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“This will never be accepted in SA” – MJC Women’s Forum on SANDF case

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By Anees Teladia

Major Fatima Isaacs intends to lodge a formal complaint with the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) regarding allegations of discrimination within the South African National Defence Force (SANDF). The Muslim SANDF member is charged with disobeying a lawful instruction due to her refusal to remove her scarf and is set to appear in military court next month. A team comprising of her advisor and spokesperson, Nazeema Mohamed, her advocate, the Muslim Judicial Council (MJC) and attorney Igshaan Higgins is set to tackle the case head on.

The MJC Women’s Forum has publicly declared its unwavering support for Major Isaacs, stating that the entire issue is an “infringement on our rights as Muslim women.”

“We understand that we have a sister in the military who has now found herself brought up on charges because of wearing a headscarf. It’s an extremely disturbing situation for Muslim women and for our Muslim community,” said Mualima Khadija Patel-Allie, head of the MJC Women’s Forum.

“It’s essential that we ensure that we take this up properly. This is not only a matter of freedom of religion – it is also [a matter of] the right to human dignity. There are a lot of issues encompassed in this specific matter and as Muslim women and the MJC Women’s Forum, we are behind Major Fatima Isaacs. We will stand with her through this because it is an infringement on our rights as Muslim women.”

Mualima Patel-Allie added, “She’s such a dignified sister. She is resolved in her approach and to taking this road and furthering the matter. She has wonderful support behind her in her advisory and in the women who are supporting her.”

Mualima Patel-Allie also indicated that such a blatant case of unfair discrimination within the SANDF, or within any other state institution, would neither be tolerated nor accepted in a democratic South Africa –  a country rich in diversity and still plagued by the effects of the discriminatory and oppressive Apartheid regime and its security forces.

“For us, as a democratic country, it is essential that we rally behind her. There should be loud outcry to say that this will never be accepted in South Africa,” said Mualima Patel-Allie.

“This kind of unfair discriminatory action by an authority such as the SANDF against a Muslim woman will not be tolerated by our communities. When you take issue with the headscarf of a Muslim woman, it is tantamount to taking issue with her fundamental right to practice her religion freely.

You are looking at the very foundation of women when an issue like this is taken up. The SANDF has placed the women of the Muslim community and the Muslim community as a whole, against them.”

Higgins thanked Major Isaacs for her determination in standing up not only for her rights but for the rights of all who face similar cases of unfair discrimination. He also indicated that the complaint to be filed with the SAHRC would have Major Isaacs as the first applicant in the matter and the Muslim Judicial Council SA, as the second.

It was revealed that due to the magnitude and publicity of the case, there will most likely be lawyers attempting to hijack the entire matter for their own gain.

“The broader strategy is to lodge a complaint at the SAHRC, with Major Fatima Isaacs being the first applicant and the MJC SA being the second. At the same time, we are getting support from the entire religious community and NGO’s,” said Higgins.

“Legal representation has now been established…the person that we need to support and focus on, is Major Fatima Isaacs”

Higgins added that labour expert, Nazeema Mohamed has been the key link between the MJC and Major Isaacs. Mohamed has been credited with consolidating the much-needed publicity in the matter up until this point and will remain as Major Isaacs’ spokesperson and adviser.

“This is South Africa. We fought very hard to get to where we are. We will not tolerate bigotry or oppression in any form.”

VOC


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3 comments

  1. I believe the focus should move from discrimination to victimisation. From what I’ve read it was acceptable before her new, immediate superior started. It appears a case of “I’ll show you” a boss using their position and authority to “discriminate” against an individual, and the scarf is just a means to an end(of termination)

    Why ok before, but not now???

  2. We are a diverse country with laws, I don’t have a problem with and race or cultural bag round or history, here is my concern and questions,
    When going into Muslim Country like you Saudi Arabia every one is expect to follow the laws of the country, every country has its laws which must be followed by flow country man and visitors in that specific country,
    When one joins the defence service of a country, we are expected to follow the laws, and one signs a contract saying you will follow the laws of that particular service, now why do we want to change things to suit our own personal culture we follow, we have Black South Africans with different cultural background, then it means let’s all be accommodated and see what our defence force will look like with the different cultural practices,
    Can we kindly respect the defence force of SA, this country is not made up of a minority who think they are above the law or can do as they please and claim that they are being discriminated, can some of our Muslims please respect this country and the laws, next our national Anthem will be changed because certain groups of people will feel like they wanted to be accommodated, Concerned Christian

    1. If this was the law or code of conduct for the SANQF, it could have been in black and white. When the concerned signs up, they would know what was expected of them. It is clearly not the case, and it is not ONLY Muslims that wear scarfs, religiously, other Christian women do, for example ZCC…, culturally, other cultures require married woman to cover their heads. This is just one brave Sister that is fighting for acceptance of diversity and honouring it. Looking at the above, it matters less whether it is minority or majority.
      If it was the case, then clearly there could be some cultures and denominations that could not be recruited.
      Let us not take advantage of the high unemployment rate by oppressing others. Today it is someone-else, tomorrow it could be you! We need to respect other people’s cultures, beliefs and values; people have rights and those in authority should NOT misuse their power. There is always a solution to a conflict rather than calling out a Sister who is exercising her right to COURT???!!
      If we talk about ACCOMMODATION, these particular women need to be ACCOMBATED, RESPECTED and ACCEPTED.

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