Hi­jabi cadet set­tles in at US col­lege

Kuwait Times - - FRONT PAGE -

De­spite be­ing the first woman al­lowed to wear a Mus­lim head­scarf be­neath her mil­i­tary uni­form at the na­tion’s old­est pri­vate mil­i­tary col­lege, Sana Hamze says she doesn’t feel like a pioneer. Her fo­cus is on learn­ing de­tails of life as a “rook” at Ver­mont’s Nor­wich Univer­sity, in the school’s Corps of Cadets and not run­ning afoul of the many rules and cus­toms new stu­dents are re­quired to mas­ter. As do all as­pir­ing mem­bers of the corps, she’s learned to walk at the side of the path­ways, make square cor­ners when turn­ing, line up be­fore eat­ing and sleep when she is told. Like her fresh­man class­mates, she yearns for the time when her class is “rec­og­nized” and they be­come of­fi­cial mem­bers of the Corps of Cadets and the rook re­stric­tions end.

But the uni­form for the 18-year-old stu­dent from Fort Laud­erdale, Florida, is a lit­tle dif­fer­ent. Un­like other fe­male mem­bers of the corps, Hamze wears her Mus­lim hi­jab, or head cov­er­ing, be­neath.

As part of her ef­fort to ful­fill her life­long dream of con­tin­u­ing her fam­ily’s legacy of mil­i­tary and pub­lic ser­vice while stay­ing true to her de­vout re­li­gious be­liefs, she asked for a uni­form ac­com­mo­da­tion to wear the hi­jab when she was ap­ply­ing to col­leges ear­lier this year. Nor­wich, one of the na­tion’s six se­nior mil­i­tary col­leges, agreed to make the ac­com­mo­da­tion.

“I don’t re­ally see it as me chang­ing the world or chang­ing the US, even,” she said dur­ing an in­ter­view on the Nor­wich pa­rade ground. “I just kind of see it as the school al­low­ing an Amer­i­can stu­dent to prac­tice her faith while also train­ing to be an of­fi­cer in the Navy.” Hamze’s great-grandmother was in the Air Force and two of her grand­par­ents met while serv­ing in the Navy in Puerto Rico. Her fa­ther is a po­lice of­fi­cer in Florida.

Hamze said that she has been sub­ject to hos­tile stares and com­ments while wear­ing her hi­jab in pub­lic, but never at Nor­wich, where she is not the first Mus­lim to at­tend the school, or in Ver­mont. The hos­til­ity to her faith hasn’t made her bit­ter or curbed her dream of serv­ing her coun­try. “It doesn’t scare me be­cause I know what I’m do­ing is not to harm any­one,” she said. “I know what I’m do­ing is to ac­tu­ally pro­tect the coun­try. I’m join­ing the task force that pro­tects this coun­try.”

Hamze’s col­lege plans made head­lines this spring when The Ci­tadel - the Charleston, South Carolina, mil­i­tary col­lege she had hoped to at­tend - re­fused to change its uni­form pol­icy to ac­com­mo­date her hi­jab. Nor­wich was quick to agree to make the ac­com­mo­da­tion, which will also ap­ply to Jewish men who wish to wear a yarmulke along with their uni­forms.

Nor­wich, lo­cated in the town of Northfield, about 10 miles south of the Ver­mont cap­i­tal of Mont­pe­lier, is the na­tion’s old­est pri­vate mil­i­tary col­lege. Last spring, it hosted a cel­e­bra­tion of the 100th an­niver­sary of the Re­serve Of­fi­cers Train­ing Pro­gram. Of its to­tal on-cam­pus stu­dent body of about 2,250, about two-thirds of stu­dents are in the Corps of Cadets, its mil­i­tary pro­gram, while the rest are civil­ians who don’t par­tic­i­pate in mil­i­tary train­ing.

NORTHFIELD, Ver­mont: Fresh­man stu­dent Sana Hamze poses dur­ing an in­ter­view about her time as a first-year stu­dent in Nor­wich Univer­sity’s Corps of Cadets on Oct 12, 2016. — AP

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