Muslim students condemn judgement banning hijab in Lagos schools

The Muslim Students Society of Nigeria, MSSN, Lagos State Area Unit, has frowned at the judgement delivered by Justice Grace Onyeabo of the Ikeja High Court, Lagos, on the ban of hijabs in primary and secondary schools in the state.

Ms. Onyeabo had on Friday, September 17, dismissed and ruled against the use of hijab in schools, claiming it would affect the secular nature of Lagos State.

MSSN described the judgement as a rape of the constitution.

Its Amir (President), Kaamil Kalejaiye, said the judge neglected and rejected numerous arguments presented to her, during the about two-year case, that sections of the Nigerian constitution and international laws guaranteed the freedom of religion, thoughts and conscience.

Mr. Kalejaiye said: “It is unfair that the judgement denied us a right that is not only Godly but constitutionally stated. Do we call that a misinterpretation of the constitution or rape of the code of law. We want to believe that the dictates of the constitution must stand at all times. While we remain undaunted and won’t relent on our moves to get female pupils dress accordingly because it is their right, we reject in totality the judgement and urge every Muslims to do so too.

“We are simply asking for our right and not a favour. We have started the sensitisation and mobilisation of our members, sympathisers and well-wishers which include parents and families of our members of over four million here in Lagos to be politically ready for protest and Allah on our side we shall overcome.

“What it signifies to refuse Hijab is simply that you are asking our female pupils to begin to dress nakedly. It is shameful that we have found ourselves in a state where wrong acts are seen as the correct by some elements.”

Mr. Kalejaiye insisted that the judgement would not have been fairly arrived at, giving the stance that the defendant’s lawyer, Femi Pedro, had in one of his positions argued and recognised the use of Hijab.

He also said since the government said it would allow the use of Hijab during Islamic Religion Knowledge classes and Jumaat prayer, the Judge should know that it was a permissible dressing ethics for female Muslims.

He stated: “It is embarrassing to hear the judge say that allowing the freedom of religion for Muslims would affect faithful of other religions. This seems to be absolutely out of point as the mode of practise and doctrines of every religion are different. And the judge should have identified in the argument of the government counsel that Hijab is compulsory for Muslim females.

“It will be recalled that the government’s lawyer, Femi Pedro (SAN), had conceded that Hijab was “compulsory for Muslims that are adults”. But how does he want an adult to begin to use what he/she has not been practicalising from youthful age? Of what use would it be to encourage Muslim females to dress naked during their youthful age and covered when they grow? Islam is a perfect religion and it does not encourage any form of irregularities.
“There is contradiction between the judge and the provisions of the constitution because while the judge claims that Nigeria is a secular state, the constitution recognises two major religions, which are Islam and Christianity. It must be noted that the government finances the schools with tax paid by our parents and indirect tax by us so we have the right to demand for our right in our schools. The government is only allowed to make policies that are within the confines of the constitution and not to its favour.

The MSSN Amirah (female president), Hafsah Badru, said since the secularity of the states that granted it was not disturbed, there was no basis for that to be a cause for denying the constitution to take its stand.

“It is mostly painful to us that the judge refused to recognise or state any punishment or defense for further oppression and harassment of female pupils. Our lawyer had told her how some of our pupils (claimants) were beaten and molested but no substantial comment was made on that.
“Some states in the South-West which include Ekiti have granted the use of Hijab in their schools and they don’t have problem with maintaining their secularity as claimed by the judge. Why should Lagos be different? Wearing hijab is a constitutional act, must be allowed and seen as such,” Ms. Badru said.

The MSSN Lagos counsel, Gani Adetola-Kassim, had after the judgement said an appeal would be filed.

Mr. Adetola-Kassim said: “Well the court has spoken, there are still very many issues to be considered which invariably means that we will appeal the judgment.

“We are simply not satisfied with the court decision. The angle through which the court has looked at the issue is quite at variance with the provisions of the constitution. We will definitely appeal.”

It will be recalled that MSSN Lagos had approached the court to seek end to the humiliation and harassment of female Muslims from using hijab.

One of the scenarios of harassment stated by the group was that on February 5, 2013, Aisha, a JSS II student of Kadara Junior High School, Ebute Metta, was flogged 43 strokes of cane on the assembly ground by her principal, E.C Ukpaka, because Aisha did not to remove her Hijab after coming out of Islamic Religious Knowledge class, where it is ordinarily permitted to adorn Hijab.

The MSSN Lagos also mentioned that on February 20, 2013, Bareerah Tajudeen of Mafoloku Senior Grammar School, Oshodi, had her Hijab removed and trampled upon by her principal, Elizabeth Omidele, outside the school premises.

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