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We know that the authorities are making gun owners jump through many more bureaucratic hoops these days to get their competency certificates approved and, in turn, their firearm licences.
Yet, even by those nit-picking standards, the treatment of Eastern Cape woman Rusda Desai, whose gun competency and licence application was rejected by the Central Firearms Registry (CFR) because she was wearing a hijab in her application photo – which only covered her hair and not her face – is questionable.
Quite rightly, Desai says she feels discriminated against as a woman and for her religion.
It took more than a year for the registry to inform her that the hijab was unacceptable – and even after she agreed to remove the veil covering her face, the officials were still not satisfied.
A researcher and lecturer at the University of the Witwatersrand, Aaisha Dadi Patel, has pointed out many legal processes that require full, unobscured views of applicants’ faces have specific guidelines that allow Muslim women to ensure they satisfy the requirements of the photograph, without removing their headscarves.
Research Fellow at the Centre for Mediation In Africa Dr Quraysha Ismail Sooliman said CRF’s refusal to grant licences to women wearing a headscarf was “not about safety and security and certainly not about identification because hair is easily manipulated, can be changed, removed and altered”.
Desai says the hijab is more than just a piece of cloth, it’s “my honour and dignity, it’s my identity as a woman”.
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Why can the authorities not come to a compromise which does not seem to be so overtly Islamophobic? Surely a woman like Desai can easily be identified without having to remove her entire headscarf?
In a country plagued by gender-based violence and out-of-control crime, why make it even more difficult for a vulnerable woman to protect herself?