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The Muslim Rights Concern, MURIC, has faulted the President Muhammadu Buhari government’s position on the hijab saga.
The Government was quoted last week as saying that it would not interfere in the hijab imbroglio which has embroiled the South West.
In a press statement issued to newsmen on Tuesday by MURIC and signed by its director, Professor Ishaq Akintola, said, “The Federal Government cannot afford to close its eyes to this serious human rights abuse within its domain.
“The whole country is FG’s constituency. Isn’t FG concerned that the girl child is being chased out of school on account of her religion?
“Schoolgirls in hijab were locked out of the school gates in the University of Ibadan International School (UIS) and Federal University of Technology Staff School, Ogbomosho. The same has happened in Abeokuta and Lagos. Apart from this, the courts in the South West are saturated with hijab cases.
“The court cases underline the need for FG to direct the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation to invite all the commissioners for Justice in the affected states to discuss the issue.
“There are serious implications involved in this hijab imbroglio. It is more than just a simple denial of a head cover. Those who deprive female Muslim children of the right to use hijab are engaging in child abuse, stigmatization and profiling. By treating the Muslim girl-child with contempt and derision, they expose her to ridicule, assault the dignity of her human person and rob her of her self-confidence.
“In addition, they promote child depression and education-fatigue in the girl-child because their hostile and illegal action is capable of discouraging the Muslim girl-child from attending school. This is paradoxical because various state governments have criminalized failure to attend school by any child of school age. Failure to indicate interest in the hijab affair in the South West will defeat FG’s campaign for girl-child education.
“It is equally important to add that FG’s lack of interest is already breeding impunity in illegality as other federal agencies have made it their cardinal duty to persecute Muslim women who wear hijab. The excesses manifest in the immigration department where Muslim women in hijab are forced to remove it before ‘capturing’ takes place for processing international passports.
“The same is currently happening in the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) where women in hijab are subjected to this humiliating demand before ‘capturing’ for driving licences. The involvement of federal agencies in the victimization of Muslim women makes it more imperative for FG to show interest. It proves that the problem is not limited to the South West. It has a national spread.
“It requires strategic thinking. FG must rise to the occasion before it is too late. The Muslims are complaining now without being violent. We are still fortunate that MURIC, which is spearheading the matter is a non-violent human rights group which employs civilized methods to make its demands. We must not wait until extremist elements hijack the struggle. We remind FG that justice is the soul of peace. Those who deny one cannot enjoy the other.
“We, therefore, advise FG to issue a circular criminalizing the harassment of women in hijab in any government office in Nigeria. Furthermore, FG must educate these government functionaries on the illegality of disallowing hijab-wearing women from performing their civic responsibilities. Government must also go further by ensuring that any civil servant who is caught doing so after the enlightenment is duly punished.
“The Nigerian constitution is rich in guidelines but compliance, implementation and enforcement are the problems. Refusal to allow a woman in hijab to perform a civic duty is a breach of Section 42 of the1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which stipulates that:
(1) A citizen of Nigeria of a particular community, ethnic group, place of origin, sex, RELIGION or political opinion shall not, by reason only that he is such a person:-
(a) be subjected either expressly by, or in the practical application of, any law in force in Nigeria or any executive or administrative action of the government (or its agencies-addition ours), to disabilities or RESTRICTIONS to which citizens of Nigeria, of other communities, ethnic groups, places of origin, sex, religion or political opinions are not made subject.
“It is also a contravention of Section 13 of the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act (1991) which provides that, “a public officer shall not do or direct to be done, in abuse of his office, any act prejudicial to the rights of any person knowing that such an act is unlawful or contrary to any government policy’’
“To conclude this advocacy, we call on FG to review its stand on non-involvement in the hijab affair. It is a matter of serious national concern. We urge FG to urgently issue a circular to all its ministries and agencies stopping the illegal, unlawful and unconstitutional intimidation of women in hijab as explained above. We assert that denial of right to use hijab in schools is child abuse, stigmatization, promotion of girl-child depression and deprivation of girl-child education”.