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South African Military Ends Controversial Ban on Hijabs

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South African Military Ends Controversial Ban on Hijabs

The South African National Defence Force has ended its longstanding ban on hijabs. This follows the recent court victory of Major Fatima Isaacs who was fired for wearing a hijab.

The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) has reportedly ended their longstanding ban on hijabs, this according to IOL. The move comes just after Major Fatima Isaacs, a Muslim woman, won her two-year court case following her dismissal from the military for wearing a hijab. Th SANDF has reportedly amended its military religious dress policy—a win for Muslim women serving in the South African military.

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The SANDFs' latest decision is certainly welcomed by Isaacs who in 2019, was ordered to removed her hijab from under her military beret but failed to obey the order due to religious beliefs. SANDF alleged that Isaacs had contravened the Military Discipline Code and subsequently charged with three counts of disobeying lawful commands or orders. Isaacs was ultimately dismissed after she had been serving as a forensic pathologist for the SANDF for a decade.

Speaking about the monumental victory, Isaacs told the BBC, "We are living in a democratic country which means that there should be no discrimination with regards to religious beliefs." She went on to add that, "I believe religion is the foundation of a moral state/country. This is an important victory."

Last week, SANDF had initially conceded to allowing Isaacs to "take a tiny piece of scarf and to cover her hair" although it could not "cover her ears or neck area," EWN reports. However, Isaacs' spokesperson, social activist Nazeema Mohamed, announced that the matter would be taken before the Equality Court by the Legal Resource Centre (LRC) which took on Isaacs' case back in 2019. The ruling of the Equality Court recently found that the SANDF's dress policy and particular prohibition of hijabs was unconstitutional.

The Muslim Judicial Council SA (MJC), which was significantly active in this case, also welcomed the decision by both the Equality Court and SANDF saying, "The MJC in its capacity as the Religious Advisory Board for Muslims in the SANDF had meaningful engagements with senior members of the SANDF Chaplaincy regarding the case of Major Fatima and was confident that the matter would be resolved amicably."