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US Air Force authorizes religious hijabs, beards, turbans

After allowing a female officer to wear the veil, the US Air Force further relaxed its dress code. In several European countries, however, the adherence to the Islamic veil has led to political controversies and a legal ban.

Published: February 16, 2020, 9:47 am

    Washington

    It was a symbol of the US Air Force’s “openness” to religious accommodation. In 2018, Maysaa Ouza became the first veiled female officer in the US Army. And this opening of the dress code continues. As the Oumma.com site indeed noted, wearing a beard and turbans, like the hijab, will no longer be systematically prohibited in the ranks of the United States Air Force.

    As soon as the appearance of the soldiers concerned remains “without extravagance”, they will no longer have to individually request the authorization of their hierarchy to benefit from religious symbols.

    According to details from Oumma.com, this decision was hailed as an “important step towards inclusion in the US military institution”.

    “We are delighted with these new beneficial directives endorsed by the US AIR Force. They are a step in the right direction, towards the generalization of religious accommodation and will favor the inclusion of military personnel of all faiths. But we think the US military can go even further by expanding these guidelines to all of its units,” said Ibrahim Hooper, director general of the influential Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).

    Until now, religious accommodation was dealt with on a case-by-case basis and rarely granted.

    In the EU, some countries already have laws banning the wearing of masks in public, which can be applied to veils that conceal the face. Other countries are debating similar legislation, or have more limited prohibitions.

    Some of them apply only to face-covering clothing such as the burqa, boushiya, or niqab; some apply to any clothing with an Islamic religious symbolism such as the khimar, a type of headscarf. The issue has different names in different countries.

    Although the Balkans and Eastern Europe have indigenous Muslim populations, most Muslims in western Europe are members of immigrant communities. The issue of Islamic dress is directly linked with the tide of immigration and the position of Islam in western society.

    In November 2006, European Commissioner Franco Frattini said that he did not favour a ban on the burqa, but his view quickly led to the first official statement on the issue of prohibition of Islamic dress from the European Commission, the executive of the European Union.

    The reasons given for prohibition vary. Legal bans on face-covering clothing are justified on security grounds, as an anti-terrorism measure.

    In a poll in the United Kingdom by Pew Research Center, 62 percent said they would approve of a ban on full veils (covering everything but the eyes). The same poll showed support by majorities in France (82 percent), Germany (71 percent) and Spain (59 percent).

    The 2010 French law against covering the face in public, known as the “burqa ban”, was challenged and taken to the European Court of Human Rights which upheld the law on 1 July 2014, accepting the argument of the French government that the law was based on “a certain idea of living together”.

    There are currently 6 nations in Europe that have banned the burqa, which include Austria, Denmark, France, Belgium, Latvia, and Bulgaria.

    Employers in the EU may restrict the wearing of religious symbols if such regulations on appearance are applied in a consistent manner, according to a ruling by the European Court of Justice in a case involving two Belgian women. The two Muslim women in the ECJ case were supported by the Open Society Justice Initiative, a group backed by financier George Soros.

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    • pcl

      How can a woman on a battle field be as effective with a headscarf cutting off her peripheral vision as she would be without it? And how much extra cost, complication and litigation is going to result from having to put the accommodation of religion over the efficiency, health and safety of troops? Granting ANY exceptions was set a bad precedent and this will make it worse. If I start a religion that requires its followers to wear horns, can I demand equal treatment?

    • roydenoral

      As an American and USAF vet I completely disagree with this. How will these people fit a gas mask over a beard in particular? Or will they be excused from any assignment that requires a gas mask?

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