A Coalition of Muslim organizations in Nigeria on Wednesday condemned discrimination agaisnt Muslim women and girls who adorn hijab, saying such tendency negates the provisions of Nigerian Constitution.
This was the hallmark of a press briefing to commemorate the 2020 World Hijab Day (WHD) at Bagauda Kaltho Press Centre, Alausa Ikeja.
The WHD is celebrated on 1st of February. This year is themed, ‘Unity in Diversity.’
The spokesman for the Coalitions under Hijab Rights Advocacy Initiative, Mrs. Mutiat Orolu-Balogun, emphasized that “hijab is a human rights as much as it is a religious right.”
Orolu-Balogun, who is the Executive Director of the Advocacy Initiative and a lawyer cited constitutional provisions to justify the wearing of hijab as a right.
According to her, “Section 38 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria states as follows:(1) ‘Every person shall be entitled to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, including 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.”
She, therefore, stated: “Being able to wear the hijab by female Nigerian Muslims without fear or incidents of discrimination or abuse is the practical application of this constitutional provision.”
She reiterated that “The Court of Appeal has upheld the use of the hijab as being in consonance with the provisions of Section 38(1) of the 1999 constitution (as amended).
The legal luminary explained Muslim women have excelled in several fields despite adorning hijab.
“We have excelled in academics, our careers, professions, and nurturing our families. We have proven yet again that we are valuable citizens of the Federal Republic of Nigeria contributing positively to our communities in every way we can, and to the world at large!
“A lot of our sisters excelled in their studies and won outstanding performance awards amongst their peers. On this important occasion, we have the cause to honour and celebrate Maryam Omolara Azeez Best Graduating Student from the
Department of Economics at Obafemi Awolowo University and Hassanat Lawal for graduating from the University of Exeter, UK with Distinction in her MSC in Environment and Human Health.
“We celebrate Mrs. Kafilat Motunrayo Oyaremi as the first woman in a full face veil to bag a PhD in Education at the University of Ibadan. This 39-year- old bagged a First Class in her undergraduate degree and thus won a Federal Government scholarship. She is also a playwright and school owner.
“In the area of Law, we can see the ‘”Firdaus Effect’ where Misturah Abiodun Anifowoshe, Aishat Bukola Adekanmbi and Maryam Odunayo Arole- a married woman and mother of two- all bagged First Class in their Bar finals and were called to the Nigerian Bar in their hijab.
“Again, Islamiyah Uthman also an “Hijabi, was best Graduating Student and only 1st Class in Anatomy in the University of Lagos 2018 set.”
According to her, the theme for this year Hijab Day, “resonates with us in Nigeria because we are a multi-cultural and multi religious nation, united as one. And thus, no one should be left out or discriminated against, because of the language they speak, the culture they practice or the religion they profess.
“Unity in Diversity has been described as the best hope of humankind. It is to maintain as rich a diversity of social types as possible, with the expectation that each of these experiments in the human future will cross-fertilise with others, and thus maintain the vital diversity essential for indefinite survival.
“By encouraging and allowing diversity to flourish, society gains more ideas; learn better way of doing things and have a more secure future. Unity in diversity results in the universally- accepted golden rule of treating others as we would wish for ourselves.
“This rule is tied to our faith as the Holy Prophet Muhammad has said: “None of you will believe until you love for your brother what you love for yourself.”
Citing examples of various discriminations against female Muslim girls, she recalled: “In November 2019 in Estate Junior High School Agege, Asmau Babalola was assaulted by Mrs. Fakunle, a Yoruba teacher; her hijab forcefully removed from her head and called a witch. The beating was severe and her wrist was swollen.
“Also “The Principal of Omole Senior High School, Omole banned the students from wearing the hijab even after they have been wearing it in compliance to the government circular issued in 2019.”
She noted that: “The Constitution prohibits that anyone should be discriminated against either directly or indirectly. Direct discrimination exists where you discriminate against one on the basis of protected characteristics as mentioned by the constitution. e.g. age, sex, and so on.”
“We want to secure our rights as provided by the Constitution. We want to be allowed to carry out our duties and contribute to our society without fear of discrimination or experiencing discrimination.
“We want our daughters to be able to attend schools, register and write exams in their hijab without intimidation, abuse and discrimination,” Orolu-Balogun noted.
Dr. Olaniyan Shobowale, a representative of International Muslim Women Union (IMWU) reiterated: “We condemn all forms of discrimination against our hijab wearing women”, adding: “We remind Nigerian government that the adornment of hijab is not a barrier to development.”
Dr Halima Egberongbe from Federation of Muslim Women Association of Nigeria (FOMWAN) maintained that her group was poised to work with other organizations to propagate not only wearing of hijab but also dressing decently.
For a better society