Headscarf case: 'As the defence force, we have one culture' - SANDF

As a Muslim member of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) prepares for a disciplinary hearing over her refusal to remove her headscarf, the military has reiterated that members of all religions are expected to abide by its dress code.

The SANDF said on Wednesday "without fear of contradiction", that it recognised religious affiliation under the guidance and leadership of the chaplain general.

Its spokesperson, Brigadier General Mafi Mgobozi, said everyone who joined the defence force was not only taught basic training, but about policies and regulations too.

The SANDF was governed by prescripts and dress codes which regulated and dictated how the uniform should be worn, he said.

"The regulatory framework clearly stipulates that no other clothing may be worn with the official uniform which is representative of the SANDF as a military institution, therefore members are expected to conform to that as stipulated."

Mgobozi pointed out that the military comprised members of different religions.

"As the defence force, we have one culture, which is a military culture. Therefore, all members are expected to adhere to the military culture and code."

The major, identified as 47-year-old Fatima Isaacs by IOL, works as a clinical forensic pathologist at 2 Military Hospital in Wynberg, and has been a member of the armed forces for 10 years.

'Islamophobic, sexist'

The matter came before the military court earlier this week.

Her lawyer Nazeema Mohamed told News24 on Tuesday that she is expected to face a disciplinary hearing on August 7, when she will be allowed to have legal counsel.

News24 previously reported that Mohamed said the SANDF's action was "islamophobic, sexist and showed a poor attitude towards women".

According to Mohamed, it (the headscarf) did not obstruct any insignia or military rankings and for the past decade, none of the officers she reported to, took exception to it.

Should the SANDF proceed with charges against the major, they would take the matter to court as the action against her was discriminatory, Mohamed said.

Another major, Simo Mbete, based in Port Elizabeth, told News24 on Tuesday that he was told to take off his taqiyah (skull cap) during a morning roll call in October last year. He said he has never had any problems in the past, having converted to the Muslim faith in 2016.

After refusing to take it off, his case was taken to the military court earlier this year where he was found guilty of disobeying a lawful command.

He was fined and had to spend three months in the military barracks. He said he would appeal.

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