PRESS CONFERENCE IN COMMEMORATION WORLD HIJAB DAY 2022, TODAY TUESDAY 1ST OF FEBRUARY 2022 WITH THEME: HIJAB IS MY CROWN AND NOT A CRIME
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Fellow Hijab Advocates,
Gentlemen of the Press,
I welcome you to this Press conference held to commemorate the World Hijab Day 2022.
It is 10 years since the start of the World Hijab Day to serve a means of advocacy of the Rights of Muslim women to wear their Hijab. This is an international movement against the Dehumanisation, Discrimination and Disenfranchisement of Muslim women who have faced abuse, all because they are dressed in conformity with their faith, a freedom that is an inalienable Human Rights.
This year’s theme is Hijab is my crown and not a crime. This theme could not have come at a better time, as Muslim women are being harassed, abused and treated like criminals for wearing the hijab. The Hijab is a divine garment, prescribed for Muslim women as a means of worship and identity. It is thus always a show of crass ignorance when some people try to “convince’’ Muslim women, that our dressing is just an appropriation of the Arab culture or a protection from harsh desert conditions and thus has no use or need to be worn.
While there exists a global movement for the freedom of women and freedom to make their choices concerning their bodies and certainly concerning their dress, this 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 seems not to be extended to the Muslim girl child.
In Nigeria in particular we see daily instances where Muslim women are being subjected to hardships and denial of basic rights and services due to the Hijab. The Immigration office at Ibadan in Oyo state, still deny Muslim women from obtaining and International passports if they fail to remove their Hijab or bare their ears.
Some schools in Lagos State have continue to deprive Muslim girls who wish to wear the Hijab, inconformity with their faith from doing so. They would rather that such students not attend classes, than to do so with their Hijab. These are individuals employed by the government who derives its powers form the people. Yet they are allowed to use their offices to victimized members of the public, in this case children, with any consequence whatsoever.
Again, how can we quickly forget the continuous harassment of Muslim women in Niqab in the Federal university of Agriculture, Abeokuta (FUNAAB) as well as the dehumanising treatment òf a nursing student in the Ladoke Akintola University, (LAUTECH), Ogbomoso and the Obafemi Awolowo University Teaching Hospitals, Ile-Ife. All these harassments are still meted out daily to Muslim sisters, despite the constitutional provisions and several superior court judgements on this matter. It will be necessary to state verbatim those constitutional provisions.
Sec38. (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.
The Court of Appeal has upheld the use of the Hijab and even the Niqab as being consonance with the provisions of Section 38(1) of the 1999 constitution (as amended), hence, a fundamental right. Please refer to CA/IL/49/2009 between PROVOST, KWARA COLLEGE OF EDUCATION, ILORIN VS. BASIRAT SALIU and CA/L/135/2015 between LAGOS STATE VS. MISS ASIYAT ABDULKAREEM (2016) 15 NWLR (Pt. 1535) 177.
The constitution again expressly provides the Freedom from discrimination by stating
42. (1) A citizen of Nigeria of a particular community, ethnic group, place of origin, sex, religion or political opinion shall not, by reason only that he is such a person:-
(a) be subjected either expressly by, or in the practical application of, any law in force in Nigeria or any executive or administrative action of the government, to disabilities or restrictions to which citizens of Nigeria of other communities, ethnic groups, places of origin, sex, religion or political opinions are not made subject;
While most are aware of these constitutional provisions, it seems there is still a good amount of misunderstanding about the supremacy of the constitution as well as the special place of the Fundamental rights provisions. To enunciate further, the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended States
1) This Constitution is supreme and its provisions shall have binding force on the authorities and persons throughout the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
(2) The Federal Republic of Nigeria shall not be governed, nor shall any persons or group of persons take control of the Government of Nigeria or any part thereof, except in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution.
(3) If any other law is inconsistent with the provisions of this Constitution, this Constitution shall prevail, and that other law shall, to the extent of the inconsistency, be void.
Therefore, if any law, regulation or administrative practice is made in contradiction to the provisions of this constitution, it would be null and void, to the extent of its inconsistency. This again was reaffirmed by the court in FATIMOH RASAK v. COMMISSIONER OF HEALTH, SCHOOL OF HEALTH TECH &ORS SUIT NO:1D/424/04.
Where the school banned Muslim Students from writing exams, because they were wearing hijab. Thus to continue to single out Muslim women for abuse and ridicule because of their faith has no place in a developed society.
The United Nations of which Nigeria is a member country promotes the Sustainable Development Goals.
The Goal 16 is dedicated to the promotion of peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, the provision of access to justice for all, and building effective, accountable institutions at all levels. For there to be a peaceful and inclusive society, Muslim women and girls cannot be left behind. Public officials who make policies to exclude Muslim women, or who carry out acts or omissions to these effect, must be held accountable.
It is common knowledge that when Muslim women are found at the lower strata of the society, or are uneducated, no one pays attention to how they are dressed. However, we find most opposition to when Muslim women and girls want to get an education, employment or public services open to all citizens their Hijab is in question. I cannot but agree with quote that “The consistent denial of Muslim girls’ Right to Hijab seems to follow a grand and sinister design to discourage Muslim girls from Education by those who wanted them permanently at the background so as not to contribute positively to family, community, National and Global development’.
This can be the only logical conclusion one can reach when some Federal Government colleges like Queens College and many government owned schools still ask Muslim girls to choose been their faith and getting educated; both of which are not mutually exclusive. The principals of these schools have ascribed unholy power unto themselves and have defied law, court judgments and good conscience and even the laws setting them up, by denying the right to wear the Hijab by these students.
Despite all these challenges, Muslim women and girls have worked three times as hard, shown commitment and resilience and are now trailblazing in their chosen fields. To Aisha Abiola a Niqabi and a first class graduate of economics from the prestigious University of Lagos, to the newly confirmed Prof M.O Balogun, a Professor in Developmental Genetics at the University of Ibadan and the many other Muslim women doing us proud, we say congratulations!!! We hope your shining examples will be taken as a positive reinforcement on the need to end discrimination against Muslim women and girls.
Apart from the institutional discrimination , we also find dehumanising treatment being meted out to Muslim sisters in the social circles. On 4th of November 2021, a Muslim Woman walks into Crush café in Abuja after attending the International Youth Conference to wait for a colleague who suggested the venue. She was wearing and Hijab and carrying her travelling bag and hand bag. She was thoroughly searched, and when the security personnel in charge was satisfied, she was let in and she ordered a mock tail.
About Fifteen minutes later, some other customers walked in and spoke with the same security personnel, who then came to ask her to leave. No plausible excuse was given, but later told she was making other customers uncomfortable.
Although the owner of the café apologized, this incident, should not have happened in the first place.
Our collective conscience as Nigerians must bleed for these type of incidents. This is no different from what our brothers and sisters faced under the apartheid regime in South Africa. It is important that we reorientate ourselves on the need to not treat people differently, simply because they look different or do not share the same faith as us.
It is also important to point out the excesses of some media oulets, individuals who peddle fake news and those that use social media to misrepresent the personality of the Muslim women in Hijab and the Niqab, in the name of making movies, comedy skits/Pranks and chasing clout! This extends to some religious leaders who use their pulpit to spread hate speech instead to preaching love and peace as enjoined by all religions. These deliberate actions add to how Muslim women are perceived in the society and consequently treated.
This year, twenty Islamic organisations from all over Nigeria have come together to demand what is due to all Muslim women and girls . Our Demands are no different from what we have clamoured for since a decade ago.
Therefore, we Muslim women and Girls, being citizens of Nigeria and being entitled to same rights as other citizens
Urge the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Governors of States, the National Assembly, State Houses of Assembly, the Judiciary and all regulatory authorities to uphold the provisions of the constitution and also other relevant laws, to ensure that Hijab wearing Muslim Women are not harassed and discriminated against.
A re-orientation of Nigerians on their Rights and that of other citizens must be carried out by the relevant agency as a matter of urgency.
Urge all regulatory authorities to sensitize their staff and agents on the Rights of fellow citizens as guaranteed by the constitution and other regulations to forestall further conflicts in the future.
Compel all regulatory authorities and bodies to prevent their staff and agents from discriminating against Hijab wearing Muslim women and refusing them services because of the Hijab and adding punitive measures in order to forestall this issue from recurring exponentially.
We must build an all inclusive society and not require a Muslim girl or Woman to choose between her faith and education or positive contribution to the society.
REMEMBER HIJAB IS OUR CROWN AND NOT A CRIME!
God Bless you
And God Bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Thank you very much.
A COALITION OF MUSLIM ORGANISATIONS ORGANISING WORLD HIJAB DAY 2022
- Muslim Students’ Society of Nigeria Lagos state Area Unit
- Nasrul-lahi-li Fathi Society of Nigeria (NASFAT)
- Al Muminaat (The Believing Women) Organisation
- Hijab Rights Advocacy Initiative
- Federation of Muslim Women Association of Nigeria (FOMWAN Lagos)
- Muslim Public Affairs Centre ( MPAC)
- Guild of Muslim Professionals ( GMP)
- Lagos Secretariat Community Central Mosque ( LSCCM)
- Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC)
- Pristine Cactus Foundation
- The Criterion
- International Muslim Women Union (IMWU)
- Pure Heart Islamic Foundation (PHF Lagos)
- Muslim Media Practitioners of Nigeria
- Obafemi Awolowo University Muslim Graduates Association ( Unifemga)
- Islamic Medical association of Nigeria ( IMAN)
- Women in Dawah
- Izarul Haq Movement of Nigeria
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