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Court rules that Rastafarianism is a religion

Publish date: 16 September 2019
Issue Number: 841
Diary: IBA Legalbrief Africa
Category: Kenya

A Kenyan court has ordered schools not to expel students who have dreadlocks. The High Court ruling found that Rastafarian is a religion ‘just like any other’ and must be respected. The East African reports that the case relates to a girl who was ordered to leave Olympic High School in Nairobi on 10 January, soon after being admitted in Form One. The Star reports that the minor indicated in her admission form that her religion was Rastafarian. Justice Enoch Chacha Mwita said the school administration’s policy denied the pupil her right to religion and education. He noted that the Constitution does not define what religion is ‘but the dictionary does’. ‘This is the first ever case in this country where a child dons rasta braids because of her religious beliefs. Rastafarianism is a religion which should also be accorded protection,’ Mwita said.

Full report in The Star

Full East African report

Muslims are unhappy with the ruling, saying the courts are applying double standards given that the Supreme Court said in January that schools had the right to determine dress codes. BBC News reports that the Council of Imams and Preachers of Kenya (CIPK) says the court had overturned an earlier ruling that had allowed Muslim students to wear a hijab in non-Muslim schools. CIPK chairman Abdallah Atek said respect for all religious practices and beliefs should be valued without discrimination. 'It is now clear that the courts in Kenya are applying double standards on the issue of the freedom of worship as enshrined in the constitution of the country. The ruling barring Muslim girls from wearing the headscarf was not only provocative but demeaning and undermining to the rights of Muslims for no apparent reason,' he said.

Full BBC News report