The Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) has announced that the Department of Defense will now allow Muslim and Sikh students participating in Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC) to wear headscarves and turbans while in uniform.
The decision, announced Thursday, followed an October incident in which Muslim teen Demin Zawity quit JROTC when her commanding officer at a Brentwood, Tenn. high school would not allow her to wear her hijab in the homecoming parade.
CAIR later wrote to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta requesting “constitutionally-protected religious accommodations for the girl and for future Muslim JROTC participants.”
In a letter to the Muslim organization sent on Panetta’s behalf, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army Larry Stubblefield explained that based on the incident that led Zawity to quit JROTC, the Army will now be making more accommodations for religious headwear in the training program.
“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,” Stubblefield wrote in the letter, made public by CAIR. “This change will allow Miss Zawity and other students the chance to fully participate in the JROTC program.”
Army spokesman George Wright confirmed Stubblefield’s letter to CAIR and explained to The Daily Caller that while JROTC is affiliated with the Army, it is not actually a part of the Army. The new procedures will provide JROTC with a exemption method more similar to current Army procedure mandated through the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993.
That law allows soldiers on active duty to apply for religious accommodation if they want to alter their uniforms in accordance with their religious beliefs. The exemptions are applied on a case-by-case basis. Soldiers who are transferred must reapply.