A coalition of Nigerian Muslim women, on Tuesday, called on the Nigerian government and its relevant ministries, agencies and institutions to help to end the discrimination against hijab-wearing Muslims.
It urged the government to see hijab as a symbol of inclusiveness and freedom which needs to be protected, while also calling on the National Assembly to quickly pass the Religious Discrimination (Prohibition) Bill.
“We urge you (the National Assembly) in strong terms, to speedily pass the Religious Discrimination (Prohibition, Prevention) Bill, 2021 which passed second reading since March 2021, and prevent it from entering the basement of discarded bills.
“The passage of this one will surely be worthwhile for posterity,” Marham Ahmed, a representative of the coalition, said.
Mrs Ahmed spoke at a press conference in Abuja on Tuesday in commemoration of the 2022 World Hijab Day.
The World Hijab Day is marked every February 1 to galvanise support for hijab wearers, campaign against its prohibition, and speak against the maltreatment of its wearers across the world.
It was first marked in 2013. This year’s edition, therefore, makes it its ninth and it is expected to be marked in at least 190 countries of the world.
This year’s edition is with the theme, ‘Hijab is our crown, not a crime’.
Mrs Ahmed, who lamented the discrimination often faced by hijab wearers in different parts of the country, said there was the need to create more awareness for mutual respect among global citizens and to disclaim bigotry and prejudice against Muslim women.
“They should guarantee the sanctity of Nigerian laws of freedom of worship, association and expression for all persons devoid of sentiment,” she said.
She also urged the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) authorities to introduce an optional set of uniform for Muslim female corps members that desire to appear in modest clothing.
She also called for the setting up of a monitoring mechanism at orientation camps to ensure that no corps members is denied the right to protect the sanctity of their beliefs.
The coalition also called on governments at all levels to create and provide services that cater for all, including those whose appearance is defined by their belief and obedience to a command.
It called on ministries of education at the federal and state levels to pay attention to unnecessary victimisation of students which they said had become a recurring decimal in schools and institutions.
Mrs Ahmed noted that the coalition documented some cases of anti-hijab sentiment locally and internationally in 2021. These cases, she said, are indicators that more work needs to be done.
She said the coalition recorded in March 2021, how Christian groups allegedly mobilised and barricaded some schools to protest the directive announced by Kwara State Government that all public schools should respect the rights of Muslim students to wear the head covering, if they choose to.
Another case she cited was that of Federal University of Agriculture Abeokuta (FUNAAB), Ogun State, where, in November 2021, a ban was said to have been placed on the use of hijab and niqab by Muslim female students on campus based on the excuse of the need to identify each student on campus.
The coalition also said it recorded a case where a Muslim youth corps member posted to Akwa Ibom State was harassed and prevented from using hijab by the Camp Officials until Muslim groups and government authorities intervened.
In the light of these, the coalition called on all people, institutions, leaders in positions of authority to see the hijab as an enabler rather than as an inhibitor.
“We are saying we are OK, we symbolise nothing but the good and wants to be addressed as we have dressed,” Mrs Ahmed stated.
Maryam Sanni, a member of Women in Dawah, in her advice to Nigerian Muslim women, said it was not just about putting on the Hijab but also how to act right when putting on the hijab.
“We have to show that Islam is a religion of peace,” she said.
Another member of the Coalition, Rahma Musa-Sanni ,urged everyone to support Muslimahs as they obey their creator. She added that not obeying Allah is why the country is in crisis.
The Coalition of Nigeria Muslim Women was formed as a collaboration platform for various Muslim women organisations and institutions in a bid to promote and propagate issues of concern that affect the private and public life of women especially Muslim women and girls.
The coalition is made up of groups such as Federation Of Muslim Women Association in Nigeria (FOMWAN), Nasrul-lahi-li Fathi Society of Nigeria (NASFAT), Women in Da’awah, Ansaruddeen,
They also include: Al-Habibiya, JADAFIA, Abuja Muslim Forum, Al-Mu’minat, An-nisa Foundation, Sisters of Jannah, The Criterion, Initiative for Muslim Sisters, Hidaya Islamic Charity, and many more.