The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) has officially changed their religious dress policy to allow Muslim women to wear headscarves with their uniforms.

This comes after the three-year battle of Major Fatima Isaacs, a Muslim woman who was brought to military court for refusing to remove the headscarf that she wore under her beret since she joined the force in 2010.

In 2018, she was told she may not wear her headscarf because it was not in accordance with the SANDF dress policy. After refusing to remove her headscarf, she was given a final warning and subsequently charged with three counts of contravening the Military Discipline Code for disobeying lawful commands or orders.

The Legal Resources Centre (LRC) represented Isaacs in 2019 and the military dropped its charges against her in 2020. The LRC then approached the Equality Court to challenge the dress policy, which led to the SANDF implementing this new amendment.

Speaking to the Cape Times, Major Isaacs said this was a major victory for all those who face victimisation based on their religion.

“I am happy with the successful outcome of the case, I am grateful to my legal team for assisting me,” she said.  “We are living in a democratic country which means that there should be no discrimination with regards to religious beliefs. I believe religion is the foundation of a moral state/country. This is an important victory.”

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