A coalition of Women Groups, under the aegis of Hijab Rights Advocacy Initiative, has lamented frequent discrimination and harassment of women over the use of hijab.
The groups 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 situation yesterday at a briefing to mark the World Hijab Day at the Bagauda Kaltho Press Centre, Alausa.
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 groups’ Coordinator, Hajia Mutiat Orolu-Balogun, while addressing journalists 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 said most women in hijab had been denied jobs and other opportunities, even when they are qualified for such jobs and opportunities.
She explained that women in hijab are also forced to expose their ears as well as their heads before writing Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examinations (UTME) or getting Bank Verification Number (BVN).
According to her, “imagine being asked to take off your shirt or your trousers because you wanted to get your driver’s licence, 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!”
She 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.
Lamenting stories of women, who were allegedly discriminated against and denied several opportunities for wearing hijab, even when they are qualified for such opportunities, she said: “In October 2016, a Muslim woman applied for a Radiographer job 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 given the opportunity to be interviewed for the job. The security man was then called to escort her out of the premises!
“Dear fellow Nigerians, this is a hospital owned by the government! And this is a citizen of Nigeria!”
Also speaking, MSSN Lagos State Area Unit President 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,” Hajia Badru said.