In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful

Tuesday, 05 November, 2013

 MPAC Expresses Deep Concern Over Discrimination Against Hijab
(Lagos, 05/11/2013) Muslim Public Affairs Centre (MPAC) is appalled by the rising trend of victimization of Muslim women in hijab. In a  spate of two weeks, MPAC was contacted by two victims of discrimination at two of Nigeria’s foreign missions. The Nigerian embassy in Washington DC on October 28, 2013 denied a Muslim sister in hijab who had gone for a biometrics appointment necessary to replace passport any service on the ground that she had to expose her ears. Even when the victim informed the attendant that she was wearing the hijab for religious purpose and as such could not expose her ears, an immigration attaché at the embassy intervened and insisted that the victim had to “because it is the law of Nigeria that ears must show”.


In a related but more bizarre incident a week earlier, Ambassador Olatokunboh Kamson of the Nigerian High Commission in Jamaica publicly humiliated a Muslim sister who was attending a monthly meeting of Nigerian residents in Jamaica under the aegis of Association of Nigerians in Jamaica (ANJ).  During a normal introductory session at the meeting, Ambassador Kamson openly called the victim (a Muslim sister in hijab) “egungun’ (meaning: masquerade) as she stood up to introduce herself. That the ambassador stooped so low as to call a person in hijab by such a derogatory name is not only alarming, that he did so during an official and public meeting makes the action grotesque. Ambassador Kamson may be the Nigerian High Commissioner in Jamaica, but his views on hijab are not only offensive and wrong; they are pernicious. His action was also a gross violation of authority. Although the ambassador did not clarify what his depiction of the Muslim woman in hijab as “egungun” was meant to achieve at such a gathering, the remarks clearly reflected animus towards the Muslim sister (who will live with the emotional scar of being humiliated publicly), hijab and Islam. 


To this end, MPAC calls on Ambassador Olatokunboh Kamson to arrange a face-to-face apology between him and the victim. Also, because the victim was humiliated in public, it is only reasonable to make an apology or statement in public to mitigate the damage caused by the ambassador’s reckless, offensive and unacceptable remarks. At a time when our nation needs to come together in a spirit of mutual understanding and cooperation, it is inappropriate and offensive for a public official to use his position to launch unprovoked tirade against a citizen he has a duty to protect and serve. Also, MPAC expresses deep concern that bias against those in hijab is slowly spreading in some sections of the Nigerian society. These two sisters are only two out of many more that are experiencing animosity at the hands of bigots and extremists.  Muslim women are constantly harassed at NYSC camps and by some Islamophobic employers because of their choice to wear the hijab. Even some state governments have openly demanded that students violate their religious principles in order to receive an education. 


Because these two incidents took place at the Nigerian embassies in two different countries, MPAC’s concern that these sad incidents are signs that religious intolerance in Nigeria may be acquiring legitimacy is heightened, and we fear that unless clear laws are made to criminalize discrimination on the basis of religion in this country, the state authority may be legitimizing religious intolerance or turning a blind eye to its spread. To this end, MPAC calls the Federal Ministry of Interior and the Nigerian Immigration Service in particular to immediately clarify their official policies regarding the use of hijab for the purpose of biometrics identification. Lastly, the MPAC calls on the Federal Ministry of External Affairs to hold Ambassador Olatokunboh Kamson accountable for his unprovoked and stinging attack on his hapless victim. The Honourable Minister’s action in this regard will send potential bigots and Islamophobes everywhere a strong message that our society will not tolerate their bigotry, no matter who they think they are. 





Honourable Minister of Interior
Honourable Minister of External Affairs
Comptroller-General, The Nigeria Immigration Service

Disu Kamor
Executive Chairman
Muslim Public Affairs Centre, MPAC





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