British Consulate rejects Passport Photo with Hijaab
By Fareena Alam
THE CASE: On 20th March 2000, the British High Commission in Singapore orally refused to renew my British passport because I submitted a photograph of myself in hijaab. Telephone conversations with high-ranking staff members of the consulate were to no avail. I was flatly refused.
WHAT I DID:
I was tempted to submit a photograph without my hijaab but decided that more than my hijaab, this is a matter of principle and my rights as a citizen. For a week, I was lost and I did not know who to turn to because there is no CAIR that caters to Muslims outside of North America. I wrote to half a dozen organisations for advice but only the Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC) replied.
1. I called the UK Passport Agency (UKPA). They confirmed that I can submit a photo with hijab on as long as my entire face can be seen.
2. I looked up the rights of a British Citizen and noted that according to the Racial Equality Act of 1976, Muslim women can be exempted from removing their scarves. Being forced to remove their scarves can be labelled as Indirect Racial Discrimination according to this Act.
3. I contacted the Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC) and they replied. They promised me full legal advice and backup as well as a public campaign if the British High Commission refused me in writing.
4. I sent out a request to everyone I know, for recently issued British passports with photos with hijaab. Two separate persons contacted me with scanned images of passports issued to his daughter/sister.
I wrote a letter to the British High Commission stating the information gathered from my call to the UKPA as well as including the scanned images of the two passports with hijaab photos. My passport was issued within two weeks.
WHAT YOU CAN DO:
The British High Commission failed to advise me of my rights as a British citizen. Surely they are aware that Muslim women all over the UK are issued passports with hijaab photos but they withheld this information from me. This could happen to you regardless of which country you come from, with regards to your passport, driver's licence, etc. Here is what you can do:
1. If you are in North America, you can contact Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) at e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or website: http://www.cair-net.org Recently, CAIR fought on behalf of a woman in Atlanta who was denied a passport from the French Embassy there due to the same reason.
2. If you are outside North America, you can contact Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC) at e-mail: email@example.com or website: http://www.ihrc.org They are efficient and prompt in replying. They give legal advice and support to great lengths, Muslims from all parts of the world.
3. Contact your local mosque or local Muslims and request that they send you information to help your case. The two brothers who sent me their daughter's/sister's passport were pivotal to this case because I was able to challenge the Consulate's handling of my case with direct evidence of double standards.
Don't let anyone tell you that you cannot enjoy full rights as a citizen of a country because of your hijaab. There is literally no country in the world that can deny you your rights because of your hijaab. Fight for it.
Latest Update: New UK Home Office Guidelines to allow Hijaab in Passport Photos