In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful
Press Release: FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
3rd June, 2016
MPAC Applauds High Court Ruling Allowing Hijab in Osun State Public Schools
(Lagos, 03/06/2016) Muslim Public Affairs Centre applauds today’s (03/06/16) judgment at the Osun State High Court that Muslim female students in public primary and secondary schools in the state are free to wear hijab in their schools.
The case was filed in 2013 by the Osun State Muslim Community against the state government’s imposition of bans on wearing of hijab to school. The Osun State Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), its chairman and others had voluntarily joined as respondents. The High Court judgment which overturns the discriminatory policy rejects the respondents’ claims that the policy was needed or constitutional.
In his 51-page judgement, Justice Jide Falola noted that the use of hijab by female Muslims is their fundamental human right to freedom of religion, conscience and thought and as such no female student must be molested or sent out of school for wearing it.
The justice also declared that since all missionary schools had been taken over by government in 1975, all students have equal rights to practice their religions.
We applaud the ruling in this important case, which firmly underscores the fact that courts should not blindly defer when the government invokes its powers to curtail fundamental rights.
What remains to be seen is a timeline for implementation of this ruling and clarification as to whether the current mindset allowing the discriminatory policy in the first place will remain.
This judgment is significant on at least three grounds:
That Nigeria can be a diverse and inclusive nation;
That no government can legitimise religious intolerance and that we will not stand by and allow them to do so;
That there is now unencumbered access to education for citizens of Osun State of all faiths.
While this important legal pronouncement should serve as a learning opportunity for all those who consistently cast themselves as the naysayers whenever Muslims demand their fundamental rights, we sincerely hope it will stand as another legal precedent and a symbol of hope for students in Lagos State public schools to expect to be free of harassment in their schools soon.
The issue of the hijab is one that unites all Muslims as it is an integral part of a Muslim woman’s right to practice her religion. The support that the hijab campaigns have attracted clearly reflects the fact that, for the Muslim students, justice and freedom are principles that cannot be compromised.