The Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) has waded into the ongoing hijab controversy following the denial of a female Muslim law graduate, Amasa Firdaus, from being called to the bar by the Nigeria Law School for wearing the religious attire.
At the call to bar ceremony which took place at the International Conference Centre, Abuja, Firdaus, a graduate of the University of Ilorin, who passed all the necessary examinations and fulfilled all requirements, was not called to the bar because she wore a Hijab under her wig.
When asked the reasons behind her controversial action in an interview, Firdaus said she intentionally wore the hijab in a bid to challenge the status quo and give Muslim sisters the rights to express their constitutional rights as enshrined in the constitution.
Firdaus argued that there was no law preventing female Muslim lawyers from wearing hijabs.
On why she did not wait to be called to bar before embarking on the campaign, she said those who removed their hijabs in the past did nothing to change the situation. Her words:
“They just call it convention that the British gave to us and we have to stick to it. I used them. They complained (during) my first (law) dinner. That is how they do on the campus. You don’t wear hijab for dinner but I did. I chose Abuja because I knew they were a little lenient.
“People have been removing their hijab over the years. What have those people who have removed it done?”
On the consequences of her decision, she said, “I knew that was what was going to happen.” She, however, said she remained resolute in her convictions to speak for the recognition of rights of female Muslim law graduates.
Firdaus explained further that the Law School has not said anything on the case, adding that the support from the Muslim community has been impressive.
“My demand is that Hijab should be approved,” she said.
The incident has, however, generated intense debate on the internet and NSCIA, the umbrella body of Nigerian Muslims, has vowed to embark on a nationwide protest against the Nigerian Law School over its law against the use of hijab.
In a statement issued on Tuesday, Dec. 19th, the Deputy Secretary General of the organization, Professor Salisu Shehu, accused the Nigerian Law School of lawlessness and Islamophobia.
The group threatened nationwide protest and a fierce legal action should the law school fail to rescind its decision of not calling the affected graduate, Firdaus Amosa, to the bar. The statement read:
“There is no doubt that Abdulsalam Firdaos Amosa has been victimized, humiliated and traumatised by the Nigerian Law School, the Body of Benchers and the Council for Legal Education on account of her faith.
“She has been denied of rightfully joining her professional colleagues just because of her religion. She has been exposed to ridicule and opprobrium by standing for her religious rights. It begs the question that she is not the only Muslim lady among those concerned as no one will stand for her when she appears before her Creator to defend the correctness and otherwise of her actions. We reiterate that she has not violated any law.
“The NSCIA demands that the Federal Government, through the Ministry of Justice, call the Council for Legal Education and the Nigerian Law School to order so that they will not stoke religious crisis in the country.
“Our Council patiently waits for what the Ministry will do as it puts other options on the table including litigation and nation-wide protests.
“Those who think they can ride roughshod on the rights of Muslims just because their co-Christian colonialists did it successfully will have to wake up and realise that Muslims are equal stakeholders in this country.”
“Our Nigerian Law School would rather be glued to the archaic tradition of the colonial past being jettisoned by the British themselves and punish a second upper graduate for wearing a headscarf that the Nigerian Constitution guarantees her than toe the path of rationality. Who legislated on professional attires that we cannot question when such attires are inconsistent with our values?
“That the United States of America allows even female military personnel to use hijab and male Muslims to grow their beard as part of their religious rights is worthy of note. If Muslim female police officers in Britain that so desire use hijab without let or hindrance, what is the problem in Nigeria? What is wrong with the Islamophobic Nigerians who assume that Muslims must abandon their religion to co-exist with them in the Nigerian space? How does wearing hijab infringe on anybody’s right in Nigeria? Enough is enough of this chronic hatred and bigoted intolerance! Yours is your religion and ours is ours.”