BEING AN ADDRESS DELIVERED BY THE AMIRAH OF THE MUSLIM STUDENTS’ SOCIETY OF NIGERIA (MSSN) LAGOS STATE AREA UNIT, HAJIA BASHEERAH MAJEKODUNMI, AT A PRESS CONFERENCE HELD ON THURSDAY, JANUARY 31ST, 2019 TO COMMEMORATE THE 2019 WORLD HIJAB DAY (WHD) AT THE MSSNLAGOS SECRETARIAT, YABA, LAGOS.
In the name of Allah, the Most Beneficent and the Most Merciful. We pray His everlasting blessings continue to shower on the noblest of mankind, Prophet Muhammad (SAW), his household and the entirety of Muslims around the world.
Gentlemen of the press and our esteemed media friends, on behalf of our teeming members, I thank you for your support so far. We appreciate your coverage and hope to get more.
I am most excited and honoured to welcome you all to this press conference, which we are using to mark this year’s edition of the World Hijab Day (WHD) and address salient issues surrounding the use of Hijab in Lagos State.
Be reminded that the World Hijab Day is a global annual event usually marked on February 1st. This 7th edition of the WHD, founded by Nazma Khan, a New York native, is themed: “Breaking Stereotypes, Shattering Boundaries” with the hashtag #FreeInHijab. With the World Hijab Day, we invite global citizens of all faiths and backgrounds to wear the Hijab (Muslims head-cover) for a day in solidarity with Muslim women worldwide. This will create a more peaceful world where global citizens respect each other.
Let me quickly inform you that beyond this press conference, thousands of our members will be holding awareness rally across Lagos State to sensitise Muslims and non-Muslims on the use of hijab and its significance tomorrow – Friday, February 1, 2019.
Gentlemen of the press, as a faith-based students’ organisation in Lagos State, we are aggressively focusing on fighting bigotry, discrimination, and prejudice against female Muslims for wearing hijab in schools. I regretfully inform you again that Muslim women are facing very tough times for wishing to defend their faith and shunning nudity. In the hands of government officials, especially teachers in public schools, our members are regular victims of physical and verbal assaults. The recent one being the slapping of a female Muslim student at Ikosi High School by an official of West African Examination Council (WAEC) for resisting to pull off her hijab. In fact, she was forced to wear beret. Other cases abound from Agbede Community Grammar School and Yewa Grammar School in Ikorodu, to Iba Estate Senior High School in Ojo. These cases are being taken up by our lawyers.
Before we got to where we are now on the issue of hijab, there were several legal engagements with our Lead Counsel, Mr. Adetola Kazeem (SAN), of blessed memory (May Allah grant him eternal rest). The Appeal Court granted us all the reliefs we sought at the lower court and pronounced on our inalienable right to adorn the hijab not only in public secondary schools but in all spheres of education and life
In November 2018, the Lagos State Government issued a circular to all principals of public secondary schools instructing them to allow students, who want to wear the hijab on their uniforms do so. By this Circular, the Government has exonerated itself from any potential contempt of the Appeal court judgement. The Circular advised the teaching officers to be mindful of banning Hijab as it would amount to contempt of an existing judgement. The Circular also advised that the Hijab must be short, smart, neat and in the colour of the school uniform (skirt).
When the Lagos State Government issued the circular, we thought relief had come, but it is utterly unfortunate that some school authorities and some defiant teachers are working against the circular. They are interested in ultimately jeopardizing law and order.
Instead of obeying the circular, some school principals, vice principals and teachers feign ignorance of the approval of Hijab in Lagos State, refreshed their islamophobic agenda and desperately began to deal with our members. Many of them have also deliberately expressed putrid hatred for hijab by discriminating and molesting the Muslim students in Hijab. We have constantly reported some of these cases to the government but little result is seen and some have been taken up legally. We have got to a point that we are beginning to think that there is a connivance between the teachers and principals of some schools to frustrate Muslim students in our bid to practice our religion through the use of hijab. If this is the grand plan, In Sha Allah, they will fail. We call on the government to caution the indiscipline, unlawful and religious bigots among its teaching workforce.
Pressmen, we are a peaceful community and we have respect for democratic values and the rule of law, but we will not allow our fundamental human rights to be tampered upon. It’s utterly sad that we are experiencing too much of assaults and abuses on the Muslim female folks, because they are wearing hijab. It portends a serious threat for our peaceful coexistence as a nation. This discrimination is too much, and it has to stop! The government has to criminalize assaults against people wearing hijab. The ugly incidents of harassments against hijab-wearing Muslims has assumed its peak, and it’s causing us gross emotional trauma and stigma. It cannot continue like this! The defaulters have to face the wrath of the law.
Apart from the Appeal Court that gave a favourable verdict on the use of Hijab, a High Court in Osun State gave its nod to it and the National Industrial Court did the same on Tuesday 8th January 2019. Like the Appeal Court and the Osun High Court, the Industrial Court of Nigeria, presided over by Hon. Justice Ikechi Gerald Nweneka, ruled that refusal to interview an applicant in Hijab was discriminatory, violation of section 42 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. In that case, the applicant Olatunji Hawau had applied for employment with the 3rd Respondent, Federal Medical Centre Ebute Meta on 10th October 2016. She was invited for interview on 12th October 2016 but was not interviewed because she was wearing a hijab. We understand that there are a few cases in court, but let me assure you that the position of the constitution is clear – wearing hijab is a constitutional right. Let us not assume that allowing hijab is a favour to Muslims. No, it is not. We are only asking government to respect the constitution of Nigeria by ordering their agents to stop victimising our students for wearing the hijab.
We call on WAEC to caution its officials to stop violating Nigeria constitution and existing judgement that affirm the right to use hijab by female Muslim students. Hijab is a core part of dressing and an obligation that a female Muslim must fulfill in her religion. So, hijab should not even generate so much dust in a democratic society like Nigeria. Meanwhile, they must note that their actions and inactions have caused our members huge psychological trauma that some of them now feel hated and rejected in their own country.
We call on all Nigerians, irrespective of tribe or religion to join this voice as part of solidarity with the Muslim women most especially the female secondary school students, who are brazenly and incessantly harassed and assaulted because they wear hijab to schools in their own country.
Gentlemen of the press, we see you all as stakeholders in nation building. We also urge you to help us sensitise the public on the right attitude towards hijab.
Once again, I thank everybody for making it to this press conference, most especially the gentlemen of the press. I salute you all and we acknowledge the massive support you have availed us in terms of coverage, particularly on this hijab matter.
We pray Allah help you attain the peak of your profession.
Thank you all for coming.
God bless Nigeria!
God bless Lagos!
God bless MSSN Lagos!
Thanks for Listening.
Hajia Basheerah Majekodunmi
Amirah, Muslim Students’ Society of Nigeria (MSSN),
Lagos State Area Unit