JOHANNESBURG, 28 January 2021 – Muslim South African female soldiers are now permitted to wear hijabs with their uniform, a change in dresscode policy has determined.
Rights activists are celebrating the decision as a victory for non-discimination, and praising the South African government for realizing that discrimination against Muslim women is just as bad as any other form of discrimination.
Maj. Fatima Isaacs is being thanked in press reports for going through the ordeal of a three-year legal battle and facing the threat of being fired from the force.
Maj. Isaacs has said it is a victory not only for her but for everyone who was and still is being silently victimized or persecuted for practicing their faith or religion.
The legal battle launced in 2019 and championed, pro bono, by the Legal Resource Centre, demanded the courts to rule that Maj. Isaacs and other Muslim female soldiers who so desire, would not be breaking any law by wearing a headscarf beneath thiier military berets.
“There should be no discrimination with regards to religious beliefs,” Maj. Isaacs was cited Thursday as telling the Cape Times.
She asked South Africa’s Equality Court to rule that the religious dress code of the South African Defence Force (SANDF) was unconstitutional.
Last week, the SANDF abruptly decided to stop pressing charges against her for wearing the hijab.
“We will, therefore, not be pursuing this matter further as the current SANDF policy no longer discriminates against Muslim women in the military,” a spokesperson for the SANDF said in a statement.
Commentators on Thursday said the military were probably tipped off by the courts or legal counsel that a ruling would be in favor of Maj. Isaacs and could do more damage to the authority of the military chain of command.
A ruling against Maj. Isaacs would have resulted in her dismissal from the force for “wilful defiance and disobeying a lawful command”.
The charges were pressed when she refused to remove the hijab after being so ordered by a senior officer.