No fewer than twenty Islamic organisations across the country have demanded immediate stop to harassment of female Muslims in Hijab, alleging that there was a “sinister design” to frustrate the education of Muslim girl-child.
Commemorating the World Hijab Day, February 1, recently, the organisations in a world press conference held at Lagos Secretariat Central Mosque, Ikeja, made a five-point demand vowing that further harassment or embarrassment of Muslim ladies by any individual or group of persons would not be tolerated, adding that since a decade ago, the harassment of Muslims girls have been a recurring decimal in Nigeria but authorities have done little or nothing to stop it.
The 2022 World Hijab Day which was themed Hijab is our Crown, not A Crime is organised across the world as a reiteration of the disapproval of continuous harassment of females in schools and workplaces also to put an end to such practices.
Members of the Coalition
The organisations include Nasrul-lahi-li Fathi Society of Nigeria (NASFAT); Muslim Students’ Society of Nigeria (MSSN) Lagos state Area Unit; Federation of Muslim Women Association of Nigeria (FOMWAN) Lagos State chapter; Muslim Public Affairs Centre (MPAC); Lagos Secretariat Community Central Mosque (LSCCM); Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC); Pristine Cactus Foundation; The Criterion; Al Muminaat (The Believing Women) Organisation; Guild of Muslim Professionals (GMP); International Muslim Women Union (IMWU); Pure Heart Islamic Foundation (PHF) Lagos State chapter; Hijab Rights Advocacy Initiative; National Council of Muslim Youths Organisations (NACOMYO); Muslim Media Practitioners of Nigeria (MMPN); Obafemi Awolowo University Muslim Graduates Association (UNIFEMGA); Islamic Medical Association of Nigeria (IMAN) and Women in Dawah.
The five-point demand
Executive Director, Hijab Rights Advocacy Initiative, Hajia Mutiat Orolu-Balogun who addressed newsmen on behalf of other 20 Islamic organisations, urged the President Muhammadu Buhari, state governors, National and State Assembly members, the Judiciary and all regulatory authorities to uphold the provisions of the constitution and also other relevant laws, to ensure that Hijab wearing female Muslims are not harassed and or faced any kind of discrimination.
The group also demanded that as a matter of urgency, the re-orientation of Nigerians on their rights and that of other citizens must be carried out by the relevant agency.
It also implored 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.
It requested that government should compel all institutions, agencies and bodies to prevent their staff and agents from discriminating against Hijab wearing Muslim women and refusing those services because of the Hijab as well as applying punitive measures to forestall further re-occurrence of such harassment exponentially.
The group also urged government to build an all inclusive society which will not require a Muslim girl or Woman to choose between her faith and education for positive contribution to the society.“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 inalienable Human Rights.
“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 of 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.
“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 education, employment or public services open to all citizens their Hijab becomes a 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 were 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 re-orientate ourselves on the need to not treat people differently, simply because they look different or do not share the same faith as us.