Nigerian parliament probes lawyer’s hijab ban case

20th Dec 2017
Nigerian parliament probes lawyer’s hijab ban case

By Rafiu Ajakaye


LAGOS, Nigeria (AA): Nigeria’s parliament on Tuesday launched a probe into the refusal by the country’s law school to call a Muslim woman to the bar because she wore a head covering under her wig on religious grounds.

The House of Representatives unanimously adopted a motion calling for a probe of the controversy, hours after a Nigerian Muslim umbrella group threatened a mass protest and legal action over the incident.

Amasa Abdulsalam Firdaus, a graduate of law, was refused entry into the hall of the bar ceremony in the Nigerian capital last Wednesday after she insisted on her head covering under the official wig.

The law school said the hijab, or Muslim head covering, was not allowed at the ceremony. But Firdaus said such a dress code breaches her religious right as a Muslim woman, apparently relying on different court rulings which had pronounced the head covering a fundamental human right guaranteed by the country’s constitution.

The Nigeria Association of Muslim Law Students (NAMLAS) was the first to condemn the infraction of the law, describing it as unconstitutional, unjust and unfortunate act of prejudice.

NAMLAS insisted that while It is not a fundamental right to wear the wig, it is to wear the Hijab.

In a release, the president of the association, Eyinnade Habeeb while felicitating with the graduands expressed deep regret for the unfortunate incident.

“Meanwhile, my felicitation is marred with deep disappointment when call to bar is on a collision course with the Fundamental Human Rights on the use of hijab. What a dilemma! Despite the unrelenting efforts from concerned Muslims at different quarters as regards this issue, our Sisters at the Law Dinner are still facing challenges of removing this Allah-given right.”

The Muslim Rights Concern, MURIC, on Tuesday called for an immediate ‘call to bar’ exercise to be organised for Firdaus Amasa, the Law School graduate who was denied entry to the same ceremony last Wednesday.

At a press conference organised by MURIC on Tuesday in Iba-Estate, Lagos, the organisation called for a judicial inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the molestation of Muslim students who were allegedly forced to remove their hijab at the call to bar ceremony.

The group also demanded a review of the code of dressing in the Nigerian Law School as it affects the ‘manifestation’ of religious beliefs, calling on the Nigerian National Assembly to intervene in the matter.

Earlier on Tuesday, the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, NSCIA, had threatened to stage nationwide protests if the issues were not addressed. The organisation also said it would consider legal actions if its demands were not considered.

MURIC at its conference on Tuesday demanded an investigation by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) into allegations of religious stigmatisation in the Nigerian Law School, stressing that there is need for a general reform of the school.

“The Nigerian Law School’s action is deplorable, reprehensible and preposterous. The very school where human rights lawyers are trained to respect human dignity is not expected to be the very first institution to dehumanise Nigerian citizens. There is no hope for the rule of law in Nigeria if the Law School’s decision is allowed to stand,” the organisation said.

“Just like a scene from apartheid South Africa when blacks were derided and disallowed from entering restaurants, swimming pools used by whites or to attend social events, Muslims are being targeted for discriminatory practices in Nigerian institutions. Stigmatisation of the adherents of Islam is the order of the day.”

Sultan of Sokoto, Dr. Mohammad Sa’ad Abubakar, speaking in Lagos on Saturday during the fifth National Convention of Muslim Public Affairs Centre (MPAC), stressed that Muslims were peace- loving, therefore, should be allowed to practise their religion as stipulated by Allah and as contained in the traditions of Prophet Muhammad.

Parliamentarian Abubakar Damburam said in a motion he sponsored that the action of the law school violated the constitution and urged parliament to take action over the controversy.

“The constitution …provides that every person shall be entitled to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, including freedom to change his religion of belief, and freedom (either alone or in community with others, and in public or in private) to manifest and propagate his religion or belief in worship, teaching, practice and observance,” Damburam said.

“This [section 38 of the constitution] supersedes any provision by any government agency or institution,” he added.

The parliament unanimously adopted the motion and asked its committees on the judiciary and justice to probe the incident and submit a report within two weeks.

The law school said it would meet on the development later this week, refusing to make any public comment on an issue that has again revealed the deep divisions among the country’s faith communities.

Additional report by The Muslim News

[Photo: Amasa Abdulsalam Firdaus. Twitter]

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