As the world recently marked Hijab Day, a coalition of Muslim women groups, under the aegis of Hijab Rights Advocacy Initiative, HRAI, has called on peace-loving Nigerians to respect the right of Muslim women to wear their Hijab and stop frequent discrimination and harassment of women over the use of hijab.
The groups comprising of Federation of Muslim Women Associations of Nigeria (FOMWAN), Al-Muminaat, The Criterion, Muslim Students’ Society of Nigeria (MSSN) and Guild of Muslim Professionals, decried the unwarranted situation.
The group’s Coordinator, Hajia Mutiat Orolu-Balogun, said some government and private agencies are also involved in this discriminatory act which she described as an infringement on their constitutional right.
Barrister Orolu-Balogun said most women in hijab had been denied jobs and other opportunities, even when they are qualified for such jobs and opportunities.
“They are also forced to expose their ears as well as their heads before getting international passports, writing Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examinations (UTME) or getting Bank Verification Number (BVN) among others.
She described hijab-wearing as a religious duty and an obligation on every Muslim woman in the observance of her faith, saying that it is not culture of Arabs or a fashion accessory that one may discard at will.
“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).”
“In October 2016, a Muslim woman applied as a Radiographer at Federal Medical Centre, Oyingbo, a government hospital and was shortlisted for an interview.
“On the day of the interview, she was told to her face; “why are you dressed like this? I cannot Interview you.” by the then Chief Medical Director, who happened to head the interview panel. She waited for a while and even tried to plead, while other candidates were interviewed for the job. The security man was then called to escort her out of the premises. This is in hospital owned by government. And this is a citizen of Nigeria!”
Also speaking, Amirah, MSSN Lagos State Area Unit, Hajia Hafsah Badru, appealed to the media to demonstrate objectivity, fairness and accuracy in reporting cases related to use of hijab.
According to her, asking a Muslim woman to remove her Hijab is a form of violence against women, saying such should have no place in a progressive society like Nigeria.
“One thing we all seem to agree on is that violence against women is wrong in all its forms, whether it is physical, emotional or psychological. However, covering one’s head doesn’t mean that person should be looked down upon, women in Hijab deserve to enjoy their constitutional rights,” Hajia Badru said.
The World Hijab Day is an annual event celebrated every February 1 in over 140 countries worldwide to raise awareness about modest Muslim dress and encourage non-Muslim women to wear and experience the Hijab for a day.
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