Taking stock of the past year, our Hijab has had its undue share of pains in Nigeria. We have come under attack like never before and this has increased in us the will and strength to fight on for our constitutional rights using all means devoid of violence.
The Nigerian government through its Ministries, Departments and Agencies, (MDAs), companies schools; private and public, and bigoted individuals have demonstrated hatred for Islam and Muslims. Of particular attention today is the treatment meted out to Muslim girls and ladies wearing the hijab.
Although we have a subsisting court judgement permitting the use of hijab in schools, some school heads in Lagos State have repeatedly flouted this and demonstrated contempt for this ruling. Almost on a daily basis, secondary school students call in to lay complaints of a staff member of their schools forcing them to pull off their hijab.
From Lagos state schools to the University of Ibadan international school, Ibadan to Ladoke Akintola University of Technology Staff school, Oyo States to Schools of Nursing in the Southwest, the sad story is the same. We have thus concluded that there is a grand plan playing out.
A plan to either stop Muslim girls, the Muslim Girl-children from being educated or change their religion; a colonial missionary policy in post-independent Nigeria! Meanwhile, we want the world to see us as a state working to increase enrolment, reduce out-of-school children, and increase access to education for the girl-child thus empowering the women. We want the world to believe that we are assiduously working to attain Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
We would not fold our hands and watch our children being denied of their rights to quality life that education could bring. We would not be returned to a position where we were denied our rights to practice our religion, forced to read songs of praise, have our names changed and practice a religion other than Islam.
It is obvious that sisters in hijab are attaining success upon success in their various endeavours. From schools to professions and even in businesses. We are shattering stereotypes of backwardness and breaking barriers. We are changing the narratives of failures to high achievements.
In recent times we have had a Sister in Hijab as the youngest graduating doctor from the College of Medicine of the University of Lagos Dr Maryam AbdulJelil Raji. Maryam Adegbite with 4.91 CGPA, was the best graduating student in UNIOSUN in 2018. The best graduating student in the University of Ilorin 2017 was a sister in hijab too.
We have recorded sisters in Hijab being called to the Nigerian Bar after our heroine Barr. Firdaus Amasa Oba, the pacesetter. Today, we also have scores of sisters in their hijab practising in various professions even as senior consultants in secondary and tertiary health facilities across the length and breadth of Nigeria.
This is just the beginning. Failure stories have stopped. The narratives have changed too. The future is bright for overtaking and the signal is clear and evident. This situation isn’t going down well with some people in some quarters.
They are jittery! But that is not our concern. We are using this medium to tell our fellow Nigerians and the world at large that we shall get our constitutional rights. This is assured.
We repose our confidence in Allah, the Creator, and every available legal instrument that have given unassailable backing. Thus, discriminating against Muslims in hijab must stop forthwith.
Al-Mu’minaat and the Muslim community will not overlook it. Individuals and groups, public or private who engage in discrimination or profiling of Muslims in Hijab will be duly taken up through all non-violence means.
Is it too much to ask to be allowed to be Muslims?
To practice same in peace while not infringing on other people’s rights? We do not know how Muslim girls’ hijab affects negatively her colleagues in schools or workplaces or even neighbours. Allow us to be Muslims indeed and in truth as the constitution has guaranteed us this inalienable right.
The freedom to practice any religion in Nigeria is guaranteed and circumscribed in Section 38 (1) of the 1999 Constitution as amended.
It states: “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.”
It is abundantly clear that our right to practice our desired religion is guaranteed under the law and as such, Muslims are entitled to wear their Hijab anywhere as it is part and parcel of their religion. By this, any act of restraining Muslim girls from using their hijab while in school is a direct violation of their right to freedom of religion and freedom to practice the same.
We hereby acknowledge the unity of Muslims and Muslim organisations on this struggle for our rights across the country, while calling on all well-meaning Nigerians to join hands with us to put a stop to this unconstitutional discrimination against Islam and Muslims.
An injury to one is an injury to all. The Muslim girl-children will continue to go to school, attain success here and hereafter.
We also call on the government at all levels to act fast and direct all its agencies, departments to stop unwarranted discrimination against Muslim girls in hijab. Continuous silence on the vesting hijab crisis is not golden at all because those who make peaceful change impossible are indirectly making violent change inevitable. And that is not the way to go in a country already battling with various challenges.
By Hajiya Nimatullah Abdul-Quadri, National Amirah (President), Al-Mu’minaat (The Believing Women) Organisation.