A Muslim soldier is preparing to sue the U.S. Army over allegations that her command sergeant major allegedly forced her to take off her hijab in front of their colleagues.
“I got called a terrorist. I got called [Daesh],” Sgt. Cesilia Valdovinos, who is serving in the 704th Brigade Support Battalion, said in a recent interview with Yahoo!, as reported by the Independent. “I hear comments that I’m the reason why 9/11 happened. There’s a lot of anger and animosity.”
Valdovinos filed a complaint with the military’s Equal Opportunity Office last month after her Command Sgt. Maj. Kerstin Montoya forced her to remove her hijab in front of others and pulled her out of rank, saying that her hair was not done to regulation standards underneath, according to the Army Times. “I felt embarrassed and religiously raped in a sense,” Valdovinos said in an email to the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), a nonprofit advocacy organization.
In a memorandum signed in 2017, the U.S. Army had taken new steps to make it easier for religious minorities to obtain approval to dress and groom themselves according to their religious customs while serving in the military. The army revised the uniform policy to set appearance standards for people seeking religious accommodations to wear beards, turbans and headscarves. An approved religious accommodation continues throughout the soldier’s career and may not be revoked or modified without approval of the Secretary of the Army, the memo says. The new rules allow headscarves, or hijabs, for Muslim women. They must be of a similar color to the uniform and be free of designs or markings, unless they are camouflage and worn with a camouflage uniform.