Parents sue Nigerian school over hijab ban

28th Dec 2018
Parents sue Nigerian school over hijab ban

(Photo: Creative Commons)

Elham Asaad Buaras

Lawyers for Muslim parents announced on December 3 they are to sue the University of Ibadan in Nigeria after a school owned by the varsity barred 11 schoolgirls from wearing the hijab.

The case was filed following weeks of controversy in the International School Ibadan (ISI) in the southwest Oyo state. The row resulted in the temporary closure of the school and counter-protests.

Instituted by the ISI Muslim Parents Forum, the Muslims are asking the court to declare the action of the school “a violation of the (students’) rights to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, freedom from discrimination…and right to education as guaranteed by the constitution of Nigeria.”

Local Muslims held a protest outside the November 18 demanding the school’s hijab ban be lifted.

Speaking outside the gates of ISI, Ibrahim Busayri, Head of the Muslim Community of Oyo State (MUSCOYS), he condemned the “religious bigotry and intolerance oozing out of the acclaimed university”.

The protest led to the closure of the school, for the second time in two weeks, following unabated demonstrations by the Muslim community.

Sources in the school said authorities of Nigeria’s University of Ibadan – owners of the school – are now meeting with Muslim leaders to resolve the crisis.

Busayri called the action of the school “needless acrimony, vendetta and hatred” against the Muslims and said the protest was meant to ask the school authority to allow the girls to wear their hijab as a matter of “constitutional right”.

“This protest is to register our displeasure and condemnation of the draconian and repressive, Islamophobic directive of banning Muslim girls from wearing hijab,” he added, saying the directive amounted to wanting to deny the girls access to basic education unless they were willing to stop being Muslims.

In 2017, law graduate Firdaus Amasa was barred from a call to bar graduation in the capital Abuja for wearing a hijab, precipitating anger from the Muslim community and a debate over the country’s controversial secular status.

Amasa was later called to the bar with her headscarf after the country’s Council on Legal Education backed down. In a 2016 ruling, a court said wearing headscarves qualifies as a human right under the country’s Constitution.

The latest hijab controversy comes weeks after Nigeria’s Lagos Government officially endorsed its use across schools. The Government decision came two years after its circular banning headscarves was struck down on appeal. The court will hear the case against ISI on December 21.

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