A coalition of Muslim organisations in Nigeria has urged President Muhammadu Buhari, governors, the National Assembly, state Houses of Assembly, the judiciary and all regulatory authorities to uphold the provisions of the constitution and other relevant laws to ensure that hijab-wearing Muslim women are not harassed and discriminated against.
The groups made the plea at a joint press conference held on Monday in Lagos in commemoration of the World Hijab Day 2021.
The coalition comprises the Muslim Students’ Society of Nigeria (MSSN), Lagos State Area Unit, Al Muminaat (the Believing Women) Organisation, Hijab Rights Advocacy Initiative, Nasrul-lahi-li Fathi Society of Nigeria (NASFAT), Federation of Muslim Women’s Associations in Nigeria (FOMWAN, Lagos), Muslim Public Affairs Centre (MPAC), Ansar-Ud-Deen Youth Association of Nigeria (ADYAN), Guild of Muslim Professionals (GMP), Lagos Secretariat Community Central Mosque (LSCCM), Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC), Pristine Cactus Foundation, The Criterion, International Muslim Women Union (IMWU), National Council of Muslim Youth Organisations (NACOMYO) and Pure Heart Islamic Foundation.
The groups appealed to all regulatory authorities to sensitise their staff members and agents on the rights of fellow citizens as guaranteed by the constitution and other regulations, to forestall further conflicts in the future.
They requested that all regulatory authorities and corporate bodies that are not registered religious organisations be compelled to prevent their staff members and agents from discriminating against hijab-wearing Muslim women and refusing them services because of the hijab.
The groups advocated the enforcement of the rights of the girl-child in order to prevent her from being asked to choose between her faith and education.
They called for the eradication of “hijabophobia from our society as it affects the social, economic and political development of our country.”
A prepared speech delivered at the press conference reads in part: “Covering our heads, bodies and faces poses no security threat. We do not need to expose or bare our ears before we can be identified. Yet with all these, the irrational fear of the hijab is what a Muslim woman deals with almost on a daily basis.
“It therefore seems that the only time Muslim women are free from discrimination is when they cast votes at elections or when they are paying customers, as these companies who would gladly take their money despite the fact that they wear hijab, will not employ them as staff even when they have certified them competent to be employed.
“At this point, it is important yet again to state that the hijab is a commandment of God which we Muslim women gladly follow.
“Therefore, the hijab is compulsory for every Muslim woman and thus is not a fashion item or a cultural garb that may be dispensed with in formal or official gatherings or institutions. And the right to believe in and practise one’s chosen faith is an inalienable right of every human being, as entrenched in the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended). Wearing the hijab by the Muslim woman is the practical application of this constitutional provision.
“It is also important to emphasise that it is compulsory for a Muslim woman to wear the hijab any time she is to step outside her house or in the presence of those that are not close family members.
“The hijab is worn everywhere and every time by the Muslim woman, at work, play even during her wedding ceremony, and when she dies, she is buried wearing one.
“From what is observed in our society, other religious garbs are worn specifically during a religious ceremony like the choir robe in church, the white garments by celestial churches and even the ihram worn by Muslim men during hajj (holy pilgrimage to Mecca).
“These garments are not worn on a day-to-day basis by the adherents of these faiths. And if they so desire to wear them every day, and everywhere, the constitution backs them up.
“We should understand that religious tolerance is not about trying to fit into another person’s viewpoint and covering up our differences, rather it is understanding and respecting those differences and accommodating each other as much as possible.”