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World Hijab Day: Muslim groups kick against continued harassment in Nigeria

February 1, 2022

Themed ‘Hijab is our Crown, not A Crime’, activities were organised across the world on Tuesday to mark this year’s World Hijab Day

As part of activities towards marking 2022 World Hijab Day, a coalition of Muslim groups has kicked against what it termed continued harassment of Muslim women and girls who wear hijab- a head covering worn in public by Muslim women.

The coalition has, therefore, resolved that rather than engaging those it described as harassers in open confrontation, it would not hesitate to challenge them in competent law courts.

This is as they requested the Lagos State Government to issue a circular reminding school administrators of an appeal court’s ruling, which permits Muslim students to use hijab in schools in the state.

These positions were taken on Tuesday at a joint press conference which was held at the secretariat central mosque, Alausa, Ikeja, Lagos.

Themed; “Hijab is our Crown, not A Crime,” activities were organised across the world on Tuesday to mark this year’s World Hijab Day towards reiterating what participants described as disapproval of alleged continuous harassment of females in schools and workplaces for wearing hijabs, and that the activities are also aimed at putting an end to such practices.

Briefing

Addressing journalists on Tuesday, participants and representatives of various Muslim groups called on President Muhammadu Buhari, and other regulatory agencies, to ensure that hijab-wearing Muslim women are no longer harassed and discriminated against.

In her presentation, a member of the trustees of International Muslim Union, Sherifat Ajibade, described as both unconstitutional and criminal, any form of discrimination against Muslim women for wearing hijabs.

“If the law guarantees us the right and we find anyone going against that right, we will sue such an individual or organisation to avoid violence,” Mrs Ajibade said.

Also speaking, the founder, Hijab Rights Advocacy Initiative, Mutiat Balogun, said the coalition is an international movement against what she described as dehumanisation of Muslim women who may have faced, still facing or to face any form of abuses “because they wear Hijab.”

“This year’s theme could not have come at a better time as Muslim women are being harassed, abused and treated like criminals for wearing hijabs,” Mrs Balogun said.

She said there is a global movement for the freedom of women and freedom to make choices concerning their bodies and dressing, but that such a courtesy is not extended to Muslim women.

“The focus on the girl child and the need for her rights to be protected and not trampled upon sadly seem not to be extended to the Muslim girl child,” she said.

Instances of abuse

Providing instances where Muslim women are being subjected to hardships and denial of basic rights and services, Mrs Balogun alleged that the Nigeria Immigration Service’s office in Ibadan, Oyo State capital, still restricts Muslim women from obtaining international passports except they remove their hijabs or bare their ears.

“Some schools in Lagos State have continued to deprive Muslim girls who wish to wear hijabs in conformity with their faith, from doing so. They would rather that such students not attend classes than to do so with their hijabs,” she said.

Mrs Balogun insisted that the right of Muslim women to cover their heads is a religious right guaranteed by Nigeria’s constitution, and that it is an inalienable right.

What Nigeria’s Constitution says

Mrs Balogun quoted Section 38 (1) and (2) of Nigeria’s 1999 constitution, as amended, that; “(1) Every person shall be entitled to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom (either alone or in community with others, and in public or in private) to manifest and propagate his religion or belief in worship, teaching, practice and observance.

“(2) No person attending any place of education shall be required to receive religious instruction or to take part in or attend any religious ceremony or observance if such instruction, ceremony or observance relates to a religion other than his own, or religion not approved by his parent or guardian.”

Meanwhile, the female president of the Lagos State area unit of the Muslim Students’ Society of Nigeria (MSSN), Basheerah Majekodunmi, while speaking at the event, called on Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, and the speaker of the state’s house of assembly, Mudashiru Obasa, to order the issuance of a circular in compliance with the Court of Appeal judgement granting the use of hijab in public schools in the state.

She explained that many principals, teachers, and administrators are causing a crisis in schools under the guise that they did not receive the previously issued circular under Governor Akinwunmi Ambode’s administration.

She, however, advised school principals and teachers against victimisation and discrimination of Muslim students, describing it as a fight against morality and public approval of indecency among young people.

She said: “Ignorance is no excuse before the law. These teachers and principals who either feign ignorance or turn a deaf ear to justice and morality have made it difficult and fearful for students to use their hijab as prescribed by their creator.

“It is high time the Lagos State Government issued another circular that will be well-publicised. We enjoy peace in Lagos State and we don’t want a crisis. Some principals and teachers are acting unlawfully and in a manner that could cause an outrage without quick intervention.”

Ms Majekodunmi also acknowledged efforts by the state government to provide quality education for the school students but warned that continuous victimisation of students may sabotage these efforts.

“The picture of Governor Sanwo-Olu sitting with a hijab-wearing student is a clear contrast of the injustice meted against some students who also choose to wear the hijab in other schools,” she added.

She lamented a case of two female Muslim students of Igboye Community High School, Igboye, Epe, whom she said were made to stand outside the classroom in the sun while their classmates were writing an examination, stating that MSSN Lagos will continue to take such cases up until the Supreme Court’s verdict.

Ms Majekodunmi, therefore, advised students to aspire to be great no matter the challenges and speak out when they experience any form of molestation or victimisation.

Some of the organisations that took part at the press conference include Nasrul-lahi-li Fathi Society of Nigeria (NASFAT), Al Muminaat Organisation, Federation of Muslim Women Association of Nigeria (FOMWAN Lagos), Muslim Public Affairs Centre (MPAC), Guild of Muslim Professionals (GMP), Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC), among many others.

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