As the faithful celebrate World Hijab Day across the globe yesterday, a coalition of women group, under the aegis of Hijab Rights Advocacy Initiative, has lamented frequent discrimination and harassment of women over the use of hijab.
The group, comprising of Federation of Muslim Women Association of Nigeria (FOMWAN), Al-Muminaat, The Criterion, Muslim Students’ Society of Nigeria (MSSN) and Guild of Muslim Professionals, decried the discrimination against women on hijab, describing it as an violation of the human rights as provided by Nigerian constitution.
The World Hijab Day is an annual event celebrated on every February 1 in over 140 countries worldwide. The purpose of the day was to raise awareness about modest Muslim dress and to encourage non-Muslim women to wear and experience the hijab for a day.
The group’s Coordinator, Hajia Mutiat Orolu-Balogun, said some government and private agencies in the country are also involved in this discriminatory act, which she described as an infringement on their constitutional right.
Orolu-Balogun, a lawyer described hijab as 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),”she added.
Orolu-Balogun, said most women in hijab had been denied jobs and other opportunities, even when they are qualified for such jobs and opportunities. She lamented a situation whereby women in hijab are forced to expose their ears as well as their heads before writing Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examinations (UTME) or getting Bank Verification Number (BVN).
“Imagine being asked to take off your shirt or your trousers because you wanted to get your driver’s license, or being told you would not be able to vote in the next elections because you wouldn’t bare your shoulders or show your cleavage in the picture on your voters card, or that you wouldn’t have access to the funds in your bank account because you refused to show your bare back in order to register for your BVN. These, and worse, are what a Muslim woman who wears the hijab feels when she is asked to take off her hijab or expose her ears before she could be allowed her constitutional rights!” he said.
Also speaking, the President, Muslims Students’ Society of Nigeria (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 or be underestimated, women in hijab deserve to enjoy their constitutional right,” Badru said.