PRESS CONFERENCE IN COMMEMORATION OF THE WORLD HIJAB DAY 2023 HELD ON WEDNESDAY, 1ST OF FEBRUARY 2023, AT THE LAGOS SECRETARIAT MOSQUE HALL, ALAUSA IKEJA, LAGOS
In the name of Allah the most Gracious, the most Merciful. The Ever-Living, The Self Subsistent. I seek the blessings of Allah AWJ on the best of Mankind, Prophet Muhammad (SAW), on his households, companions and the generality of the ummah till the Day of Reckoning Aamiin.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Fellow Hijab Advocates,
Gentlemen of the Press,
Executive Director, Hijab Rights Advocacy Initiative Mutiat Orolu-Balogun
I welcome you to this Press conference held to commemorate the World Hijab Day 2023. 11 years ago, a global movement was born. This movement which is now being observed in 190 countries around the world, is a united voice against the criminalization, discrimination and oppression of Muslim Women due to the practice and observance of their religious codes.
Some have claimed that the hijab is a symbol of oppression and segregation. Rather, it is unjust and unconstitutional laws, bigoted administrative rules and outright discrimination that oppress Muslim women and girls. We are inundated daily with reports of various Muslim women (young and old) across various cities, states, countries being harassed, subjugated and discriminated against due to the Hijab.
The theme of this year’s WORLD HIJAB DAY IS PROGRESSION NOT OPPRESSION. Though the Hijab was legislated and enjoined on Muslim women over 1400 years ago as described in Chapter 24 (Surah An-Noor,Verse 31) of the Qur’an, we keep seeing how it is even more relevant today. Nakedness marked a distinctive feature of pre-civilization , hence to adopt modesty in dressing is progression.
Allah has also established this in Q 7 (Surah Al-Araf), Verse 26 -27:
” O children of Adam! We have provided for you clothing to cover your nakedness and as an adornment. However, the best clothing is righteousness. This is one of Allah’s bounties, so perhaps you will be mindful.
“O children of Adam! Do not let Satan deceive you as he tempted your parents out of Paradise and caused their cover to be removed in order to expose their nakedness. Surely he and his soldiers watch you from where you cannot see them. We have made the devils allies of those who disbelieve”.
Furthermore, in Chapter 33(Surah Al-Ahzab) Verse 59
O Prophet! Ask your wives, daughters, and believing women to draw their cloaks over their bodies. In this way it is more likely that they will be recognized ˹as virtuous˺ and not be harassed. And Allah is All-Forgiving, Most Merciful.
Thus the Hijab for us Muslim women is a fulfillment of a divine commandment which is further guaranteed by section 38 of the 1999 constitution. Which states
“Every person shall be entitled to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, including freedom to change his religion or 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”.
While we have recorded a landmark achievement on Hijab, with the supreme court judgement in the case of Asiyat AbdulKareem V. Lagos State delivered on the 17th of June 2022 and the subsequent Lagos State Government circular, issued by the HOS, Mr. Hakeem Muri-Okunola on the 5th of December 2022, there are still numerous issues faced by Hijabis and by this press conference we hope to address a couple of these matters still casting a looming shadow on the progress made so far.
STOP BULLYING HIJABIS! RELIGIOUS TOLERANCE IS A MUST FOR PEACEFUL CO-EXISTENCE IN THE SOCIETY – NASFAT Women Affairs Secretary Lagos Zone 2 Alhaja Aishat Busari
This is a simple call to movers and shakers of the world to live by their sayings and preaching of Peaceful Coexistence, a significant part of the SDGs. This day is not for celebration, but rather to appreciate those who found light and are adorning the Hijab despite all odds. A day to encourage those who are still struggling with the use of Hijab. Remember, it’s an injunction from our creator, May Allah make it easy for us all.
It is disheartening to know how much the society applauds immorality and frowns at right choices. How women empowerment is preached, yet the empowerment and choice of Muslim women is opposed. In this World, where the urge to go naked is prevalent, let’s join hands together, Schoolteachers/administrators, leaders of Faith, and every one to encourage modesty, the use of HIJAB.
For so many years, NASFAT (together with UNICEF, TOSTAN, among others) have been organizing programmes and campaigns in place to end gender-based violence and all forms of discrimination against women and girls.
Obviously, whoever discriminates against the Hijab is not only violating the law and peaceful co-existence but also encouraging violence.
Let’s rise against all forms of discrimination against women and girls.
Let’s rise against all forms of discrimination against the Hijab.
DISCRIMINATION AGAINST WOMEN IN HIJAB IS ISLAMOPHOBIA – Senior Admin Officer, Muslim Public Affairs Centre (MPAC) Fatimah Sanni
At the Muslim Public Affairs Centre (MPAC), we challenge Islamophobia, discrimination, and the ideologies that drive them. At the same time we promote empowerment and freedom to practice hijab in safety. We believe that the female Muslims should be free to express their religious beliefs free of discrimination and prejudice. This is why we have continued to support initiatives like the World Hijab Day campaign.
We particularly call the sensibilities of all government agencies to the plight of Muslim women when seeking government services particularly the taking of biometrics. Section 2 of the National Biometric Standards regulation under the National Identity Management Commission Act 2007, mandates all biometric operators whether public or private Organisations to conform with these standards. This said law recognizes the use of the Hijab in its schedule there to and does not require the ears to be brought out of the hijab.
Yet we get numerous verified reports of Hijabis being compelled to either take off their hijabs completely or bare their ears when they require their biometrics taken even for a sim card registration! These operators have displayed crass ignorance and bigotry as it is expected that they, more than the ordinary citizen should know the regulations pertaining to the services they render.
We urge all Nigerians to contribute to rid our society of hatred, discrimination and bigotry. In a society where the values of equality, fairness, diversity and inclusion are promoted, everyone is a winner.
WEARING OF THE HIJAB BENEFITS THE SOCIETY AT LARGE – Assistant Welfare Secretary, The CRITERION, Lagos District, Modinat Braimah )
The hijab marks the wearer as honorable, respectable, chaste and modest with expected high level of morals. The Muslim woman dressing does not oppress Muslim women or any other woman for that matter as the media wants to portray it. It is not a political tool or a fashion statement. It is the dignity of the human person of a Muslim woman as guaranteed by the constitution of our dear country Nigeria.
We must mention the issue faced by defendants accused of crimes or wrong doings. Despite the presumption of innocence, an hijabi who finds herself as a defendant in a police station is usually stripped of her hijab and niqab and most times of her outer garments. The constitutional guaranteed freedom, of Right of dignity of the human person is not suspended because a person is accused of a crime she may not even be guilty of, and even if found guilty our laws are against torture and ill treatment of prisoners.
Our strength as a community and indeed a nation lies not in how we treat the high and mighty, but how we care for the weak and vulnerable. Rodditu bi Llah Rabban, wa bi Islam Deena, wa bi Muhammad nabiyyan wa Rasul.
ALL WOMEN DESERVE TO BE PROTECTED FROM SEXUAL AND GENDER BASED VIOLENCE – Ameerah FOMWAN Lagos State, Alhaja Sherifat Ajagbe
It was indeed with heavy hearts and sadness that we received the news that one of our sisters in Niqob was raped in Ibadan, Oyo state very recently. While the initial news spoke of the desecration of the mosque as the venue of the attack further investigation has shown that the victim was attacked elsewhere. It is sad indeed that Muslim women who are known to be modest have become targets of these criminal elements. Indeed, the hijabi is almost becoming “endangered species“ as she is being discriminated against by her fellow citizens and she’s also not safe from the attacks of criminals.
We at FOMWAN Lagos as well as the other 17 participating Organisations hereby call on the relevant authorities to prosecute as a matter of urgency the perpetuator of this heinous crime named as Idris A.K.A Kesari as well as his father popularly called Al-Majiri who not only helped the perpetrator to escape, before arrest but also seeks to intimidate the victim as well as concerned Nigerians.
We cannot also highlight the plight hijabis face in our country, without mentioning the predicament of Muslim sisters in Ogun state. While the League of Imams and Alfas as well as other organisations have provided leadership, guidance and support for students who officially started wearing the Hijab on the 9th of January this year, there are still a good number of unresolved cases. We call on the government of Ogun state, to abide by the Supreme Court judgment of 17th June 2022, and also issue a circular to make its definite stance known on the matter.
We stand in solidarity with all our sisters in Nigeria and indeed the whole world who are facing persecution due to upholding their Right to freedom of Thought , Conscience and Religion. We say to you “Do not fear! Allah is with us”.
AN ATTACK ON THE FUTURE OF OUR CHILDREN – Assistant Secretary, Izharul – Haq Movement of Nigeria Toyyibah Ajani Abdul Quadri
It will also be important to state that there seem to be a deliberate attack on the future of hijabis, especially students in the secondary school registering for external exams such as WAEC, As stated earlier, the laws regulating biometrics in Nigeria is very clear, a candidate’s biometric information can be captured with the hijab, provided the full face is shown and without uncovering the ears.
Yet we see that our children are mandated to remove their hijabs before they can be registered for the exam. WAEC as an examination body has stated categorically, that there is no need to remove the hijab in its response dated 12th August 2020 to an a letter written by Hijab Rights Advocacy Initiative, and a newspaper confirming this same position dated 15th January 2016.
However, those capturing the biometrics ascribe undue powers to themselves and deny our children from wearing the hijab to register. Hence all written exams and certificates will be without the hijab which will cause psychological trauma to them, and consequently affecting their performance at the exams.
We call on all exam bodies to do more in protecting the accuracy and integrity of their registration process and ensure that no laws are broken by their agents.
NOT ALL DOOM AND GLOOM FOR HIJABIS – Naibatul Amirah, MSSN Lagos Bushrah Olagunju-Matemilola
Just like every other year, the issues are the same. Muslimah have shown overtime that a whole lot can be achieved with the hijab and like others, we should be given the opportunity to show our capabilities.
Worthy of note is the recent appointment of a hijabi Dr Shareefah Adejoke Yusuf as the Tutor-General/ Permanent Secretary, Education District VI by the Lagos State government. This is an affirmation that the hijab is not a limiting factor to the success of any individual. We commend the Lagos State for this move and we are certain of more success in the nearest future with more innovation and achievements by other hijabis.
As we mark today’s World Hijab Day, we must celebrate our Muslim sisters who despite all odds have chosen to represent Islam in different fields by not giving in to oppression and standing firm on the path to progression. We celebrate all students, professionals and mothers as well.
Just like yesterday, we jubilated when the Supreme Court after a legal tussle of about 10 years granted us victory in the case over use of hijab in schools.
This we hoped would put an end to the harassment of students by principals and teachers in schools. The Supreme Court affirmed the right of schoolgirls to dress modestly in hijab and the subsequent Lagos State issued circular confirms this. However, it is disheartening we are back at the table with the issues staring us in the face.
Some school administrators still take laws into their hands by making learning unbearable for Muslim students and denying their fundamental right. And in many cases, they want the hijab hidden away, by insisting that the Hijab be tucked in and a beret worn over it!. The Hijab is not a shirt that should be tucked in , the type of hijab which covers the chest of the wearer, was brought to the courts and judgment given based on it.
We must at this juncture, also acknowledge and appreciate Dr Idiat Oluranti Adebule (Mama West) who issued a circular after the court of appeal judgment, and whose circular contained a description close to the hijab brought before the courts and subsequently upheld by the supreme court.
While we are not against students conforming to school rules and regulation on dress code, we will not allow that the effect of the supreme court judgment be watered down and rendered worthless. This time, we will not hesitate to press charges against defaulting officials who harass students without regard for the constitution and judgement of the highest court in the land.
MSSN Lagos commends its members who have weathered the storm at various levels and become successful in their chosen career path. We urge all stakeholders to encourage students and workers who have chosen to use the hijab by giving them equal opportunity to learn and grow to further build the society. With an enabling environment, we believe that our rights will be protected, our society safe, our females secured and our future leaders safeguarded for a brighter tomorrow.
HIJAB HAS A ROLE TO PLAY IN THE PROTECTION AND LIBERATION OF MUSLIM WOMEN – Ameerah, Al-Mu’minaat (The Believing Women) Organisation, Lagos State Bushrah Jubril-Adeagbo
By commemorating The World Hijab Day, we are looking to build bridges of understanding, awareness and education about the hijab. “Hijab is not just a piece of cloth I use to cover my head, it’s much more than that. Hijab represent who I am as a person” said WHD’s founder. The more reason why we at Al-Mu’minaat Organisation decided on this year theme as THE ROLE OF HIJAB IN THE PROTECTION AND LIBERATION OF MUSLIM WOMEN aimed towards enlightening and empowering the Muslim Female to don the garment of honour in spite of all odds and be shining example wherever they may be.
All Muslims must work in unity to combat Hijabophobia and other menace that confront us as individuals, community and the world at large. We need to put a stop to individualism…”Together we stand, divided we fall”. We must always feel concerned with others.
We urge all females (daughters/wives/mothers), to live as agents of change, agents of growth as we are all raisers of the next generation. We are meant to protect the environment we live in and make it safe for all living in it. We are to protect that girl child whom Allah has bestowed us with as much as we protect the male child. There is a growing trend of insecurity all over, but the most worrisome is the situation of the girl child. This is because the girl child is the most vulnerable of the human species. It is therefore very important that we do all we can, to protect her. Every little girl you see out there is a prospective wife, and a future mother. So, inside that little body resides the future of humanity. Let us make the world safer for her; it is also for us all.
Mothers especially must not forget their roles in the area of reformation. Let us not subject our children to inhumane treatment in the name of correction/reformation. We should hold the bull by the horn and educate our children (irrespective of the sex) spiritually, morally, academically, physically and socially so that we can all do the collective work of making the world a safer haven.
At this juncture, we call on us all to join hands with the government to make Nigeria a safer place to live in, to stop all forms of vices and gender based violence, ritual killings, rape, and fraud. We should also engage in intentional Parenthood and mentoring the younger ones in order to live in a peaceful and better society. The coalition has thus produced thousands of information leaflets on benefits of positive mentoring and navigating life as a muslim teenager among other topics for distribution in commemoration of the world Hijab day 2023.
We further urge the government across all levels should stop paying lips service to protection and rights of all citizenry and further ensure the rights of female Muslims are always protected.
As this is an election year, we will want all political aspirants at all levels not to heat up the polity, they should be objective and ensure that their campaigns are issue based, never toy with the rights of all individuals in the same vein all law enforcement agencies/parastatal should live up to expectation and always respond to security challenges as they arise and never be prejudiced such that the nation will not be plunged into a state of anarchy.
While not forgetting our brethren across the globe, who are facing various challenges from Gaza in Palestine to Uighur in China, Kashmir in India, Yemen, Iraq, Libya, Somalia and Syria amongst others. We call on the United Nations (UN) not to look the other way but live up to their responsibilities in honesty and fairness.
Allahuma ursuna muslimina wal mujahideena fi Palestine wa fi kul makan. Ameen.
God Bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
NAMES OF A COALITION OF MUSLIM ORGANISATIONS ORGANISING WORLD HIJAB DAY 2023
Muslim Students’ Society of Nigeria Lagos state Area Unit
Nasrul-lahi-li Fathi Society of Nigeria (NASFAT)
Al Muminaat: The Believing Women Organisation
Hijab Rights Advocacy Initiative
Federation of Muslim Women Association of Nigeria (FOMWAN Lagos)
Muslim Public Affairs Centre ( MPAC)
Guild of Muslim Professionals ( GMP)
Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC)
Pristine Cactus Foundation
International Muslim Women Union (IMWU)
Pure Heart Islamic Foundation (PHF Lagos)
Muslim Media Practitioners of Nigeria
Islamic Medical association of Nigeria ( IMAN)
Izarul Haq Movement of Nigeria
Lagos Secretariat Community Central Mosque ( LSCCM)
An-Nujabau Female Forum