Friday, October 21, 2011


Yesterday, I commented on a young lady of Muslim faith who has been told that she cannot wear the hijab with her JROTC uniform.  I took the position that AR 670-1, which governs the appearance of soldiers and how they wear their uniforms, needed to be upheld.  I also felt that if the Army said there would be no exceptions for wearing religious articles that could be seen in uniform, then she should either hang up her ACU's or conform. 

But after I wrote that, a little voice in the back of my head kept bugging me.  I half-remembered that other religious groups had, on a case by case basis, been given exceptions to the uniform standards.

So I did a little digging, and I found something.

The Army has given at least three Sikhs who wanted to serve an exception to AR 670-1.  They have been allowed to go without the normal haircut or shaving, and have been allowed to wear a black turban in place of a beret and a camouflage turban under their helmet.  Reports are that the soldiers have done well, and are not looking for exceptions to other standards or special treatment.

So it is possible for members of our society who have religious beliefs that require them to have overt, visible manifestations of those beliefs to serve. 

Now that I realize this, my opinion on the case of this young woman changes.  If other people can have an exception made, so long as they conform in every other way, why can't an exception be made for practicing Muslim women to wear a hijab?

Above and beyond the fairness issue here, there's a more practical issue at stake.  The military is fighting wars in the mid-East, and will be in one way or another for the foreseeable future.  By encouraging loyal Americans who happen to be Muslim into our armed forces, we become better prepared to fight those wars.  Muslims would probably know more about the culture and language of the countries we will be fighting in, and their knowledge can be leveraged to improve the training of other soldiers.  This is similar to the thousands of Eastern European immigrants who served during the Cold War, or descendents of German immigrants who served in the World Wars. 

So my point is that if the Army can make an exception for Sikhs, why not Muslims?  The armed forces could gain by making inroads into a community with unique skills and knowledge that could be used to improve their effectiveness in wars, and it only seems fair.  That being said, the young lady in question, and other Muslims who want to serve but still wear a hijab, should consider following the example of the Sikh soldier I linked to, and wear headgear that blends in with the rest of her uniform.

What do y'all think?


Peter said...

As long as the hijab is in ARPAT or MARPAT . . .


Seriously, though, you have a point. I daresay part of the problem is that the hijab is identified, in the minds of many Americans, with 9/11 and the Fort Hood murders. I don't know how to get past that.

Weer'd Beard said...

What really comes to mind are those special forces guys with the huge beards and the various non-standard parts of their weapons kit and uniform.

Frankly so long as the army goes back to killing people and breaking shit rather than being the world's diplomat I have no problem with what they wear of how they keep themselves so long as nothing is in violation of the Geneva Conventions...(tho Its been a good while since we could point out an "Enemy Uniform" so the Conventions are moot these days)

DaddyBear said...

Weerd, it's not unusual for standards such as shaving and uniform to be relaxed in the field or when deployed. SOC tends to let their troops do what they feel is necessary to get the job done, but they tighten up when they get back to garrison. My guess is that if the Army comes up with a policy, it'll be very specific about garrison uniforms while giving local commanders and the soldiers a lot of leeway in the field.

Peter, I have to agree, outward signs of Muslim beliefs are going to be harder for the general public to swallow than a Sikh turban or a yarmulka. I also don't know how to get around it except by pointing out that regular exposure might help to show that not all Muslims are terrorists.

Josh K. said...

"The word "hijab" or "ḥijāb" (Arabic: حجاب hijaab, pronounced [ħiˈdʒæːb] ~ [ħiˈɡæːb]) refers to both the head covering traditionally worn by Muslim women and modest Muslim styles of dress in general.

The Arabic word literally means curtain or cover (noun). Most Islamic legal systems define this type of modest dressing as covering everything except the face and hands in public.[1][2] According to Islamic scholarship, hijab is given the wider meaning of modesty, privacy, and morality;[3] the words for a headscarf or veil used in the Qur'an are khimār (خمار) and jilbaab (جلباب), not hijab. Still another definition is metaphysical, where al-hijab refers to "the veil which separates man or the world from God."[2]"

How are we defining hijab are we talking a modest head scarf or the full body covering from head to toe?

Josh K. said...

oops.... pulled the quote an definitions from Wiki.

DaddyBear said...

The picture on Fox News shows the young lady wearing modest western clothing, with a head covering that covers everything but her face.

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