The local Muslim community has said it did not plan to sue Government over the controversial issue of the wearing of headdress by women of the faith who wish to have official photographs taken at Government offices.
However, Public Relations Officer of the Barbados Muslim Association Suleiman Bulbulia said his group and the Rastafarian community would seek clarification on the policy adopted by various Government departments.
The two religious groups have objected to a requirement for the women of their faiths to remove their headwear when applying for identification cards, passports and driver’s licences or other official documents. And they plan to meet to discuss the way forward.
The issue came to light in a recent media report which quoted a Muslim woman as saying she was considering suing Government after she was ordered to remove her hijab to take photographs for a national identification card, passport and driver’s licence.
Bulbulia told Barbados TODAY his religion required women to cover their faces in public, and they should be allowed to at least keep their heads covered when they have their photographs taken.
He contended that different Government departments employed different guidelines, with some asking that the headwear be removed completely, while others said it was okay to partially remove it.
“We don’t have any intentions of taking Government to court or taking legal action. What happened is we saw that there was an inconsistency in the policy where some officers would allow it and some wouldn’t. And there is the recognition that the Constitution allows for religious dress, but they are saying now that the rule says you have to take it off,” Bulbulia complained.
House of Nyahbinghi spokesman Bongo Isaiah did not say if the Rastafarians would consider legal action, but he described the practice as “religious intolerance”.
He referred to a case in which one Rastafarian woman went to have her photograph taken for her driver’s license and was told by employees that she must remove her headwear. However, she was later allowed to keep it on after a call was made to a Government official, who in turn called the department, seemingly with instructions to allow the woman to have the picture taken with her headgear on.
“The thing that got me is dem know that this is not a law you know; it is laws that they creating. This here is religious intolerance,” Isaiah contended.
The Rastafarian said he had written to a number of officials in the past voicing his concerns about the issue and calling for the introduction of a standard mutual agreement.