It is sad that one of the orders of the day in Nigeria is victimization of Muslim citizens of this country who have chosen to be subservient to the Creator by obeying His commandments. It is disheartening that it is now a crime in Nigeria to be Muslims who strive to please God through His orders, even though no one is being disturbed through this obedience to our Lord. Religious intolerance has grown rapidly among many Nigerians who see those who practise the pristine Islam as extremists rather than those who seek the pleasure of their Lord.
Muslim men and women have been, on several occasions, victimized and disallowed to enjoy their rights and freedom of religion while other people of other faiths enjoy theirs. Muslim girls, ladies, and women have on different occasions being denied of their hijab and niqab(face veil) in schools, places of work and even in the public; sometimes victimized, sometimes assaulted and at other times prohibited. As for the men, their beards have been the major problem they’re faced with. Alas! There have not been genuine reasons behind these prohibitions and violation of humanity. There have been several things tendered as excuses for the reasons for these violations.
One is “for security reasons”, another is “not being smart” while at several other times, there are no reasons at all.
Prohibition of Muslim females from wearing their hijab or niqab(face veil) because of security and safety is so flimsy and unacceptable.
Doing a quick but thorough search into records, there are countless number of cases of incidents where Nigeria Armed forces; police, security workers, and even the Nigeria soldiers violated (and still violate) human rights, victimize citizens, physically and sexually assault, and even engage/co-operate in robbery and kidnapping. This is no news to a current Nigerian as these cases are often released in press reports and are read on newspapers. Different people use the social media and blogs to narrate their experiences and experiences of other people who are victims of these violations. Attaching few of these news articles from punch and vanguard newspapers, and other news sites may not be necessary, but these facts cannot be denied. Not in any record, do we have it that our Muslim females in hijab and niqab were or are found with these acts of violation, but records have it where they have been and are being victims of not allowed to wear their hijab, stripped of their clothing, their niqabs being removed or opened from their faces, among several other assaults. So, in whose hands are people not safe? From whom should the people be secured if those entrusted with security of the citizens are themselves the ones ordering or are found with criminals who violate security?
The only thing that has ever been cited is the issue of suicide bombing by insurgents who may under the guise of the veil harbor bombs, but no news ever confirmed this to be true. They have always been reported as assumptions. There is a wide gap difference between people who disguise as some people and do evil, and those who are themselves real, yet do evil. This is the case with the assumed Veiled bombers and the Armed forces. So, if anyone would hate, violate and want to disallow, or even want to ban the hijab/niqab, then the armed forces uniforms must not be spared. In fact, the bodies themselves must not be spared either.
Talking of other reasons like smartness, to be smart is definitely to be good-looking. How does wearing the hijab/niqab or the beard define not being smart if they’re not dirty or unkempt? Tight fitted dresses are never a definition or characteristic of smart outfits. Never does shaving the beards portray smartness. What defines smartness of outfits is cleanliness and the style may take any form. Sadly, Tight fitted dresses have now been given to be the only smart dresses and shaving the beards is the only acceptable smart facial look. Hence, the adherents of Islamic injunctions are kept under pressure to go against their faith in schools, universities, work places, the society, et al.
Expressly, the Nigerian constitution, under Chapter 4, section 38, subsection 1, gives rights to freedom.
38.— Right to freedom of thoughts conscience and religion
(1) 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.
Why then are the Muslims denied of their rights to manifest and propagate their religion in practice and observance?
Subsection 2 states
(2) No person attending any place of education shall be required to receive religious instruction or to take part in or attend any religious ceremony or observance if such instruction, ceremony or observance relates to a religion other than his own, or a religion not approved by his parents or guardian.
Why then must the Muslims be forced to remove their hijab/niqab or shave their beards and do contrary to theirs? Why must they be forcefully reverted from being Muslims to another religion other than Islam, all in the name of attending a school?
Some institutions of education and work create these violation rules in their constitutions of operation, while others just make it as part of their “tradition”, but never can a constitution of an institution preside over the country’s constitution. Still in the same Nigeria constitution do we find in Chapter 1, section 1, subsections 1 and 3
1.—Supremacy of the constitution
(1) This Constitution is Supreme and its provisions shall have binding force on all authorities and persons throughout the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
(3) If any other Law is inconsistent with the provisions of this Constitution, this Constitution shall prevail, and that other Law shall to the extent of the inconsistency be void.
So, where are the citizens of this Giant of Africa?
If some people have the freedom to uncover, why can’t others have the freedom to cover? Why do some people enjoy some rights and freedom while others are denied of the same freedom when section 42, subsection 1a of the country’s constitution gives right to freedom against discrimination?
42.— Rights to freedom from discrimination
(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 to disabilities or restrictions to which citizens of Nigeria of other communities, ethnic groups, places of origin, circumstance of birth, sex, religions or political opinions are not made subject.
Some other people talk about work or profession ethics. The hijab/niqab has no violation to any profession dressing ethics. No profession, other than prostitution, has a dressing ethic that prohibit body covering. While talking about the niqab (face veil), other people talk about “communication” and seeing the face of the person they’re communicating with. In the definition and criteria of communication, seeing the face is not part. When listening to radio, using the phone or while reading, the face of the other person or the writer is never seen, yet communication takes place. So, if anyone wants to hate or stop the niqab, let them start with the radio, books and phones first.
It has been confirmed from reactions and remarks of many people that these violations are due to mere hatred for the religion and the commandments. They ask where it is found to wear the hijab/niqab. They call those who are strict with it, extremists and fanatics.
God has commanded in Quran chapter 33 verse 59
“O Prophet! Tell your wives and daughters, and the believing women, that they should cast their outer garment over their persons. That is most convenient, that they should be known (as such) and not molested. And Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful.”
In the Arabic text of the revelation, the word JALABIIB (plural of Jilbab) has been used by the Almighty, which means an outer garment; a long gown COVERING THE WHOLE BODY. So, if some women have surrendered to be believing women and have obeyed the Creator, why hate them for that? Why deny them from obeying the Creator? Why call them extremists? Why hate God’s commandment? Why the deliberate sinning?
It’s high time we learned tolerance. It’s time we are tolerated as we tolerate others. In so many other countries, Muslim ladies especially are allowed to wear their hijab/niqab. Air hostesses and policewomen who have the hijab as part of their uniforms if they’re Muslims, A niqab wearing pilot, doctors who wear their hijab and niqab, surgeons have the niqab designed with their scrubs, and many more.
This letter will not be concluded without stating our demands to allow us enjoy the rights to freedom that we have as Nigerians.
1. Muslims must, on no account, be oppressed, victimized, assaulted or prohibited from portraying their faith. This includes allowing the Muslims to observe their prayers at their times (and not fixing exams at the times of Jumat, et al), as this is another right that is being denied. Muslim students who study in non-Muslim schools must not be forcefully reverted.
2. In schools (including higher institutions), Muslim females must not be prohibited from wearing their hijab or niqab if they choose to wear them, and the men be left to keep their beards. No one is being disturbed by their dressing or appearance.
The Nuns are free to wear their robes anywhere, why should Muslimahs be disturbed for theirs? A Christian man or a man who is not conscious of any religion can keep beards for fashion sake and health benefits, why can’t others keep theirs to please their Creator?
3. In medical schools and hospitals, Muslimahs who choose to wear their hijab or niqab should enjoy their freedom too. The dressing has no negative impact on their efficiency. If they can go to hospitals as patients, why can’t they be students and workers?
If the scrubs worn are full body covers, masks, and caps are worn by the surgeons (and nurses), why can’t the Muslim women (nurses and doctors; workers and students) be allowed to wear their niqab?
The law school is no exception. Having a uniform doesn’t mean the hijab cannot be worn, if the color is not violated. The black and white is still maintained.
4. In places of work, private or government owned, Muslimahs should enjoy their freedom as well. The attire or appearance does not negatively affect their efficiency, except for the inbuilt lazy ones and anyone who fails to discharge their responsibilities well should be reprimanded reasonably and not attached to the religion.
5. At the immigration offices, and other places where registration is to be done, it must not be required that the ears be shown while taking passports. The face, as defined and described, never includes the ears. The FRONT of the human head is called the face. It includes several distinct areas, of which the main features are:
THE FOREHEAD, comprising the skin beneath the hairline, BODERED laterally by the temples and inferiorly by eyebrows and ears.
THE EYES sitting in the orbit and protected by eyelids, and eyelashes.
The distinctive human NOSE SHAPE, nostrils, and nasal septum.
THE CHEEKS covering the maxilla and mandibula (or jaw), the EXTREMITY of which is the CHIN.
THE MOUTH, with the upper lip divided by the philtrum, sometimes reveals the teeth.
The face is the front of the head. The ears are on the sides, after the hairline border.
6. In all schools, institutions and professions that require uniforms, without being bias, we should be allowed to design the uniforms for the hijab/niqab wearing Muslim females, which will definitely conform with the works.
We do not need to wonder how to recognize the women in niqab. Familiarity is a sure thing, except that some people are normally not gifted in recognition of even the voice. However, as for facial recognition or in case of fear of impersonation, those who are in authority can be unveiled for to confirm identification. There must however be means of identification – ID cards of the institution or any government approved means. It should however be noted that by a female, and in private, should the identity verification be done. Otherwise, where there are no females around, a male may verify, but still in private.
There definitely can never be any problem when there is mutual understanding. Let us all be law abiding citizens and tolerate one another. If some people can hate, they can definitely love more.
“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”
– Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom.
HAMEEDAH O. ADENUGA