A group of Muslim women under the umbrella of Hijab Rights Advocacy Initiative has expressed strong condemnation over what they termed the frequent harassment of those of them who use hijab a veil for covering the head and part of the face).
At a briefing in Alausa, Ikeja, to mark the World Hijab Day (WHD), the Federation of Muslim Women Association of Nigeria (FOMWAN), Al-Muminaat, The Criterion, Muslim Students’ Society of Nigeria (MSSN) and Guild of Muslim Professionals (GMP), pointed out that some government institutions and private agencies were involved in the discriminatory act, which they described as an infringement on their rights.
According to Hajia Mutiat Orolu-Balogun, the Coordinator of the group, some women in hijab were denied jobs and other opportunities despite the fact that they are qualified.
She also alleged that women in hijab were also forced to expose their ears and their heads before writing the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) or getting Bank Verification Number (BVN).
Hajia Mutiat said:
“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 voter’s, 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 a religious duty and an obligation on every Muslim woman in the observance of her faith, saying it is not the culture of Arabs or a fashion accessory that one may discard at will.
“The right to believe in and practice one’s chosen faith is an inalienable right of every human being, as entrenched in the constitution,” she added.
Relieving what some hijab-wearing women went through in the past, Mutiat said:
“In October 2016, a Muslim woman applied for a Radiographer job at Federal Medical Centre (FMC), Oyingbo, Lagos Mainland, 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!”
Speaking further, MSSN Lagos State Area Unit President, Hajia Hafsah Badru urged the media to be objective, fair and accurate in reporting cases related to hijab use.
She opined that asking a Muslim woman to remove her hijab is a form of violence against women, and 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 rights.”
WHD is a yearly event celebrated every February 1 in over 140 countries worldwide. Its purpose is to raise awareness about modest Muslim dress and to encourage non-Muslim women to wear and experience the hijab for a day.