US Army agrees to review rule against headscarfs

The U.S. Army has agreed to review one of its policies that prevented a 14-year-old Muslim girl in Tennessee from marching in a homecoming parade while wearing her Islamic headscarf.

Freshman Demin Zawity had been enthusiastically participating in Ravenwood High School’s Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps and was looking forward to the parade, her mother Perishan Hussein told a local news station.

However, just before the event Zawity was told she’d have to remove her headscarf, called a hijab, because it wasn’t an official part of the uniform. Even though she volunteered to tuck it under her shirt and wear the uniforms’ cap on top of it, she was told it still was a problem, her mother said.

Heartbroken, Zawity dropped out of the program and her family wrote to the Council on American-Islamic Relations for help. They didn’t want to sue, but simply wanted a policy change, an apology and a chance for Zawity to be readmitted to the program.

In October, CAIR wrote a letter to the school district, as well as Defense Secretary Leon Panetta expressing their concern about the religious discrimination. Deputy Assistant Secretary Larry Stubblefield recently sent the Army’s response, and indicated is was looking into it.

“Based on your concerns, the Army is reviewing its policies related to religious accommodation as they apply to JROTC, and we will provide you the results of that review upon completion,” Stubblefield wrote. “Please be assured, that it is not the intent of the JROTC policy to discriminate against any individual or religion.”

The Army already allows Jewish individuals to wear yarmulkes under their uniform cap.

In an interview with The Tennessean, Zawity said she was grateful to hear about the review, but is now too busy with her studies to rejoin the JROTC. However, she encouraged other Muslims to join JROTC. “If we never change anything,” she asked, “where would we be?”

Deseret News, 11 November 2011