OR Tambo Airport Asks Muslim Women To Remove Hijab At Airport

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A group of Muslim women travelling from Johannesburg to Cape Town have raised complaints that they were treated unfairly by security due to the hijab they were wearing. One of the women told The Daily Vox she was asked to remove her hijab by security just before boarding her flight. The group of students was in Johannesburg for a Muslim Students Association (MSA) policy retreat.

Khadeejah Kaffoor, a student and regional MSA chairperson was asked to remove her hijab.

Kaffoor said she was told by the security supervisor that the company, Airport Company South Africa (ACSA) “respects diversity and that all travellers passing are asked to remove their headgear, not necessarily Muslims.” Kaffoor said when they told the supervisor that she was the only one of the women asked to remove their hijab, the supervisor said: “an option was supposed to be given – to either remove or touch.”

However, Kaffoor says she was not given that option.“This then highlighted that they are then not implementing their protocols and it’s a big issue requiring discipline,” said Khaffoor. She adds that while her group was addressing the issue with the supervisor, two more Muslim women were removing their hijab. Kaffoor told The Daily Vox that on June 23, on Sunday evening at around 5 pm, the students were checking their luggage in at the security domestic departures. She says after going through the detectors, she assumed she was done with the security checks and went to collect her bag.

However, Kaffoor says she was called back by a female security officer who asked her to show her hair. While she was shocked, Kaffoor said she “submitted”. After Kaffoor rejoined her group, she says she asked the rest of women if they had been asked to remove their hijab with the rest saying they had not. Khaffoor says she intends to lodge a complaint with ACSA. She says when they requested the policy or rulebook that looks at the removing of headgear, they were told it was not available.

ACSA responded to The Daily Vox saying that the airport respects “the cultural and religious diversity of our passengers.”

“It is most unfortunate that in this instance the passenger felt she was being deliberately profiled,” a spokesperson said.

“Should the passenger feel that she was treated aggressively, we would ask that she submit a more detailed complaint that sets out particular concerns. We will then investigate further and where possible review CCTV recordings,” said ACSA.

Shafeeqah Lakay, one of the other women in the group told The Daily Vox she was searched by security but was not asked to remove her hijab. She said after she exited the security check and was waiting with other members of the group, Kaffoor approached them.

“She asked if anyone of us were asked to remove our scarves,” said Lakay adding that Khaffoor told them she had been asked to remove it. Lakay says one of the female members of the group asked to speak to the head supervisor. “He (the supervisor) then came down and she inquired about it. He said there was rulebook that states that everyone who comes through with headgear needs to remove or they have the option of security just touching their head,” said Lakay.

She says they told the supervisor that Khaffoor hadn’t been given that option. Lakay adds the supervisor refused to show them the rulebook which he was supposedly quoting from. 

Lakay says she was also told to delete a recording she had taken of the supervisor while he was speaking to the group.

Aisha Hamdulay, the media and communications officer from the Women’s Legal Centre (WLC) told The Daily Vox that Kaffoor has come to “for a consultation.” The WLC has advised Kaffoor to lodge a complaint with ACSA. Hamdulay says for the WLC the issue for them is that “in light of our progressive Constitution” which is considerate of all religions, “such incidents should not be happening.”

“It infringes upon the dignity of Muslim women, many of whom won’t have the courage to ask questions but feel that their dignity has been infringed upon by being asked to remove their headscarf in this manner,” said Hamdulay.

(Editor’s Note: This story has been updated with comment from the Airports Company South Africa.)

Featured image via Wikicommons  

15 COMMENTS

    • You guys will never understand what the hijab means to a Muslim woman. It’s not just a piece of cloth that we wear as a fashion accessory. When someone tells us to remove our hijab it feels the same to us like it would to you if someone told you that you had to remove your underwear and parade around naked.

      Our hijab is beautiful and the meaning is much deeper than any of you would bother to understand.

      • it’s ignorance F Abdolla, i’m hoping to see a day where women of ZCC and other religious beliefs being requested to remove headscarf at ORTIA. I travel monthly and I’ll be observing

    • Hammond since when did South Africa ask women to remove their headscarf whether muslim or not. imagine your mother or grand mother being requested in public to remove her headscarf. You sound islamaphobic more than being a patriot of SA.

  1. I’ve never been asked to remove my hijab ? at ORTIA neither during domestic nor international flights. They should have given her the option of security checking her hair or as they do in some other countries, have a lady take her into a separate section and then have her remove hijab.

    This is unacceptable.

    • It Is amazing how much islamaphobia we still have in our country of freedom of religion. let us not judge without sound information.

    • F Abdoolla July 1, 2019 at 7:50 am
      You guys will never understand what the hijab means to a Muslim woman. It’s not just a piece of cloth that we wear as a fashion accessory. When someone tells us to remove our hijab it feels the same to us like it would to you if someone told you that you had to remove your underwear and parade around naked.

      Our hijab is beautiful and the meaning is much deeper than any of you would bother to understand.

    • F Abdoolla July 1, 2019 at 7:50 am
      You guys will never understand what the hijab means to a Muslim woman. It’s not just a piece of cloth that we wear as a fashion accessory. When someone tells us to remove our hijab it feels the same to us like it would to you if someone told you that you had to remove your underwear and parade around naked.
      It is EXTREMELY personal for us. A female officer could have taken her to a private place and checked her hair if it was really necessary.

      Our hijab is beautiful and the meaning is much deeper than any of you would bother to understand.

    • they are profiling muslim women, it’s islamaphobia, South Africans the media got to you. Most women in SA wear headscarf and I hope to see them being requested to be inspected or taking it off. I travel monthly hopefully to see all women at Or Tambo being inspected and i was also once request to be touched

  2. Its fair to say they doing their job alright…
    What about doing their jobs about protecting our luggage from thieving airport staff ….do they know what they put us through when they steal our stuff…

  3. These muslim hides bombs in their body never mind security asking them to remove Jihad or jihab whatever you call it ,, this is South africa , i think you guys need to go away to Yemen, Arab, Iraq to excesice those silly things that you wearing , we not going to treate you nice here

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