US Department of Defense will allow Sikh and Muslim students to wear a hijab (Islamic head covering) or a turban while they are participating in the Junior Officers’ Training Corps.
“We welcome the fact that Muslim and Sikh students nationwide will now be able to participate fully in JROTC leadership activities while maintaining their religious beliefs and practices,” said CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad.
JROTC Cadet Forced to Transfer
The Defense Department’s ruling came as a result of a letter sent by CAIR to the Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta which was written to complain about an incident in which 14-year-old Muslim girl had been told that she could not wear her hijab while marching in the September homecoming parade as a JROTC participant. She is a student at the Ravenwood High School in Brentwood, Tennessee and was asked by her commanding officers that she must either remove the hijab or transfer out of the JROTC class.
Constitutional Protection for Religious Freedom
CAIR requested from Mr. Panetta that the JROTC be asked to abide by the girl’s constitutionally protected rights for accommodation of her religious beliefs by the JROTC.
In a Dec. 19 letter sent to CAIR, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army Larry Stubblefield wrote:
”I have been asked to respond on behalf of the Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta to your October 13, 2011 letter concerning Miss Demin Zawity’s request to wear a religious head covering (hijab) while participating in an Army Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) event at Ravenwood High School.
“Based on your concerns, the Army has reviewed its JROTC uniform policy and will develop appropriate procedures to provide Cadets the opportunity to request the wear of religious head dress, such as the turban and hijab. This change will allow Miss Zawity and other students the chance to fully participate in the JROTC program. Additionally, a representative from the U.S. Army Cadet Command will contact Miss Zawity and provide her the opportunity to rejoin the Ravenwood High School JROTC unit.
“The Army prides itself in being a diverse organization, comprised of individuals from many faiths and religions. We appreciate you bringing this matter to our attention.”