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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 26 February 2021

Fatima Isaacs: South Africa army major wins hijab uniform battle

Charges against Major Fatima Isaacs for wearing a hijab under her military beret were dropped and the army has now amended its dress policy

Major Isaacs. Courtesy The Legal Resource Centre
Major Isaacs. Courtesy The Legal Resource Centre

The South African military has amended its dress policy to allow Muslim women to wear headscarves as part of their uniform following a two and a half year push by an officer.

In January last year, a military court dropped charges against an officer who had been indicted for wearing a hijab under her military beret.

Major Fatima Isaacs had been criminally charged in June 2018 with wilful defiance and failing to obey lawful instructions after her superior asked her to remove her headscarf when in uniform.

A military court at the Castle of Good Hope near Cape Town withdrew all charges in January 2020, allowing Isaacs to exceptionally wear a tight black head wrap on duty as long as it did not cover her ears.

But the military did not amend its dress policy, prompting Maj Isaacs to mount a challenge in South Africa's equality court over regulations restricting religious wear.

The South African Defence Force (SANDF) eventually agreed to amend its policy this week and allow all Muslim women to cover their heads while on duty.

"The SANDF dress regulation was updated to allow the wearing of headscarves by Muslim (women) according to stipulations in the dress regulations," spokesman Mafi Mgobozi told AFP on Thursday.

Speaking to the Cape Times, Maj Isaacs described the ruling as not just a personal victory, but a victory for all people who were "silently victimised" because of their religion.

The South Africa-based Legal Resources Centre, which represented Maj Isaacs, welcomed the decision via Twitter on Wednesday and said it was withdrawing the equality court case.

Updated: January 30, 2021 05:34 PM

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