14 November 2018

Kenya: Imams Oppose Bid to Bar Caps in Passports

Photo: Daily Nation
Council of Imams and Preachers of Kenya.

Muslim clergy have protested against Immigration officials, accusing them of forcing men to remove religious caps before being photographed when applying for passports.

The Imams have written a protest letter to the Immigration department over what they termed discrimination against Muslim men.

The chairman of Council of Imams and Preachers of Kenya (CIPK), Sheikh Abdallah Ateka, said the headgear, popularly known as kufis, is "religious attire which need not be removed anyhow."

"We write to you with a heavy heart to raise the red flag on the mistreatment and discrimination that Muslims are subjected to when applying for passports," said Sheikh Ateka in a letter dated November 7 to Immigration PS Gordon Kihalang'wa.

"Officers in charge of photography always demand that all Muslim applicants remove their headgear before being photographed," he said.

According to the Imams, the Immigration officials were contravening the Constitution on freedom of worship.

"Every person has the right, either individually or in a community with others, in public or private, to manifest religious belief through worship, practice or observance," says the letter which is also copied to Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang'i and Majority Leaders of both the National Assembly and Senate.

The Imams also claim that members of other faiths like the Akorino and Sikhs are treated differently and do not remove their headgear before being photographed.

Muslims believe that Prophet Muhammad used to keep his head covered and, therefore, men are advised to cover their heads in order to emulate him.

According to guidelines posted on the Immigration department website, photographs can be taken with headgear on, after consideration on a case to case basis if the applicant wears it on religious grounds, but the main characteristics of the face must be apparent from the photograph.

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