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SANDF scarf case postponed to 2020, Major Isaacs’ legal team remains firm

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The headscarf dispute between Major Fatima Isaacs and the SANDF has been postponed to 22 January 2020, following a brief appearance at the Military Court at the Cape Town Castle on Friday morning.


Major Isaacs’ new attorney from the Legal Resources Centre, Mandy Mudarikwa  explained that Friday’s appearance was simply to make legal representations indicating why they think the charges are unconstitutional and why it is their view that the charges should be withdrawn.

“Everyone has the right to freedom of religion and everyone has the right to be treated equally. The policy, in our view, allows more rights to certain people of other religions and less rights to women like Major Isaacs in that she isn’t able to cover her head as is required by her religion.

Our view is that giving her an order to remove her headscarf is contrary to her religion and is therefore discrimination on the basis of religion. Other people in the army who have religious beliefs, systems and dress are allowed to wear their religious apparel with their uniform, so making her the only person who has to remove it is therefore discrimination based on religious values,” said Mudarikwa.

Major Isaacs’ labour law adviser and spokesperson, Nazeema Mohamed indicated to VOC News that despite the seemingly promising talks between SANDF, the Muslim Judicial Council (MJC) and her legal team agreeing on interim relief that allows for Muslim women serving in the military to wear an under-scarf, the  SANDF does not appear to be backing down.

“Major Fatima and other Muslim women have permission to wear an under-scarf in the interim, while the MJC is in the process of confirming the full hijab. Now there seems to be a change where the SANDF is trying to force Major Fatima to again remove her scarf. We sit with a dilemma that infuriates me. And the question of discrimination is rearing its head in a very crude way.”

Mohamed added that “the SANDF is refusing to allow her permission to practice her religion, i.e. wearing her scarf and dressing and conducting herself in accordance with the tenets of the Quran and her religion,” and that they “are fighting this matter.”

Major Isaacs’ legal team submitted representations to the SANDF’s director of prosecutions regarding the dropping of all charges against Major Isaacs.

The decision now needs to be made and accordingly, the state applied for a postponement of the matter.

Major Fatima Isaacs is charged with refusing to remove her headscarf as well as refusing to obey a military command.


Major Fatima Isaacs


Nazeema Mohamed, Major Isaacs’ spokesperson and labour adviser being interviewed at the Cape Town Castle


Major Fatima Isaacs (c) Mandy Mudarikwa (r)


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