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Thursday, February 2, 2017

World Hijab Day: Muslim women lament harassment

Members of Hijab Rights Advocacy Initiative in group pictureA coalition of Women Groups, Hijab Rights Advocacy Initiative, on Wednesday decried the continued discrimination of women in Hijab, saying that their constitutional right are usually infringed upon by some government and private agencies in the country.
The groups, comprising of Al-Muminat, The Criterion, Muslim Society of Nigeria, MSSN, Federation of Muslim Women‎ Association of Nigeria, FOMWAN, and Guild of Muslim Professionals, said most women in Hijab had been denied jobs and other opportunities, even when they were qualified for such jobs and opportunities.
Briefing journalists ‎at the Bagauda Kaltho Press Centre, Secretariat, in Ikeja, Lagos, Southwest Nigeria, the Coordinator of the group, Hajia Mutiat Orolu-Balogun, lamented persistent discrimination and inhuman treatment meted out on the women in the society, saying women in Hijab were forced to expose their ears while they were also forced to expose their heads before writing Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examinations or getting Bank Verification Number, BVN.
She appealed to the government at all levels to stop the discrimination and harassment.
“Imagine being asked to take off your shirt or your trousers because you wanted to get your driver’s licence, or being told you would not be able to vote in the next elections because you wouldn’t bare your shoulders or show your cleavage in the picture on your voters card, or that you wouldn’t have access to the funds in your bank account because you refused to show your bare back in order to register for your BVN. These, and worse, are what a Muslim woman who wears the Hijab feels when she is asked to take off her Hijab or expose her ears before she could be allowed her constitutional rights!”
‎She described hijab as religious duty and an obligation on every Muslim woman in the observance of her faith, saying that hijab was not culture of Arabs or a fashion accessory that one might discard at will.
“And this right to believe in and practise one’s chosen faith is an inalienable right of every human being, as entrenched in the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999(as amended),”she added.
‎Lamenting stories of women, who were allegedly discriminated against and denied several opportunities for wearing hijab, even when they were qualified for such opportunities, she said:‎ “In October 2016, a Muslim woman applied for a job in a government hospital as a radiographer and was shortlisted for an interview.
“On the day of the interview she was told to her face; “why are you dressed like this? I cannot Interview you.” by the Chief Medical Director, who happened to head the interview panel.
She waited for a while and even tried to plead, while other candidates were given the opportunity to be interviewed for the job.
The security man was then called to escort her out of the premises! Dear fellow Nigerians, this is a hospital owned by the government! And this is a citizen of Nigeria!”
Also speaking, Hajia Hafsah Badru, appealed to the media to demonstrate objectivity, fairness and accuracy in reporting cases related to use of hijab and not to label women in Hijab as evil, urging the media professionals to be cognizance of the fact that some people use hijab to perpetrate evils.
According to her, asking a Muslim woman to remove her Hijab is a form of violence against women, saying such should have no place in a progressive society like Nigeria.
‎”One thing we all seem to agree on is that violence against women is wrong in all its forms, whether it is physical, emotional or psychological. However, covering one’s ear doesn’t necessarily mean that one should be looked down upon or be underestimated, women in Hijab deserve to enjoy their constitutional right,” Badru said.
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