In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful

 

Press Release: FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

MPAC and Hijab Rights Advocacy Initiative Commemorates World Hijab Day

Friday, 1 January 2019
Lagos, Nigeria
2019 World Hijab Day Joint Press Conference

BEING THE PRESS CONFERENCE HELD BY HIJAB RIGHTS ADVOCACY INITIATIVE AND MUSLIM PUBLIC AFFAIRS CENTRE MPAC IN COMMEMORATION OF THE WORLD HIJAB DAY HELD ON THE 1ST OF FEBRUARY 2019 AT THE MPAC CONFERENCE HALL, OPEBI LAGOS.

Fellow Hijab Advocates,

Gentlemen of the Press, Ladies and Gentlemen.

I welcome you to this Press Conference held to commemorate the World Hijab Day 2019.

The 1st of February every year, which has been dedicated to creating awareness about the right of Muslim Women to adorn the Hijab, is in its seventh year. The theme for World Hijab Day 2019 is “Breaking Stereotypes; Shattering Boundaries.”

We at Hijab Rights Advocacy Initiative in our struggle for the rights of Muslim women to wear the Hijab without discrimination have recorded several successes. However, there has also been more challenges and drawbacks.

Muslim Lawyers can now finally wear their Hijab for the call to the bar ceremony and unhindered when they appear in court. While giving praise to Allah for His mercies, we also appreciate the efforts of everyone on this long and tedious journey especially Barr. Firdaous Amasa for standing up for the rights of Muslim Women. Her name has been forever etched in the Cornerstone of History for her peaceful advocacy, self-sacrifice and standing up for the rights of Muslim women, whoever they may be and where ever they are.

It is our sincere prayer that she meets her reward fully with her Lord. We also appreciate the Body of Benchers, who looked swiftly into the matter and upheld the fundamental rights of Muslim Women. Despite this huge success, we still have reports of abuse and discrimination in some law schools as well as during court proceedings.

The Lagos State Government has finally issued a circular through its Tutor Generals reaffirming the Court of Appeal’s judgement on the Rights of Muslim girls to wear their Hijab, but now more than ever we are receiving confirmed reports of abuse of our girls, every day in secondary schools across Lagos State.

To further aid our understanding, the Hijab is a Religious Obligation of Muslim Women, and this fact is well established not only in Islamic Law but also by several courts in Nigeria and internationally.

This is evidenced in Quran 24:31

“And tell the believing women to lower their gaze  and protect their private parts  and not to show off their adornment except only that which is apparent  and to draw their veils all over Juyubihinna (i.e. their bodies, necks and bosoms, etc.) and not to reveal their adornment except to their husbands, their fathers, their husband’s fathers, their sons, their husband’s sons, their brothers or their brother’s sons, or their sister’s sons, or their women, or the (female) slaves whom their right hands possess, or old male servants who lack vigour, or small children who have no sense of the shame of sex. And let them not stamp their feet so as to reveal what they hide of their adornment. And all of you beg Allah to forgive you all, O believers, that you may be successful. see also Quran 33:59. Hence we can deduce that Hijab is not a culture or a fashion statement or accessory. It is a commandment of God to all Muslim women and girls that have attained puberty.

In the case of Provost Kwara State College of Education v. Basirat Saliu & ors which was also extensively quoted and relied upon in the case of Asiyat Abdulkareem v. Lagos State, the Court of Appeal held

(A matter ex debito justiciae is one which a litigant is entitled merely upon the asking for it; as opposed to something which may be a matter of judicial discretion or determination.)

Therefore 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)

Sec38. (1) 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.

(2) No person attending any place of education shall be required to receive religious instruction or to take part in or attend any religious ceremony or observance if such instruction, ceremony or observance relates to a religion other than his own, or religion not approved by his parent or guardian.

In October 2016, Hawaw Saliu Olatunji a qualified radiographer was not allowed to partake in a job interview when by Dr Yewande Jinadu, the former CMD of Federal Medical Centre Ebute Metta sent her out of the premises because she was wearing the hijab. On the 10th of January 2019, the National Industrial Court held that this was discriminatory and infraction of her rights.

We should remember that the Grudnorm of our country the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended also provides Section 42[1][a] provides thus:

“A citizen of Nigeria of a particular community, ethnic group, place of origin, sex, religion or political opinion shall not, by reason only that he is such a person –

[a]    be subjected either expressly by, or in the practical application of, any law in force in Nigeria or any executive or administrative action of the government, to disabilities or restrictions to which citizens of Nigeria of other communities, ethnic groups, places of origin, sex, religious or political opinions are not made subject;”

Hon. Justice IKECHI GERALD NWENEKA while delivering the said judgement stated  

“Undoubtedly, the 3rd Respondent has by its action infringed on the Applicant’s fundamental rights enshrined in the above sections of the Constitution. These rights are not cosmetic but are the pivot of existence of citizens… 

“The right to freedom of religion is one of the fundamental rights enshrined in Chapter IV of the 1999 Constitution. Fundamental rights are rights which stand above the ordinary laws of the land. They are in fact antecedent to the political society itself. Fundamental rights have been described as the minimum living standard for civilized humanity. The fundamental rights have been enshrined in the Constitution so that the rights could be inalienable and immutable to the extent of the non-immutability of the Constitution itself… A fundamental right is more significant that the rights under other statutes or laws as it goes to the root of the day to day existence of the citizen and corporate living of citizens. Essien vs. Inyang [2011] LPELR [4125] 1 at 24. The Courts are under a duty as provided by the Constitution to see that executive and administrative actions are in conformity with the fundamental rights of persons. See Obayiuwa v. Minister of FCT [2009] LPELR [8202] 1 at 26.”

We would continue to advocate and educate the general public on the rights of Muslim women to wear the Hijab.

The discrimination against Muslim women rears its ugly head again when some WAEC officials refuse to register candidates and also prevent them from writing exams in their hijab. We understand and acknowledge that this is not the position of the examination body, but we need the body to take an unequivocal stand and send a strong message by taking appropriate and firm disciplinary action against these culprits.

Again NYSC has always been a source of apprehension for Muslim women. The program is meant to encourage bridge gap and enable citizens of our dear country to dedicate a year of their lives to exclusively serve their country. Instead, it has become a tool to victimize and discriminate against them in some quarters. The case of a Muslim woman rejected at her place of primary assignment comes to mind. Again we rededicate ourselves to eradicate this prejudice and injustice form our country Nigeria.

As said earlier the theme for this year’s World Hijab Day is “Breaking Stereotypes; Shattering Boundaries.” The world Hijab Day Movement conducted a survey about some commonly held misconceptions about hijab as it is not enough to rely on opinions. The intention is to break these stereotypes with actual data taken from women who wear the hijab.  So, a poll was conducted mainly on their social media platforms of which there are about 900,000 followers. The Top five countries were Pakistan, Malaysia, India, Indonesia and of course Nigeria.

These polls were both interesting and shocking at the same time. For instance, as high as 71% of Muslim women said they felt discriminated against for wearing the hijab, while about 93% stated that nobody forced them to wear the Hijab. When asked if they felt free in their Hijab and also empowered, they responded yes on an average of 95%.  The hijab apart from being a religious obligation has a positive influence on women and society at large. A Muslim woman stated “Hijab is not a barrier to my ambitions, neither do I feel oppressed in it. Rather, hijab is a choice, a feeling, an identity. I feel free in hijab, empowered, protected, stronger in faith and more passionate to become a better being overall. Everyone travels through their own spiritual journey & mine just feels more wholesome ever since I embraced my hijab.”  This is true for many Muslim women here in Nigeria and the world over.

In conclusion, It does us all no good if energy meant to be spent serving our communities is constantly have to be diverted to defending the use of hijab, Muslim women who can contribute immensely to their society are being shut out because they use the hijab.

To this end, we intend to carry out month-long advocacy in order to reach as many members of the society as possible. And possibly have dialogue and positive engagements with the society.  This has been kicked off with this press conference today Friday, 1st of February 2019, TV appearances on MITV at 12 noon and LTV  at 5:30 pm. Also, meet us at several world Hijab day Programmes across the state. Watch out as we also keep you informed via our various platforms.

Hijab Rights Advocacy Initiative and Muslim public affairs centre, through the leadership of the Muslim Lawyers Association of Nigeria (MULAN) and in collaboration with other groups such as the Muslim Students’ Society of Nigeria; have launched the hijab helpline to properly coordinate, document and resolve these issues. This can be reached on 090-999-HIJAB (090-999-44522).

All we Hijabis want is the Freedom of Thought, Conscience and Religion; Freedom from Discrimination; Freedom from Violence against Women; Fair and Accurate Representation in the Media; Inclusiveness in the Work Place and the right to be a citizen of this country just like everyone else!

God Bless You.

And God Bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Thank you very much.

-End-

Mutiat Orolu-Balogun
Executive Director,
Hijab Rights Advocacy Initiative,
mutiatorolu@yahoo.com
info@hijabadvocacy.com.ng

Abdulwarees Solanke
Director, Media & Strategic Communications,
Muslim Public Affairs Center, Nigeria
abdulwarith.solanke@mpac-ng.org