As Muslim women in Nigeria joins the rest of the world to celebrate this year’s World Hijab Day (WHD), Al-Mu’minaat Organisation Lagos, a pan-Muslim women organisation in Nigeria, has cried out over the discrimination, intimidation and harassment Muslim women went through daily because they wear the head scarf.
The World Hijab Day scheduled for Sunday, 1st February, 2015, to adorn the hijab in order to experience what it is like to wear the hijab, was first marked in 2013 to foster religious tolerance and understanding by inviting women (non-Hijabi Muslims/non-Muslims) to experience the hijab for one day.
The WHD established by Nazmi Khan, a New York based Bangladeshi woman, has attracted the interest of many Muslims and non-Muslims in more than 100 countries worldwide.
The National Amirah of the group, Alhaja Nimatullah Abdul Lateef, while speaking at a press conference, expressed the challenges Muslim women in the country face as a result of wearing the head scarf to protect their modesty and obey their Creator.
“Muslim women in Nigeria experience discrimination, intimidation and harassment daily because they wear the head scarf (Hijab). Taking biometrics for Bank Verification Number (BVN) in some banks, drivers license at Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC), international passport at the Nigerian Immigrations Authority and passport for the National Identity Card at the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) has become burdensome for Muslim women.
“They are insulted, ridiculed, molested and even on some occasions coerced by officials in these organisations to remove their head cover even though their faces and finger-prints are visible. They sometimes demand that the ears be exposed especially. The point to note here is that if any image is captured with the ears exposed, then the bearer of the card or passport will look different from the person on it because she won’t be seen walking the street without her full hijab. So the essence of identification is defeated.
“Students and corp members are not excluded from this cruelty. Secondary school students in Lagos State have been tortured by their school principals because of the hijab while corp members are decamped or physically assaulted on NYSC Orientation Camps.
“The constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and several other documents and protocols to which Nigeria is a signatory uphold the rights to freedom of religion and expression. We wonder why Muslim females are deliberately being denied of these rights. If female students in other states can wear the hijab to their secondary schools, we are shocked that the Lagos State government, for no just cause is denying Muslim girls in Lagos their fundamental God-given rights. It is pertinent that the Nigerian government enact a law that will curb the excesses of religious fanatics who usurp their offices in the parastatals mentioned above to torture Muslim women or any other person for that matter.
“Perhaps Nigerians should be reminded that all the divine religions from Judaism, Christianity and Islam recognise the use of the head cover for women. We therefore conceive the attack of Muslim women in hijab as a deliberate attempt to dehumanise and disenfranchise us. We wish to remind the government that there cannot be selective justice and partial freedom. If non-hijab wearing Muslim women and non-Muslim women are free to uncover their hair and body in the public, Muslim women MUST also be free to cover theirs,” she said.
Al-Mu’minaat also invited all women in the country, in the spirit of the WHD, to adorn the hijab in order to experience what it is like to wear the hijab, with the hope that it will open up new pathways of understanding and counteract some of the controversies surrounding Muslim women in hijab.
On Boko Haram and other terrorist groups killing and maiming in the name of Islam, the organisation said, “Al-Mu’minaat is deeply touched by the impact of the havoc wrought, on Nigerians and humanity generally, by terrorists who lay claim to Islam. We say authoritatively that Islam is against terrorism and violence and those behind Boko Haram, ISIS, and other terrorist cells are misguided and do not represent Islam in any way.
“We appeal to parents, religious leaders, opinion leaders and governments to help in guiding the youths and pray to God Almighty, Allah, in His infinite mercy to bring this reign of terror in Nigeria and the world at large to an end,”.