The army in South Africa has backed an official who sanctioned a Muslim woman for insisting on wearing her headscarf in the line of duty, contrary to existing rules.
Local media portal, Eye Witness News, quoted the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) official as saying the institution stood behind Colonel Jack Molomo.
The SANDF’s Mafi Mgobozi: “Colonel Molomo is doing what is right. He didn’t shy away from telling people what they were doing wrong. Colonel Molomo, who is the OC of watch, knows the dress code and is trying to address what is wrong.”
He had been harassing her and demanded that she remove her scarf. When she visited him on work related matters at the office and after she saluted him, he told her: ‘Remove that thing when I talk to you.’
The Colonel had sanctioned a Muslim female officer, Major Fatima Isaacs, for refusing to obey lawful command in the matter of removing her headscarf whiles on duty.
“Every person who joins the defence force is not only taught basic training, but also about the policies and regulations, including laws governing membership of the SANDF and its code,” the army said in its defense in a hearing.
Major Fatima works as a clinical forensic pathologist at the army’s 2 Military Hospital in Wynberg, ans has since been charged with willful defiance and disobeying a lawful command.
The SANDF insists that it has strict dress code that all officers needed to adhered to. She appeared before the court of military justice at the Castle of Good Hope on Wednesday, June 26, where the matter was postponed to August.
Mandela’s grandson enters fray, fights for Hajabi Major
A grandson of the country’s anti-apartheid icon and first black president, Nelson Mandela; has waded into the issue which is gaining traction on social media.
According to Mandla Mandela, who is an Member of Parliament and traditional leader of the Royal House of Mandela, the controversy smugged of a witch hunt and denial of rights to manifest one’s religion.
In an Instagram post, he called on the sector minister to intervene whiles calling for a picket at the next hearing of the case in August. The post read as follows:
“We call on Minister to stop SANDF headscarf witch hunt immediately!!! Mvezo Komkhulu (The Great Place), Wednesday 26th June 2019: It is inconceivable that the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) would deny an employee the right to pursue her religious freedom to wear a headscarf.
“We call on the Minister to set aside this disciplinary action as it is an absolute denigration of her rights to exercise her religious freedom.
“We call on the larger interfaith community to come out in support and demonstrate against this obsternate course of action that not only violates her constitutional rights but insults our longstanding cultural tradition of tolerance, respect and social cohesion.
“We call for a picket in the military court at Castle of Good Hope on August 7, at 08:30 where the disciplinary hearing will be held.”
What Major Fatima’s advocate said
Social justice advocate Nazeema Mohammed is Isaacs’ advisor and said they’d use all avenues to have the matter dismissed. “She never had any problems until colonel Jack Molomo joined.
“He had been harassing her and demanded that she remove her scarf. When she visited him on work related matters at the office and after she saluted him, he told her: ‘Remove that thing when I talk to you.’”
Mohammed said things escalated after this.
“That’s how it started escalating to the point where he then gave her a final written warning and he has now charged her with disciplinary action.”
She added: “She had to appear in the Military Court yesterday on a section 29, which is an administrative part of the proceedings. I accompanied her and appeared with her as her advisor. The case will be formally heard on 7 August, where she will be required to defend herself before a judge.”