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Muslim students demand State Govts’ compliance with hijab judgement

By Monsurudeen Olowoopejo

…wants defaulting principal sanctioned

Barely five days after the Supreme Court legalised the wearing of hijabs in schools, Muslim students have demanded that State Governments issue directives to staff, mandating them to comply with the judgement and desist from victimizing anyone that decides to add the head coverings to their dress across the country.

The students said that complying with the judgement does not indicate that all students must be mandated to wear hijab, rather instructing that anyone willing to wear it within the school premises, irrespective of their present level of education, should not be denied and intimidated.

Speaking on behalf of the students, Amir (president), Muslim Students’ Society of Nigeria (MSSN) Lagos State Area Unit, Miftahudeen Thanni, urged the government to caution its officials against harassing females wearing the hijab across its learning institution.

During a press briefing held at the Secretariat Mosque in Ikeja, Lagos, Thanni added that the government has been given a 30-day ultimatum to issue a circular on the judgement approving hijab use across schools by the Supreme Court.

According to him, issuing the circular to all school principals and headmasters as well as headmistresses would curb overzealous teachers and principals from going against the country’s apex court.

The apex court judgement that came after about 10 years of legal tussle, on Friday, June 17, 2022, approved the wearing of hijab by female Muslim students to school in Lagos State.

He stressed that the demands were not to castigate the Lagos State Government but to appeal for the prompt implementation of the Supreme Court judgement.

“We waited patiently to get the judgement and we were lawful throughout. During this period, we consulted, collaborated, protested, held rallies and sensitised government officials on why a willing Muslim female should be allowed to put on the hijab.

“When the Lagos State Government issued the circular, we thought relief had come, but it is utterly unfortunate that some school authorities and some defective teachers are working against the circular. They are interested in ultimately jeopardising law and order.

“Instead of obeying the circular, some school principals, vice-principals and teachers feign ignorance of the approval of Hijab in Lagos State, and desperately began to deal with our members. For no reason should a girl-child be denied education again in Lagos State and Nigeria as a whole!

“The images of Muslim students sent out of the examination hall for wearing hijab touch the heart and consistently bring tears to the eyes. We do not want this to recur. The education of the girl-child is very paramount in our hearts. No Muslim girl should ever be told to choose between her faith and education. Both are her rights”.

Thanni, also, demanded that a meeting with MSSNLagos, Muslim leaders, and other Islamic organisations on the size and modalities of using the hijab.”

Also, the Ameerah (female head) of MSSNLagos, Basheerah Majekodunmi, called on all Muslims to be lawful and report any violation to the appropriate quarters.

“We call on all Nigerians, irrespective of tribe or religion to join this voice as part of solidarity with the Muslim women most especially the female secondary school students, who are brazenly and incessantly harassed and assaulted because they wear hijab to schools in their own country,” she said.

On her part, Asiyat AbdulKareem, who sued the Lagos State Government, urged that victimisation of Muslim students should stop.

“We suffered to get this judgement and it is my hope that it will be an end to the victimisation someone like me suffered,” he said.

On her part, Executive Secretary of Hijab Rights Advocacy Initiative, Shereefat Enessi, commended the Supreme Court for the judgement.

“It is not a victory for the Muslims alone, it is a victory for civilization, for democracy and for peace.

“We are not all Muslims and as such understanding, the importance of a religious command like hijab may not be easy, but at least we are all in the same boat that is Nigeria, pulling each other down would only take us all down,” he said.

On his part, the National Amir of MSSN, Uthman Abubakar, lamented that Muslim students have for long suffered discrimination.

Abubakar, who was represented by the General Secretary of MSSN Lagos, Hamzah AbdulFattah, said, “The MSSN salutes the courage, understanding and application of the Constitutional law as it is by the panel of the justices.

“The judgment is manifestly credible and guarantees as one of the fundamental Human Rights granted to Muslims and any other adherents of a religion,” he said.

It would be recalled that the supreme court judgement affirmed the earlier Court of Appeal’s decision which restored the use of hijab by female Muslim students in Lagos State.

Displeased with the judgement, the Lagos State Government attempted to obtain a stay of execution of the Court of Appeal’s decision but failed.

In November 2018, the Lagos State Government issued an earlier circular to all principals of public secondary schools instructing them to allow students.

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