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Army allows hejab in JROTC.

The US Army has decided to modify its rules on military uniforms to allow women in its high school program to wear headscarves, but the rules for college level programs and for the active duty Army itself haven't been changed.

The change was brought about by publicity over a young Tennessee student who was told she couldn't march with her classmates because of her headscarf.

The new policy change covers other religious groups' head coverings as well, such as the turbans worn by Sikh men. The Sikh change is really the major one. Few Muslim women have an interest in military service, but Sikh males have traditionally flocked to the military in colonial and independent India.

The US Army has now decided religious head coverings in the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC), a program to introduce high school students to the Army.

"Cadet Command is currently reviewing the JROTC religious head dress policy to develop appropriate procedures to provide cadets the opportunity to request the wear of religious head dress," Army spokeswoman Lt. Col. Amy Hannah said.

In a December 19 letter to the Council or American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), which raised the issue, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army Larry Stubblefield said the Tennessee student would be invited back into her school's JROTC program.

"The Army prides itself in being a diverse organization, comprised of individuals from many faiths and religions," he wrote.

Each service sets its own rules for religious attire, guided by overall Defense Department policy, which states: "Members of the military services may wear items of religious apparel while in uniform except when the items would interfere with the performance of military duties or the item is not neat or conservative."

Colonel Hannah said requests to wear religious head coverings in ROTC, the university level program, and in the active duty Army would continue to be addressed on a case-by-case basis through the soldier's chain of command. But historically the services have denied the option of wearing Muslim hejab, Jewish yarmulkes and Sikh turbans.

A member of another religious group recently won a similar battle. Earlier this month, the Army relented in its fight to keep an Orthodox Jewish rabbi who said his religion forbade him to shave his beard from being allowed to join the Army, But he was entering the chaplains' corps, not the combat ams.
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Title Annotation:Faith: Religion and the world
Publication:Iran Times International (Washington, DC)
Date:Dec 30, 2011
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