THE SANDF has yet to act on an agreement allowing Muslim women serving in the armed forces to wear headscarves under their uniforms, in line with religious principles, as it awaits the outcome of a court case with a female Muslim employee.
Fatima Isaacs, who works as a clinical forensic pathologist at 2 Military Hospital in Wynberg and has been a member of the SANDF for the past 10 years, is due to appear in the military court at the Castle of Good Hope at 8.30am on Wednesday.
Isaacs was charged with “failing to obey a lawful instruction” for refusing to remove the headscarf when ordered to do so by a senior officer.
Last month, the SANDF, the Muslim Judicial Council of SA (MJC) and Isaacs’ legal team entered into an agreement that outlined an “interim” understanding.
This mutual understanding was supposed to lead to the charges against Isaacs being dropped. It was also declared at that meeting that “interim relief” would be provided for Muslim women serving in the SANDF to wear an under-scarf.
Yesterday, Isaacs’ spokesperson, Nazeema Mohammed, said: “We are still awaiting formal and public confirmation of the ‘interim relief’ relating to the under-scarf, as per the joint media briefing between the MJC and the SANDF at the Castle of Good Hope.”
SANDF spokesperson Mafi Mgobozi said: “The only thing I can say is that the case will continue on Wednesday.”
Mgobozi added, however, that if there were any new developments in the matter before then, he would be in touch.
Mohammed said: “The under-scarf is supposed to be accepted and worn until the concerned parties deliberate and formally agree to the implementation of the Islamically compliant full hijab.
“The issue of the charges against Major Isaacs ought to be resolved, especially considering the acceptance of the offer to settle the case amicably as well as the resolution and understanding of the under-scarf being allowed as an interim measure.”
In a letter to SANDF chief Solly Zacharia Shoke, MJC secretary-general Shaykh Isgaak Taliep urged the military to “expedite the issue as one of urgency”.
“We do not want this matter to be delayed any further,” said Taliep, adding that the MJC was anxiously awaiting the command from the military chief’s office regarding the change in the SANDF dress code policy, as well as the command “to implement the interim measure of wearing the under scarf as agreed upon.”
The MJC have requested a further urgent meeting with Shoke and the SANDF chaplain “to discuss and work out long-term solutions”.
SA Muslim Network (Samnet) chairperson Faisal Suliman said: “Her headscarf does not interfere with her duties, nor the military uniform.
“Isaacs being charged by the military brass for wearing the headscarf is clearly discriminatory against the spirit and letter of the Constitution, ubuntu and an inclusive and multi-plural society.”
Two weeks ago, Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula said she had requested the chief of the SANDF to find “an amicable solution” and to report back to her at the earliest possible time.
(Source: Cape Argus/PressReader.com)