Muslim Women Don’t Have To Remove Their Headscarf For The National Identification Card – NIA Responds

Following the story published last week, concerning Nabeela, a Muslim lady
reported to have been asked by a personnel of the NIA to take off her headscarf before being allowed to take the photo for her Ghana card, office of the National Identification Authority has responded to the issues raised.

In an interview with The Today’s Muslim, the Head of Corporate Affairs of
NIA, ACI Francis Palmdeti explained that, such challenges were anticipated
ahead of the registration process and for that reason, the NIA made efforts to reach out to the Muslim communities to explain to them the intricacies of the registration process. He disclosed that, although they are yet to meet with the Christian authorities, arrangements are already being made.

Must we take off the headscarf?

In relation to the removal of headscarf before taking pictures, ACI Francis
explained that, there are standards that govern the types of photos that are
used for the identification cards. Explaining in detail, he said, “there are two standards that govern this. We have the ICAO standards and the Immigration standards. According to the ICAO standards, an individual’s face is sufficient for an identity card but the Immigration standards require that in addition to a person’s face, his or her ears would have to appear in the picture. Everyone has unique ears and so for a travel document such as the Ghana card, the ears are needed to appear so that a distinction can be made between two individuals who look alike. But the hair is not needed to show.

However, this rule does not apply to other people who are not doing it for
religious purposes. For instance, a guy who wears a cap or any type of hat
would have to remove the cap before being allowed to take the picture. Some make the excuse that they have bald heads but that’s not sufficient. In such a case, such a person would have to remove the head covering. The only exception is for those who by the dictates of their religion are not allowed to remove it and not those who wear it for convenience sake. Muslim women who wear their headscarf are not obliged to remove their headscarf. All that is needed is for their ears to appear in the picture.”

Misconducts by Some NIA Officials

In response to the misconduct by some of the registration officials, ACI Francis explained that, the authority ensures that superiors of the various registration centers ensure that the officers are educated on the rules for registrations and are corrected when they make mistakes. In order to avoid such misunderstandings, the NIA ensures that it recruits personnel from the respective regions. For instance, in areas where there is a large
Muslim population, the NIA makes sure many of the officers deployed are Muslims although not all of them would be Muslims. He disclosed that, officials found unfit are dismissed. Presently, some officials have been sacked and an entire team suspended for exhibiting some misconducts. This is as a result of the checks and balances the NIA sets in place to guide official’s conducts.

“I take this opportunity to apologize to Nabeela and commend her for speaking up about her experience. We believe that in every society, the conducts of people are influenced by the feedback given and I believe this feedback has been useful.” – ACI Francis (Head, Corporate Affairs – NIA)

He also explained that, the authority keeps training and retraining its officials to ensure they understand the work appropriately and do it as required.

Who qualifies as a Citizen of Ghana?

Among the issues some people are confronted with during
registration is proof of citizenship.

According to the 1992 Constitution, ACI Francis explained, there are five rules regarding obtaining Ghanaian citizenship. These include: citizenship by birth, by registration, naturalization, adoption or foundling.

Citizen by birth – this is either by blood or by being born on the soil. Unlike the US which ascribes to “born on the soil”, Ghana ascribes to “blood”. ACI Francis explains that, even though most people confuse both, Ghana ascribes to only “blood”.Prior to independence, the law required that for a person to be a citizen of Ghana, he or she must have been born in Ghana to parents who were also born in Ghana, or Grandparents born in Ghana. A person born outside the soil of Ghana but has his or her parents born in Ghana, also qualifies as a citizen. Before 1957, it didn’t matter whether a person was born on the soil, if his or her parents or grandparents were not born on the soil, he or she is not a citizen.

Citizen by registration – after 1957, an individual still needed his or her parents or grandparents to be born in Ghana. However, for the first time, the concept of naturalization was introduced, where a person who is a foreigner but has lived in Ghana for a longtime could register to be a Ghanaian. Such an individual would have to apply to the Ministry of Interior and must have lived in Ghana for a long time and be in a position to speak at least one local language.

Marriage – people don’t become citizens by mere marriage to a Ghanaian. A spouse would have to apply to the Ministry of Interior for a certificate of registration which then grants them citizenship. Besides those married to Ghanaians, those who apply for registration should be at least 18 years and should be coming from an approved country.

Citizenship by foundling – someone who is 7 years and below who is found on the soil of Ghana but whose parents are not known, is presumed to be Ghanaian.

It doesn’t matter how long a person may have lived in Ghana or how fluent he or she might be in any of the local dialects,once the citizenship cannot be traced to a parent or grandparent who is a Ghanaian, such a person is not considered a Ghanaian. Non-Ghanaians who have lived here years ago and never applied for registration to be Ghanaians and have given birth are all not considered Ghanaians. The only exception is when such a person gets married to a Ghanaian. In that case, their children are Ghanaians because at least, one parent is a Ghanaian.

ACI Francis encourages members of the public to volunteer to support the registration exercise. “The registration exercise is open to all those who are willing to volunteer. In some communities, we have had people approach us to volunteer and most of the Assembly men also make efforts to participate in making the program successful.” – ACI Francis

Update on Nabeela’s Issue

Information that has reached The Today’s Muslim is that Nabeela, the Muslim lady who was compelled to remove her headscarf before being allowed to take the picture at a registration center in Madina, has been contacted by the National Identification Authority. According to Nabeela, the NIA has promised to permit her go through the process again,this time, allowing her to take her picture while wearing her headscarf.

Photo Credit: HijabTytude.Wherefashion meets modesty

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2 thoughts on “Muslim Women Don’t Have To Remove Their Headscarf For The National Identification Card – NIA Responds

  1. Samuel Frimpong-NIA field worker

    I totally agree with all that my superior has said. To add up to my superior’s response I will kindly appeal to my Muslim ladies and all other applicants that their dresses and headscarfs can be of any colour apart from white. This is due to the fact that the pictures are taken with a white background of which it is taken off during the printing stage to get the clear image of the applicant. Therefore anything of white be it the dress or headscarf will be taken off automatically during the printing stage.
    My humble appeal! Thank you

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