5th February, 2018
POSTPONED PUBLIC HEARING:
CHANCE TO TREAT HIJAB ISSUES GLOBALLY
The Committee on Judiciary and Justice of the House of Representatives this morning announced the postponement of the planned open hearing of the call to bar saga of Amasa Firdaus. The latter was barred from entering the venue of the School of Law’s call to bar ceremony on Wednesday, 13th December, 2017 on account of her refusal to remove her hijab.
The tornado of hues and cries which greeted the incident led the House of Representatives to direct its Committee on Judiciary and Justice to institute investigations into the matter. The open hearing was formerly scheduled for tomorrow 6th February, 2018 before the postponement.
Though a little disappointed, the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) is inclined to show understanding for the reason given for the postponement, which was to afford more time to reach all stakeholders.
We see an opportunity in this postponement for a holistic x-ray of all issues surrounding the hijab phenomenon in Nigeria as it affects the mass stigmatization of Muslim women. With the additional time occasioned by this postponement, the investigations and final decisions of the Committee of the honourable House should go beyond justice for Amasa Firdaus. It must be comprehensive, touching all areas where hijab-wearing Muslim women are being profiled and persecuted. Such an exercise will go a long way in dousing tension and preventing hijab-related religious crisis in this country.
Immigration officials are known to engage in regular stereotyping of Muslims who apply for international passports. They intimidate Muslim women particularly at the point of taking pictures (or ‘capturing’). Hijab-wearing Muslim women are forced to remove their hijabs or ordered to draw their hijab backwards to reveal their ears. The same scenario plays itself out in driving licence, national identity card offices and during registration for elections.
In the process, thousands of Muslim women have been denied international passports, driving licences and national identity cards while millions have been disenfranchised during elections. It is a case of mass profiling of Muslims. We therefore appeal to the House of Representatives as the voice of the voiceless and the bulwark against oppression and persecution, to take the bull by the horn by criminalizing the obstruction, denial and stigmatisation of female Muslim women in hijab while carrying out their civic responsibilities like obtaining international passport, driving licence, voters’ registration card, etc
By the same token, Muslim women who work in uniformed bodies in Nigeria, e.g. the army, police, traffic officials, uniformed voluntary groups, nurses, the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), students of primary and secondary schools, etc, use uniforms designed by the Christian colonialists. These uniforms should have been reviewed after independence because they only suit Christians. Muslim women are uncomfortable in them. Some of them constitute breaches to Islamic dress code and offend the sensibility of Muslim women who are compelled to wear the uniforms regardless of their inner feeling of resentment.
In summary, we demand a review of the code of dressing in the Nigerian Law School as it affects the ‘manifestation’ of religious beliefs and a review of the dress code in all professions and educational institutions where uniforms are used such that female Muslims in such professions and institutions can use suitable hijabs along with the uniforms. In addition, we also demand that the House of Representatives declares illegal, unlawful, unconstitutional and therefore judiciable any order or request by any Nigerian official that a Muslim woman should remove her hijab.
Professor Ishaq Akintola,
Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC)