April 5, 2019 - 14:55 AMT
Muslim soldier suing US army after 'being forced to remove hijab'

A Muslim soldier will be suing the US army after her command sergeant major to take off her hijab in front of their colleagues, The Independent reports.

Sergeant Cesilia Valdovinos, who is serving in the 704th Brigade Support Battalion, said in a recent interview with that she has experienced “extremely hateful” behaviour for her Muslim identity.

“I got called a terrorist. I got called ISIS,” Valdovinos told Yahoo!. “I hear comments that I’m the reason why 9/11 happened. There’s a lot of anger and animosity.”

She said her brigade commander, Colonel David Zinn, gave her permission in June 2016 to wear the hijab while in uniform.

But last month, Valdovinos filed a complaint with the Equal Opportunity Office in the military, and said that afterwards her command sergeant major pulled her from the rank and forced her to remove the hijab in front of other soldiers.

“I felt embarrassed and religiously raped in a sense,” Valdovinos said in a email to the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), a nonprofit advocacy organisation dedicated to religious freedom.

“My religious preference is only to unveil in front of my husband in the comfort of my own home,” she added.

In an official complaint to the Military Equal Opportunity Office (MEO), Valdovinos alleges that she was removed from her post as a “culinary arts specialist” because she had a “religious preference to not handle pork.” She also reported that she was referred to as “the girl with the hood” by her sergeant among other incidents.

Although the MEO complaint was reportedly considered to be “unsubstantiated,” Valdovinos is now planning on taking legal action against the US Army for denying her religious rights protected under the First Amendment.