Today Nigerian Muslim families, particularly the women and girls count their blessings and woes as they join the one hundred and forty countries of the world to observe the world Hijab day. This year’s theme #Endhiabophobia” strongly seeks to clarify all those points of misunderstanding about the intent and purpose of the hijab. It therefore behooves Muslim women and girls to interact at the personal, community and professional levels to allay all fears about the hijab especially among non-MUSLIMS.
From 2013 to 2021 when, (courtesy of Nazma Khan), the world recognized the World Hijab day, FOMWAN commends the level of awareness that has been created and sustained by Islamicorganizations. FOMWAN affirms with great appreciation the role the media in Nigeria has played in amplifying the voices of Muslim women and children as they demand for their constitutional rights to freedom of religious belief and practice. The media remains our allies in setting an agenda for enthroning human rights and equity in a multi-cultural country such as Nigeria.
Today presents another opportunity for Nigerian Muslim women and girls to advocate against discrimination, harassment, intimidation and exclusiveness on account of the wearing of the hijab at the work place, in schools and while registering for examinations and identity cards.As we speak, there are several cases of hijab denial in the courts affecting innocent school girls who live with denial of their fundamental human rights in Nigeria, a country with the largest Muslim population in West Africa. Denial of hijab to school girls has gradually eroded the confidence of Nigerian Muslim parents in the school system to protect the rights of their daughters as they seek to participate in the educational system. This has serious implications for a country where girls constitute 60% of the 13.2million out-of-school children (UBEC/UNICEF, 2018). This in itself will definitely increase the number of out-of-school children as parents explore the non-formal school system for their girls. It also translates into loss of opportunities for Muslim girls to actualize their dreams of service to their country as prospective Professors, Doctors and other professionals even when they have the potentials. It kills their aspirations too early in their lives; it is exclusive. FOMWAN appeals to the Federal and States Ministries of Education to allow for an alternative school uniform for those who need it as a matter of religious obligation without any harm to the school system and learning. Evidence abounds in the last two years that hijab is not a hindrance to attainment of academic excellence as Hijabites across Universities in Nigeria have come out tops in their various fields of study, including the sciences.
In the spirit of the theme for this year’s World Hijab Day, “#EndHijabophobia” FOMWAN calls on all interfaith platforms to collaborate to end the prejudice and stereotyping associated with the hijab among their members by creating “a live and let live” environment for all,irrespective of religious belief. Hijab is practically harmless to people of other faith as it only seeks to promote the fear of Allah and decency in society.
FOMWAN advocates with the National Assembly to legislate against discrimination against those who wear the hijab as a means of providing safe places for all women and girls to thrive in the name of equity. The 2018 Firdaus Amasa case has gone down in history as a positive indication that Government and its Agencies can be responsive to the rights of its citizens in a pluralistic system by looking at issues with a rights perspective, and within the provisions of the constitution.. It is FOMWAN’s hope that Government and its Agencies will emulate countries with Muslim Minorities who have amended their policies to accommodate the hijab as a strategy to promote the participation of women in social and economic development, and also in the professions.
FOMWAN calls on all Muslims, including those whose rights have been violated to patiently seek redress through the legal means since that remains the hope for the common man and woman. FOMWAN will continue to articulate and advocate for the rights of Muslim women not only on the hijab, but on their rights to education and inclusiveness in governance.
FOMWAN invites all to join in its variety of programslined up at the State level nationwide based on State peculiarities and in compliance with covid-19 protocols. We wish all Muslims a World Hijab Day 2021 that promotes reflection, and action which eradicates the hijab phobiawhile opening up more spaces and opportunities for Muslim women and girls in Project Nigeria.
Dr Summayah Hamza