Muslim soldier will be suing the U.S. Army after she was forced to remove her hijab

accreditation

A practicing Muslim soldier is preparing to file a civil rights lawsuit against the U.S. Army over allegations that her command sergeant major forced her to remove her religious headscarf, the hijab, according to ABC News

26-year-old Cesilia Valdovinos has been in the army for seven years but converted to Islam in 2016, and that is when she began wearing a hijab as part of her faith.

After her conversion she got a special permission from her brigade commander Col. David Zinn to wear the religious head covering as part of her uniform.

But during a suicide prevention briefing, Valdovinos says command Sgt. Maj. Kerstin Montoya grabbed her by the arm, took her outside and forced her to take off her hijab in front of other soldiers.

READ MORE: Science whiz, former DJ, queer rights and Muslim supporter, NZ's youngest prime minister, Jacinda Ardern is the world leader we all need right now

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

She says she has experienced “extremely hateful” behaviour because of her faith.

“I got called a terrorist. I got called Isis,” she told Yahoo!.

“I hear comments that I’m the reason why 9/11 happened. There’s a lot of anger and animosity,” she explained. 

An army spokesman says Valdovinos was singled out for failing to have her hair in a bun under the headscarf as per regulations, reports Army Times reports.

However, she insists she was wearing her hair in the correct style, and that it only came loose as she removed her headscarf. 

READ MORE: "Can you only wear black?" and other questions Muslim women get asked about modest wear

“The findings of our commander’s inquiry determined the senior non-commissioned officer acted appropriately by enforcing the proper wear of the hijab, in compliance with army regulations,” said her brigade commander in a statement to Army Times.

Valdovinos has since been demoted following an unrelated accusation about an inappropriate relationship between herself and a fellow soldier, which she denies, said her lawyer, Mikey Weinstein.

He also added that he believes the hijab incident contributed to her demotion. 

Have you ever been forced to remove your hijab at your workplace? Chat to us here

Sign up to W24's newsletters so you don't miss out on any of our hot stories and giveaways.

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Voting Booth
Would you leave your partner if they have a controlling, meddling parent?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Results
No, I would tolerate the in-law as much as possible even if my partner doesn't see their behaviour as a problem.
16% - 8 votes
No, but only if my partner supports me.
44% - 22 votes
Yes, my peace comes first and I know I'd be fighting a losing battle.
32% - 16 votes
Yes, even if my partner supports me, the stress is not worth it.
8% - 4 votes
Vote