Fort Carson soldier says she was harassed for wearing hijab

EL PASO COUNTY, Colo. — A soldier at Fort Carson near Colorado Springs says she was harassed by a superior for wearing a hijab, according to Army Times. 

Sgt. Cesilia Valdovinos’ attorney told Army Times that the soldier met with Col. David Zinn Thursday to discuss an equal opportunity complaint shortly after Command Sgt. Maj. Kerstin Montoya accused Valdovinos of wearing her hair down under the hijab.

Zinn said he did not have an issue with the way Montoya attempted to enforce Army hair regulations.

“A commander’s inquiry found allegations against a senior non-commissioned officer were unsubstantiated regarding discriminating against Sgt. Cesilia Valdovinos,” Zinn said in a statement to Army Times. “The inquiry concluded that the senior noncommissioned officer acted appropriately by enforcing the proper wear of the hijab, in compliance with Army regulations.”

However, Valdovinos — who is Muslim — said the she has always tied up her hair in a bun beneath the hijab. She told the Army Times that she believes her senior enlisted leader is targeting her.

Mikey Weinstein, the founder of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation that is representing  Valdovinos, told Army Times the alleged discrimination is “an absolutely quintessential example of some of the worst anti-Muslim bigotry, prejudice and harassment that we have seen.”

The foundation is now considering filing a lawsuit on behalf of Valdovinos.

Army Times reports that Valdovinos has a religious accommodation waiver that allows her to wear the hijab and remain within Army regulations. Such waivers have allowed soldiers to wear hijabs, Sikh turbans and patka coverings since early 2017. Hair must be kept tied up and off of faces, in compliance with existing regulations for long hair.

Moreover, Valdovinos said that she has thin, short hair, so a large bun is not visible when she ties up her hair.

Zinn said he is committed to supporting soldiers’ religious freedom.

“I have, and will continue to, take all reports of soldiers disrespecting religious beliefs, observances, or traditions very seriously,” he said in his statement to Army Times.

However, Valdovinos said Zinn would not consider transferring her despite her belief she was being targeted by Montoya.

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