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Lagos hijab case fall-out: It’s not over yet, muslim students vow to appeal judgment

-Adopt No Hijab, No Vote Campaign ahead 2015

As court upholds ban of hijab use in Lagos public schools

Muslim sisters during peaceful protesting

Muslim sisters during peaceful protest

The Muslim Students’ Society of Nigeria (MSSN), Lagos State Area Unit has frowned at the judgment delivered by Justice Grace Onyeabo of the Ikeja High Court, Lagos, on the ban of hijab in public primary and secondary schools in the state.

Onyeabo had on Friday, October 17, 2014, dismissed and ruled against the use of hijab in schools, claiming it was the responsibility of the government to issue guidelines on dress codes for public schools since they were owned and funded by the government.

She said, during the 35-minute judgment, that granting the reliefs sought by the muslim students would destroy the uniformity that the government aimed to achieve when it issued the dress codes for schools.

The judge also said that granting the reliefs would jeopardise Section 10 of the 1999 Constitution, which makes Nigeria a secular state and which the government must strive to preserve. She held that the ban was not discriminatory and did not breach sections 38 and 42 of the 1999 Constitution as argued by the students.

‘Judgment, a rape of the constitution’ – MSSN

Amir, MSSN, Alhaji Kaamil Kalejaiye

Amir, MSSN, Alhaji Kaamil Kalejaiye

MSSN described the judgment as a rape of the Constitution. In a chat with ENCOMIUM Weekly shortly after the judgment was delivered, the Amir (President) of the society, Alhaji Kaamil Kalejaiye said, the judge neglected and rejected numerous arguments presented to her during the about two-year old case and that sections of the Nigerian constitution and international laws guaranteed the freedom of religion, thoughts and conscience.

Kalejaiye said: “It is unfair that the judgment denied us a right that is not only godly but constitutionally stated. Do we call that a misinterpretation of the constitution or rape of the code of law? We want to believe that the dictates of the constitution must stand at all times. While we remain undaunted and won’t relent on our moves to get female pupils dress accordingly because it is their right, we reject, in totality the judgment and urge every Muslim to do so too.

“We are simply asking for our right and not a favour. We have started the sensitisation and mobilisation of our members, sympathisers and well-wishers which include parents and families of our members of over four million here in Lagos to be politically ready for protest and Allah on our side, we shall overcome.

“What it signifies to refuse hijab is simply that you are asking our female pupils to begin to dress naked. It is shameful that we have found ourselves in a state where wrong acts are seen as correct by some elements.”

Kalejaiye insisted that the judgment would not have been fairly arrived at, giving the instance that the defendants lawyer, Femi Pedro (SAN) had in one of his positions argued and recognised the use of hijab.

He also said since the government said it would allow the use of hijab during Islamic Religious Knowledge classes and Jumaat prayer, the judge should know that it was a permissible dressing ethics for female Muslims.

He stated: “It is embarrassing to hear the judge say that allowing the freedom of religion for Muslims would affect other faiths. This seems to be absolutely out of point as the mode of practise and doctrines of every religion are different. And the judge should have identified in the argument of the government counsel that hijab is compulsory for Muslim females.

“It will be recalled that the government’s lawyer, Femi Pedro (SAN), had conceded that hijab was “compulsory for Muslim who are adults”. But how does he want an adult to begin to use what he/she has not been practicalising from youthful age? Of what use would it be to encourage Muslim females to dress naked during their youthful age and covered when they grow? Islam is a perfect religion and it does not encourage any form of irregularities.

“There is contradiction between the judge and the provisions of the constitution because while the judge claims that Nigeria is a secular state, the constitution recognises two major religions, which are Islam and Christianity.  It must be noted that the government finances the schools with tax paid by our parents and indirect tax by us so we have the right to demand for our right in our schools. The government is only allowed to make policies that are within the confines of the constitution and not to its favour.”

It is not over yet, we’ll appeal the judgment –  MULAN

Muslim lawyer, Gani Adetola Kassim (SAN)

Muslim lawyer, Gani Adetola Kassim (SAN)

ENCOMIUM Weekly also had a chat with the representative of Muslims Lawyers Association of Nigeria (MULAN), Lagos State chapter, who also doubled as the counsel to the Muslim students. The leader of the team of lawyers, Chief Gani Adetola-Kassim (SAN) said it’s not over yet, promised to appeal the judgment which must be done within 30 days.

Adetola-Kassim (SAN) said; “The court has spoken, there are still very many issues to be considered which invariably means that we will appeal the judgment.

We are simply not satisfied with the court decision. The angle through which the court has looked at the issue is quite at variance with the provisions of the constitution. We will definitely appeal.”

2015: NO HIJAB, NO VOTE – Embittered Muslims insist

Obviously, Muslim students and representatives of different Islamic organisations that thronged the court 59 of the Lagos High Court, Ikeja, bemoaned the judgment. Shortly after the judgment, they gathered at the mosque  inside the court premises, where they held a peaceful protest, chanting, No Hijab, No Vote come 2015.

ENCOMIUM Weekly gathered that the slogan was recently adopted by the Muslims in Lagos, as part of the campaign ahead of 2015 general elections. We learnt that the awareness is spreading to other South-West states. We had a chat with some of the students in court on Friday, October 16, 2014.

In his own words, Idris Abdul Kareem, Surveying and Geoformatics, UNILAG described denial of access to hijab as “gross misconduct” on the part of the state government, noting, “They will pay for it dearly come 2015 general elections.”

He said, “There is right to freedom of religion, the right to practice any faith you like. People must be allowed to practice what they believe. Denying us to practice what we believe is a violation of the fundamental laws. This is a fundamental thing. They have gone too far on the way they batter and oppress our female folks on this hijab issue.

“Coming to common sense, let’s ask ourselves why rape is so rampant. We’ve heard cases of pastors raping minors and members of their congregations. Common sense dictates that we should adorn ourselves and cover our nudity. When some people do the opposite, they have opposed common sense.

These people (Muslims) have chosen hijab to cover themselves in order to curtail atrocities and gender violence in society, you are now fighting them. This is utterly absurd”.

Qazeem Akinlotan, Zoology, UNILAG, believed perhaps, the Lagos state government intends to provoke the leadership of the Muslim Students’ Society of Nigeria, Lagos State Area Unit to forget about the case without it being logically concluded.

“However, it is pertinent to tell the government that the leadership of the society will stop at nothing to ensure the constitutional right of the entire Muslim students is granted. Though the society will not employ violent, it will ensure that victimization of Muslim students putting on their hijab, which promotes morality and command respect, stops.

“After the failure of the Plan A (meetings), plan B (protest) and the failing plan C (Court), the next line of action shall be execution of our power (our vote) in the coming 2015 general elections. Only he that is worthy to be voted for is he who will be concerned about the development of our states and nation while not denying us our fundamental human rights one of which is the use of our hijab. Our song this time is No Hijab, No Vote.

Hassanah Adisa, Health Information, Ogun State College of Health Technology, Ilese, noted that it becomes imperative for government to allow hijab in schools and every other place and beyond 2015 because “Hijab is our right, our choice, our business, our life and we are happy.

“There is no crime in hijab, since we all have the right to wear what we like in as much we feel comfortable in it. I don’t see the reason hijab shouldn’t be allowed. If a student could be allowed to wear the “pants” and “rags” all about then why the denial of hijab. It’s is like denying us of our human rights since there is no law against using hijab in school.

“Government speaks of democracy and fundamental human rights yet they rob us of our right. All we want is equality before the law, freedom of expression and accepting hijab”, she said.

Bashir Abdul Azeez, Graphic Artist and Printer said, “Hijab is one of the fundamental principles of Islam for the women folks, voting is also a civic right which Muslims must participate when the time calls for such. When Muslims says 2015: “No hijab, No vote” that means we won’t breach one of the crucial parts of what can make our society a peaceful one. This is because Nigerian politicians take elections dearly.

Protesting muslim students after the judgment

Protesting muslim students after the judgment

“They’ve already breached our fundamental human right and freedom of religion by intimidating our Muslim sisters in secondary schools when they put on their hijab. We’ve put forward the legal steps by addressing the issue in the court room but it seems some enemies of Islam and hijab are infringing on our right all in the name of political game. If boycotting the polls come 2015 is the language Nigerian politicians can use to give us our right (hijab,) resorting to the policy of “no hijab, no vote”, sincerely, we’ve not breached our civic responsibility.”

HOW IT ALL STARTED

MSSN, Lagos State Area Unit had approached the court to seek end to the humiliation and harassment of female Muslims from using hijab. One of the scenarios of harassment stated by the group was that on February 5, 2013, Aisha, a JSS II student of Kadara Junior High School, Ebute Metta, was flogged forty three (43) strokes of cane on the assembly ground by her principal, Mrs. E.C Ukpaka, because Aisha did not remove her hijab after coming out of Islamic Religious Knowledge class, where it is ordinarily permitted to adorn hijab.

MSSN Lagos also mentioned that on February 20, 2013, Bareerah Tajudeen of Mafoloku Senior Grammar School, Oshodi had her hijab removed and trampled upon by her principal, Mrs. Elizabeth Omidele, outside the school premises. This action led the suspension of the student who was said to be preparing for her SSCE.

“There have been other cases of molestations. We have them on record. We reported these cases to the government, we held series of meeting with the Ministry of Education, but no desired results. We staged a peaceful protest to condemn the discrimination against hijab, but this government is not ready to shift ground. That was why we went to court for justice to be done. We’ll pursue the matter till we get victory through the judiciary. That’s why we’re going to appeal the judgment”, Alhaji Kaamil Kalejaiye concluded.

-RASHEED ABUBAKAR

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