Woman claims her gun licence application was denied due to her headscarf
Cape Town – A woman has claimed she is the victim of religious discrimination after her licence for a firearm was refused because she wore a headscarf in her application photo.
Maleeka Sayed said she wants the licence for self defence as she is mostly at home looking after her children and elderly parents during the day, while her husband is away at work.
Sayed, who lives in Benoni, Gauteng and first applied in July 2020 for her license said: “Twice in the recent past my father was hijacked outside our gate as he went for Salat al-fajr (dawn prayers).”
“At the beginning, there were delays due to Covid-19, which I understood.
“Late last year, I enquired about my application and was told that my application has not reached 120 working days yet. I then enquired early this year, having noted that my application had reached 126 working days on the SAPS system, and was told by Colonel Godi Msindo that my application would be looked at in due course.
“On January 21 Msindo phoned me and said he had a problem with my application picture as I was wearing my headscarf. I tried to explain about my religious beliefs as well as religious responsibility, and he said to me that he would try to explain to his supervisors.
“My application was moved to consideration, the last step in the licence approval process, and a few days later refused.
“On February 8, I phoned Msindo and he told me that there was nothing wrong with my application/motivation. However, he said it was most probably rejected because of the headscarf.
]“I am a Muslim woman who has worn a headscarf when applying for my ID card, passport as well as for my firearm competency and at none of those times was my headscarf a problem.
“I applied through the company Legally Armed. These are the same people my husband used, that my cousins used and that my brother in-law used when they applied for their firearm licences. All were approved.”
Following Msindo’s response, Sayed wrote an email to the office manager in the office of the national commissioner of SAPS Brigadier Ali Mathebula with her complaint.
Mathebula responded to Sayed: “The complaint is noted and is being investigated through SAPS complaints nodal point.”
SAPS spokesperson Brenda Muridili said: “The complaint received was forwarded to the Visible Policing division to deal with it further.”
Sayed has now petitioned President Cyril Ramaphosa, senior SAPS officials, parliament’s portfolio committee on police chairperson Tina Joemat-Pettersson and the Muslim Judicial Council among others in her quest for a gun licence.
Speaking to the Argus, Sayed referenced the the three-year battle of Major Fatima Isaacs, another Muslim woman who wore a headscarf covering her hair and head under her military beret in accordance with her religious beliefs.
The Isaacs matter was resolved in January this year when in a groundbreaking decision, the South African Defence Force (Sandf) amended its military religious dress policy to accommodate the wearing of a headscarf with military uniform.
Meanwhile the South African Gunowners' Association (SAGA) spokesperson Advocate John Welch said: “We doubt that the licence application was refused because of religious discrimination, since the legal requirements for the photo are clearly specified. The purpose of the photo is to enable law-enforcement to identify the owner of the licensed firearm.
Welch said it was strange Sayed’s firearm competency requirements had been accepted with the same photograph as: “The requirements for ID photos and competency card photos are exactly the same.
“Similar matters have been brought to our attention, however, all were amicably resolved.”