The Women’s Legal Centre has confirmed that they have been approached by a member of the Muslim Students Association (MSA), who has accused OR Tambo International airport security of treating her unfairly. Khadeejah Kaffoor, a student and regional chairperson of the MSA was forced to remove her hijab while travelling from Johannesburg to Cape Town. According to the Daily Vox, Kaffoor was approached by security officials who ordered her to remove her headscarf minutes before boarding her flight.
Kaffoor said she was told by the security supervisor that the company, Airport Company South Africa (ACSA) respects diversity and that all travellers passing are asked to remove their headgear, not necessarily Muslims.
Kaffoor said when they told the supervisor that she was the only one of the women asked to remove their hijab, the supervisor said: “an option was supposed to be given – to either remove or touch.”
WLC spokesperson Aisha Hamdulay said they have advised Kaffoor to lodge a complaint with the Airports Company South Africa.
“On the eve of 23 June 2019, whilst MSA representatives from the Cape were making their way back home, one of four MSA representatives, all of whom were in hijab wearing a headscarf, was asked to remove her hijab by OR Tambo Airport security in public before getting on their flight as a ‘security check’, she said.
“She was not given the option of going to a private room and was the only one asked to remove her headscarf. After taking the issue up with security management, the group was told it was part of security protocol but ACSA could not produce the protocol for the group to see and stated that a complaint had to be lodged first,” she said.
In response, ACSA has urged the complainant to submit a detailed complaint to the organisation. ACS would investigate further and review possible review CCTV recordings.
Hamdulay said Muslims in South Africa have the constitutional right to freedom of expression and freedom of religion, as well as the right to dignity. This includes the right to wear a hijab and to be treated with dignity whilst wearing the hijab.
“These rights were violated by the airport security staff. This incident indicates a gap between the formal equality of our constitution and its implementation,” she said.
The MSA representative member will be lodging a complaint with ACSA with the support of the MSA Union.