The Muslim Congress (TMC) has petitioned the presidency over the incessant intimidation on Muslims girls and ladies on the hijab, stressing the need for protection of their fundamental human right to freely practice their religion without fear or molestation.
The petition, signed by the Amir (President) of TMC, Dr Luqman AbdurRaheem, was copied to President Muhammadu Buhari and the Senate President, Bukola Saraki and made available to The Renaissance on Sunday in Lagos,
It reads partially: “In recent times, TMC has been inundated with several complaints regarding the harassment and molestation of hijab-wearing girls and women in public schools and places of work.
“It may interest your excellencies that there are a number of pending cases on hijab in courts in several parts of South-Western Nigeria.
“We are shocked that in spite of the sensitive nature of this issue, the Federal Government of Nigeria whose jurisdiction covers the length and breadth of Nigeria would choose to be silent and unperturbed in the face of the injustice being meted out to a section of its citizens.
“We believe that the presidency and the National Assembly have very critical roles to play in improving the plight of hijab-wearing girls and women in Nigeria, by ensuring that their fundamental human right of freedom of religion is not eroded”
AbdurRahman queried: “Why would a girl-child in the north be protected to attend school with hijab and her counterpart in the south is denied same and is forced to choose between pursuing her education and abandoning her faith when we are all supposed to be treated equally under the same constitution? Is this how unity and oneness will be built in a democratic and heterogeneous society?”
He stated that: “For long, Muslims of the South-West have been at the receiving end of the dubious classification of Nigeria as ‘Muslim-North/Christian-South,
“To be emphatic, Muslims are a demographic majority in the South-West and would reject every attempt to be reduced to second class citizens.”
The TMC Amir, however, reminded that there have been court pronouncements and verdicts that support the right of the Muslim girl-child and woman to don the hijab in public places.
“What a government that swore to uphold the constitution ought to do, through the office of the Attorney-General, is to give effect to those legal pronouncements by criminalising the victimisation of hijab-wearing girls and women by anyone,” he said.
Citing Quran Chapter 24 verse 31 and 33:59 as well as the constitution, he said: “As one of the voices of the Muslims in Southern Nigeria, TMC asserts that hijab is the fundamental human right of Muslim females – a right protected by both the Qur’an and the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
Also, he said the 1999 Constitution (As Amended) in Section 38 (1) and Section 42 (1) (a) supports the right of Muslim women to wear their Hijab. Section 38 (1) states that “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 private) to manifest and propagate his religion or belief in worship, teaching, practice and observance.”
He, therefore, expressed concerns that notwithstanding the constitutional back up, there has been a catalogue of abuses of Muslim girls and women that have reached endemic proportions in public institutions, citing cases in Lagos, Osun and Oyo States.
AbdurRaheem said: “We are of the strong opinion that the on-going discrimination against hijab-wearing girls is deliberate in order to discourage them from pursuing their education.
“Some Hijab-wearing students were allegedly denied entry into the examination hall during the recently-concluded JAMB’s Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME).
“We have since come to the conclusion that there is a meticulous plan by the Islamophobic elements and enemies of religious diversity to either stop Muslim girls from being educated or to change their religion outright.
“Discrimination against Muslim women makes everyday life even harder instead of protecting and reaffirming their rights.
“It is also a direct threat to their wellbeing.
“This discrimination encourages hate speech which in turn widens the gulf in ethnic and religious differences.”