Trinidad and Tobago Humanist Association

tt.humanist :: forum :: commentary :: 2018 :: religion

Religious and political symbols on state buildings and uniforms?

13 November 2018 • 334 words, published in Express

The decision by a High Court judge that female Muslim police officers must be allowed to wear a hijab as part of their uniform is, in our view, a retrograde step which further undermines the rule of law in Trinidad and Tobago

The judge's decision was based on the premise that the hijab was part of the claimant's religious identity, which is protected under the Constitution. But when a person expresses their religious identity through some symbol or act, they are also expressing a particular set of beliefs which must necessarily inform their actions (save at the cost of hypocrisy). In this case, the claimant made it clear that she considers her religious beliefs to supersede the regulations of the Police Service. Can she, then, be trusted to treat fairly with people who are not of her religion and to not favour the men who follow her religion? What about cases of wife-beating or underage marriage, where the tenets of her religion directly contradict the laws of T&T?

For those who reject this reasoning, consider if a police officer applied for the right to wear a balisier pin or UNC logo on his uniform. There are individuals whose identities are rooted their political allegiances and Section 4 (e) of the Constitution guarantees "the right to join political parties and to express political views". By the same legal logic which allows the hijab, a police officer should also be allowed to wear political symbols. But, even though everyone understands that some police officers must hold strong political views, the negative consequences of such a blatant display of party loyalty on the TTPS are obvious. A uniform, by definition, must be the same for all members who wear it or else it is not uniform any more.

Everyone should be free to practise their religion, as long as such practices do not impact on the rights of others or give special privileges vis-à-vis other citizens. This hijab ruling flouts these core principles of a civil society.

T&T Humanist Association

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