A leading civil society organisation in Nigeria, the Hijab Rights Advocacy Initiative (HRAI) has lamented the incessant persecution on female Muslim students in many primary and post-primary schools in the South-West geopolitical zone of the country in a bid to exercise their fundamental rights on dressing with the Hijab, exactly four years after the Appeal Court ruled against the ban on the use of Hijab in Lagos.
On July 21 2016, a five-man panel of the appellate court unanimously held that the ban on Hijab which had been on for years in Lagos schools, violated the fundamental human rights of the Muslim students and therefore wrongful and unconstitutional.
In his lead judgement, Justice Gumel further held that since the use of the Hijab by female Muslim students doesn’t violate any known law and does not infringe on the rights of other members of the society, the government cannot ban or restrict the use of the Muslim headscarf usually worn on school uniforms both within and outside the school premises.
The Executive Director of HRAI, Barrister Mutiat Orolu-Balogun, in a press statement marking the fourth anniversary of the historic judgement, said it is disheartening to hear that female Muslims continue to contend with series of harassment and molestation for donning the Hijab.
The group recalled the significance of Thursday, July 21, 2016 in the advocacy for Hijab, as it bemoans the unending victimisation of Muslims for wearing the Hijab.
Barrister Orolu-Balogun said, “July 21 is significant in the fight for Justice and Human Rights. On the 21st of July 2016, a full Panel of the Court of Appeal sitting in Lagos, affirmed the right of Muslim girls to wear the Hijab whether in school or outside it, in the celebrated case of Asiyat AbdulKareem V. LASG.
“Still, today, in the year 2020 before the closure of schools due to COVID-19, we still find that Muslim girls are being persecuted everyday for upholding their God-given rights as protected by the constitution”, she added.
According to her, “Even adult students such as Nursing Students in the School of Nursing Igando, a higher institution owned by Lagos State, are being stripped naked of their constitutionally protected Rights, despite this court judgement and also the regulation of the Nursing and Midwifery Council upholding their rights to wear the Hijab.
“Muslim women wearing the hijab are faced with discrimination and antagonism almost in all facets of the society, from schools, to work, to public institutions and agencies and in some cases from their own families.”
Orolu also urged parents to encourage their daughters to use the Hijab without hindrances, alluding to the recent case of Basheerah Taiye Yunus and Medina Shehu in Ilorin, Kwara State capital, who accused their parents of maltreating them.
“The Case of Basheerah Taiye Yunus and Medina Shehu whom their families assaulted and in the case of Ms Medina who was also raped for wearing the Hijab. While we agree that there maybe other underlying factors, the information released to the public as well as our own investigation show that the wearing of Hijab by these two ladies is also at the heart of the matter.
“While we uphold and affirm the sacred position of parents in Islam and the obligation for children to respect and honour their parents; we also urge the parents of these ladies to remember that our children are trusts placed in our care by God and in all situations, we should avoid transgressing on the limits set by God Himself.
“Furthermore, we must take counsel from the words of our Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) ; “Help your brother whether he is the oppressor or the oppressed… If he is the oppressor, prevent him from oppressing other” (Sahih Muslim Book 32, Number 6254).”
The HRAI also announced its intention to organise a conference where Muslim women would be taught how to protect themselves against discrimination and sundry issues.
“We at Hijab Rights Advocacy Initiative hereby renew our commitment to continue to stand up for the rights of Muslim women to wear their hijab, freely and without any discrimination.
“To this end, we shall be having our conference tagged ‘’In the Defence of Hijab” where we shall be exploring what Hijabis can do to defend themselves when they face discrimination as well as other issues affecting the Hijab in general.
“Please keep up with us on our various social media pages on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Thank you and God Bless,” the statement concluded.