* Seeks end to discrimination against hijab-wearing Muslims
Thousands of Nigerian Muslim women and students joined their counterparts from over 150 countries across the globe to commemorate the 2024 World Hijab Day with a series of activities.
The commemoration is aimed at sensitising the public on the right of Muslim women to use the hijab and seek an end to discrimination against the use of hijab in private and public institutions.
Female leaders of 18 leading Muslim organisations converged at the popular Alausa Secretariat Mosque Hall, Ikeja, Lagos for this year’s World Hijab Day press conference, with an inspiring theme; “Veiled in Strength”.
Marking the 11th edition, World Hijab Day was founded by a social activist, Nazma Khan, a Bangladeshi American in 2013 to celebrate women who choose to wear the hijab and counter hijabophobia through raised awareness and improved education about the traditional Muslim head cover.
At the Lagos press conference held on Wednesday, January 31, the eve of the global commemoration on February 1, Muslim women decried the discrimination and persecution of Muslim women and girls over the use of the hijab.
The coalition lamented that discrimination has persisted despite the Supreme Court judgment in favour of hijab use by Muslim women as their fundamental human right.
The Director of Hijab Rights Advocacy Initiative, Hajia Mutiat Orolu-Balogun said WHD is a reminder of the profound significance of the hijab and the strength it embodies for Muslim women worldwide.
“Under the theme: ‘Veiled in Strength’, we reflect on the resilience and dignity of Muslim women who choose to wear the hijab as a symbol of their faith and identity. Our dress code was given to us by God as stated in Qur’an 33V59 and we Muslim women uphold our religious obligation to obey as God has commanded, despite the challenges,” she said.
She noted that it takes strength and faith to wear the hijab, particularly in today’s world despite the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion guaranteed by the constitution.
“The laws regulating these matters recognise and permit the use of the hijab, yet, some public officers use their positions to infringe on the rights of Muslim women.
“Just a few days ago, Mrs. Apampa was travelling for Umrah (lesser Hajj) and was asked by two immigration Officers to remove her Hijab or bare her ears before she could be cleared to pass through immigration to board her flight. The travel documents of Mrs. Apampa, her international passport and visa, all had her pictures with her hijab intact, just as she presented herself at the airport.”
Nasrul-Lahi-l-Fatih Society of Nigeria (NASFAT), Women Affairs Secretary, Alhaja Suwebat Kupolati, said Muslim women should not be asked to compromise their religious beliefs nor have their fundamental human rights infringed upon during their biometric process.
She called on the Director General of the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), Ms. Abisoye Coker-Odusote, to ensure officials and agents of the Commission are properly briefed on this matter now that the training programme is ongoing.
Ameerah, Muslim Students’ Society of Nigeria (MSSN), Lagos, Rafiah Tijani, said WAEC registration is ongoing in Lagos State public schools and the society has received several reports of students being asked to take off their hijabs or bear their ears before they can be registered.
“The issue of registration and writing of examinations, such as WAEC, NECO, and JAMB, must be addressed to ensure that Muslim girls are not subjected to discrimination.”
She called on the Commissioner of Basic Education, Mr. Jamiu Alli-Balogun to look into this matter urgently.
Representative of the Muslim Public Affairs Centre (MPAC), Hajia Roqeebah Solanke, called on the Inspector General of Police to sensitize officers in the force on the rights of defendants and upholding the presumption of innocence until a court of competent jurisdiction pronounces a defendant guilty.
“It is imperative to address the plight faced by defendants, particularly hijab-wearing individuals, and those accused of crimes or wrongdoing. Despite the fundamental presumption of innocence, the experience of a sister detained in a police station often involves the unjust stripping of her hijab and niqab, sometimes even her outer garments. Such actions not only violate her constitutional rights to dignity but also contravenes our nation’s commitment to the fair treatment of all individuals, regardless of their legal status. Our laws unequivocally prohibit torture and ill-treatment of prisoners, reaffirming our collective commitment to justice and human rights.”
Representative of the Federation of Muslim Women Association in Nigeria (FOMWAN), Alhaja Kudrat Ogunmuyiwa, celebrated the remarkable achievements of Muslim women in hijab over the past year, both in Nigeria and worldwide.
“Muslim women continue to inspire and uplift their communities through their exemplary contributions. We also celebrate our sister, Dr. Aminat Ige-Ariyibi for bagging the award for best PhD thesis at the 54th convocation ceremony at the University of Lagos. We pray Allah to bless it for her and many other Muslim women making a difference, whether as housewives, mothers, career women, entrepreneurs, or even political and community leaders. We see you, and we celebrate you.
“We remember our sisters and children in Gaza, who still maintain their hijabs despite the ongoing war, bombing and displacement from their homes. Many of them sleep with their hijabs whether they survive or not, they are still with their hijabs. They truly have embodied the theme: “Veiled in Strength”. We call on the international community to call for an end to the ongoing genocide in Palestine and we pray for Allah’s help and victory.”
The International Muslim Women Union (IMWU), represented by Hajia Khadijah Ajibade-Yusuf, urged the media to focus on hijab-related issues and disseminate the Supreme Court’s hijab injunction for accessibility by school principals and teachers.
Amirah Al-Mu’minaat (The Believing Women) Organisation, Lagos, Hajia Bilqees Abdullah emphasized the strength of wearing the hijab as a choice to submit to Allah, dispelling stereotypes of oppression.
“To those who say Muslim women in hijab are oppressed, we say come let us educate you. The hijab represents our liberation from man-made guidelines that have been set to objectify women; to make her a thing to please men, a thing to fulfil the desire of their lustful eyes. Hence she adorns the hijab to fulfil the injunction of Allah in the Qur’an and chooses to live a life of modesty.
According to her, the hijab is a sign of Muslim women’s strong will to submit to Allah In ease or adversity.
The coalition comprises Hijab Rights Advocacy Initiative, FOMWAN Lagos, Nasrul-Lahi-l-Fatih Society (NASFAT), Pure Heart Islamic Foundation, Al-Mu’minaat, MSSN Lagos State Area Unit, An Nujabau Female Forum, Izharul Haq Movement of Nigeria, The Criterion Lagos District, International Muslim Women Union (IMWU), Islamic Medical Association of Nigeria (IMAN), and Lagos Secretariat Community Central Mosque.
Others are the Muslim Public Affairs Centre (MPAC), Akhwaat Muslimat Organization, Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC), Guild of Muslim Professionals, Muslim Media Practitioners of Nigeria and Pristine Cactus Foundation, among others.
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