Home Opinion ​Firdaus, the Hijab, and the Law; Who Wins?

​Firdaus, the Hijab, and the Law; Who Wins?

By Rasheed Abubakar 
I have been engaging those anti-Hijab warriors and their agents in the legal profession on Twitter to show us A SPECIFIC LAW in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria that PROHIBITS the use of the Hijab (not even a big Hijab, that tiny, shoulder-length Hijab); no definite answer yet. Rather, they are just spilling arrogant garbage.  


Even Lagos State, a staunch and sworn institutional enemy of the Hijab, which clandestinely PROHIBITED the use of the shoulder-length Hijab on secondary school uniforms via its controversial circular, was floored by MSSN Lagos at the Court of Appeal. And, in shaa Allah, by the time we get to the Supreme Court, we will teach the State and other hostile States lessons about why it is unjustifiably wrong to infringe on our Muslim sisters’ divine and constitutional rights. 


However, the recent news of Hijab violation in the legal profession is very disturbing. The Custodians of the Law have now become the Abusers of the Law. Am I surprised? Not really. You know why? Judges and lawyers in Nigeria still appear in wig and gown, while the British Christian missionaries who imposed it on them have stopped using such a long time ago. What then do you expect? 


Even the Indian lawyers who were also colonised alongside Nigeria by the British have since abandoned the wig and gown. The Indians rejected the archaic British culture and embraced their home-grown practices, but in Nigeria, the reverse is the case.  


I beg to ask, what is wrong with us in Nigeria? Why do we like fomenting trouble where there is none? Why should the issue of the Hijab be a problem? Honestly, I wept for this country after the news of the law graduate who was denied the call to bar for wearing the Hijab hit the airwaves on Thursday, December 14. 


Firdaos Amasa, a Second Class Upper law graduate from the University of Ilorin was reportedly denied entry into the call to bar ceremony due to her refusal to remove her Hijab, the compulsory headscarf (literal meaning) for Muslim women.


The story read in part, that “sources at the ICC, Abuja (the venue of the call to bar ceremony) said that before the ceremony was to begin, all Muslim females were RESPECTFULLY asked (by the Body of Benchers) to remove their Hijabs prior to entry into the hall. The request was complied with by all the Muslim females present except Amasa Firdaus, who vehemently refused to remove hers…” 


Let me first correct an impression. There is nothing RESPECTFUL in asking a Muslim woman to remove her Hijab when there is no written law that SPECIFICALLY legislates so. This is because, in Islamic tradition, telling a Muslim woman to remove her Hijab is tantamount to telling her to remove her clothes and go stark naked! 


I even saw some ignorant netizens saying she should have removed her Hijab for just 30 minutes while the event lasted. I asked, what part of the Nigerian Constitution says that? What if she died after doing that? What would she tell her Creator, who has commanded the believing women “not to show off their adornment except that which is apparent (face and hands, according to many scholars)”.  


I’m not going to belabour myself on why there is no controversy about the position of the Hijab for Muslim women, except some heretic views which I have addressed in my book, Hijab and the Nigerian Press. 


However, while scholars of Islam are divided over the status of the Niqob (face veil) – whether it’s compulsory or only a necessity – they all agreed that the Hijab is mandatory on all Muslim ladies and whoever removes her Hijab (including due to unconstitutional pressure from the Nigerian legal authorities) has indeed disobeyed her Creator, and disobedience to Allah is a great sin in Islam. 


Surprisingly, this morning (Saturday, December 16), one of the anti-Hijab warriors on Twitter showed me a Nigerian Law School (NLS) dress code, which indicates that: “During the exercise, all your facial features, including your ear, must be exposed for capturing. This is also applicable to all our female Muslim students wearing the Hijab”. 


On consulting legal practitioners concerning the dress code regulation, they opined that the Council of Legal Education is right to decide the call to bar attire, as long as it doesn’t infringe on the constitutional rights of Nigerians. Obviously, like this dress code, it cannot trump the Constitution. 


There are several constitutional provisions as quoted in my book, which allow Muslim ladies to use the Hijab in any public institution, including Law Schools. In fact, a five-man Court of Appeal panel unanimously declared the Lagos State Government ban of the Hijab illegal, stressing that no institution (including the NLS) can ban or restrict the use of the Muslim headscarf.   


However, I am tempted to ask, are there no Muslim women in the legal profession who could have saved Muslimah law graduates from the embarrassment of removing their Hijabs? Those who claim the argument over the Hijab is needless – the Muslims among them – what have they done to stop this yearly assault? This is one of the major reasons many intelligent Muslim sisters find it difficult to wear the Hijab (no matter how small) in Law Schools. Many sisters have replaced their Hijabs with wigs, all in the name of the dress code, except the few conscious ones like Firdaus, who resisted the intimidation. 


According to a senior Muslim lawyer, the NBA President recently constituted a committee to review the use of the wig and gown, “but to my bewilderment, most practitioners wanted the wig and gown, even our Muslim brethren, and it amazed me. I voted No to use of the wig and gown but majority voted Yes in its favour. Here we are, not ready to do away with the alien culture”. 


The problem cannot be solved if the Muslim practitioners are not ready to help themselves. 


Beyond social media advocacy, all hands must be on deck to address this provocation once and for all. The legal practitioners, NLS, NBA, MULAN and other stakeholders should go back to the drawing board and embrace diversity as promised by the President of the NBA, A.B Mahmoud (SAN). If negotiations fail, the Nigeria Association of Muslim Law Students (NAMLAS) and MULAN should promptly drag the legal authorities to court for flagrant violation of Muslim sisters’ divine and constitutional rights. 


– Rasheed Abubakar is a journalist and the author of “Hijab and the Nigerian Press”.


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