By Amidu Arije
A Coalition of Muslim has decried the continued discrimination and harassment of hijab-wearing Muslim girls in public schools, nursing and midwifery school in Lagos and Nigeria as a whole.
The group at a press conference in Lagos on Monday, 1 February 2021 in commemoration of the World Hijab Day, a day set aside to celebrate, encourage and enlighten the world on the virtues of the use of hijab decreed by Allah, said the discrimination against the persons using the hijab is a violation of their fundamental human rights.
In the message by the leader of the Muslim Coalition, Hajia Mutiat Orolu said the government must ensure that the rights of the Muslim woman as enshrined in the constitution is respected by all government ministries and agencies to guarantee and respect their dignity of person.
Orolu cited many cases of where the hijab-wearing Muslim girls have been embarrassed, harassed and intimidated by some elements in the government schools, ministries and agencies.
She said, “The issue of continuous harassment of our daughters in Lagos State-Owned secondary schools, is an issue that has always been at the fore. We have made the position of the law and court judgements clear and known on this matter on several occasions, had meetings to suggest a peaceful resolution, and advocated for the rights of our children. However, our daughters are still being traumatized, by the very same people who are meant to mould and protect them. The very same people who are meant to uphold and teach our daughters to obey the laws of the land and be patriotic.”
She stated further that school owners and principals in charge of external and internal examination bodies and their officials do force Muslim girls to remove their hijab before their data can be captured, this Orolu said it is against the principle of these examination bodies which allow the use of hijab.
“Despite the fact, the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) and the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) have stated clearly, that the hijab is allowed for both registration and writing of exams, we still see that some school owners and principals still prevent our daughters. Even on the day of their all-important exams, they are singled out and forced to choose between their faith and writing their exams.
Data capturing for biometrics is another hurdle Muslim Women in Hijab must cross. While the constitutional provisions support the wearing of the hijab and The Nigeria Biometrics Standards Regulations, 2017 (Federal Republic of Nigeria Official Gazette No. 117 1st November, 2017 Vol. 104) as well as guidelines on Biometric Standards published by the National Identity Management Commission states “If an applicant wears a head covering for religious purposes (e.g.hijabs) or on medical grounds (e.g. eye patches), a photograph of the applicant wearing it will be accepted provided all facial features from bottom of the chin to top of the forehead (including both edges of the applicant’s face) are clearly shown”. Muslim women are still been forced to either bare their ears or remove their hijab completely especially when applying for international passports. The claim of the officials is that it is ‘an order from above” or a new regulation which we are not allowed to see or examine. Not minding the fact, that such fictitious regulation will be rendered Null and void and of no consequence whatsoever as it contradicts a constitutional provision,” she said.
Listing their demand before the government, the Muslim Coalition, said, “therefore, we Muslim Women and well-meaning Nigerians:
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.
“Urge all regulatory authorityties 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 corporate bodies that are not registered religious organizations, 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 to forestall this issue from recurring exponentially.
“For us all to stand up for the rights of the girl child and not ask her to choose between her faith and an Education.
For Hijabophobia to be completely obliterated from our society as it affects the social, economic and political development of our country.”