Concerned Nigerians have continued to react to the incessant and growing assaults of young and innocent Muslim students over the use of the Hijab, in both public and private institutions.
Their reactions follow reports of cases of harassment and discrimination against Muslim students who participated in the first batch of the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) on Saturday, June 19.
Muslim ladies and their mothers at different times have been subjected to undue victimizations and molestations over the right to adorn the Hijab – their God-given and constitutionally-granted right – especially in Southwest Nigeria.
Recall that Muslim News had reported that two Muslim candidates were refused entry into two faith-based institutions, Ringham University, Nasarawa State and Redeemer’s University, Ogun State, barely a day to the Computer Based Test (CBT) because of their Hijab.
In an exclusive report on Saturday, MN expressed the worries of some of the parents over what they termed “assault on Muslim students in Hijab” during 2021 UTME, organised by JAMB.
However, according to a top official at JAMB, one of the affected centers, the Redeemer’s University later apologized over the incident, quoting the school management as saying the security officer was only ‘being overzealous’ and not authorized to turn back students in Hijab.
Muslim News findings revealed that the two institutions owned by churches later allowed the students and others in Hijab to write their exams on Saturday without victimization.
There are however tales of Muslim candidates being harassed for wearing the Hijab in other centers, Muslim News findings revealed.
Musa Fathia Omotola, who wrote her UTME on Saturday at Command Day Secondary School Ojo, Lagos shared her gory experience.
According to her, “I was told to remove my scarf which made me feel very uncomfortable as a Muslim girl. Moreso, I am not meant to open my hair against my will. This led to me being demoralized during the examination. This is me speaking out because I don’t want other Muslims to go through the same experience.”
Muslim News also gathered that the examination body later intervened in her matter, but observers said the overzealous officers must be brought to book.
Ruqoyah Saad Dindi, who is the Abuja Coordinator of Hijab Rights Advocacy Initiative, HRAI, said, “In the interest of justice and in order to forestall a future reoccurrence, someone has to face the consequence of this ungodly act.
“He or she who compelled her to remove her headscarf must be made to face some sanctions. Otherwise, the perpetrators will continue.”
In a vox-pop conducted by this newspaper on Sunday, Nigerians who decried the increasing trend of Hijab victimization called for an end to the attack on Hiiab-wearing muslim ladies and prosecution of overzealous officials.
Fatai Abiodun said the Nigerian Muslims need to voice out and make their position known in clear terms.
According to him, “Enough of this silence. The uneducated Muslim clerics need to be carried along because everyone has a say in this journey. Let us Muslims form a common front. Let’s mobilize MSSN graduates and undergraduates to make a bold step. It’s a winable cause,”
For his part, Siddiq Oyelami asked authorities to prosecute erring persons as sanctioned by the law, adding that more Muslimahs should be encouraged to adopt the use of the hijab.
“Call out erring individuals or organisations and put pressure on authorities to enact bye-laws and implement same without fear or favour. Only strict punishment can deter offenders,” Olajide Abdulhakeem Balogun suggested.
Ibrahim Hassan condemned the continuous assault and called on all Islamic organisations in the southwest and their counterparts in the North to lobby lawmakers in the speedy passage of the 2021 Religious Discrimination (Prohibition, Prevention), which has already passed the second reading.
According to him, “Those who go against the bill and use the instrument of the media to demonize the National Assembly are the same set of people who are instigating their agents and members in public and private establishments to assault and harass Muslim students and ladies in Hijab.
“One of the best ways to permanently put an end to the lawlessness is to lobby the lawmakers to speed up the passage of the religious discrimination bill and save millions of innocent young Nigerians from these overzealous crusaders,” he added.
Another user, Aderoju Hassan called for increased orientation of parents, noting that many of them do not see the Hijab as a religious obligation.
He also expressed optimism that if a bill on religious discrimination that is being pushed at the National Assembly sails through, it will go a long way to arrest the situation.
“There are laws that back the wearing of the hijab in Nigeria. The constitution is clear on this. However, ignorance, bigotry and Islamophobia have blinded many. I think there’s a bill in the National Assembly that seeks to criminalize discrimination based on use of hijab and other religious apparel. If this law is passed and offenders are prosecuted, it will stem the assault,” he said.
“Also, a lot of orientation has to be done. Many parents and adult Muslims don’t see the hijab as compulsory like every other acts of ibadah. This notion has to change, and alhamdulillah, there are Islamic NGOs that push for this right. More Islamic bodies should join in the pursuit of this right.”
As the UTME continues on Monday, Muslim students have been advised to speak up against oppression and insist on their rights to use the Hijab at the CBT centers nationwide.
Muslim Response Squad (MRS) said, in a broadcast, circulated on WhatsApp platform, centers harassing Muslim girls deliberately want to put them in traumatic state before writing exams to affect their performance, calling on JAMB to stop the needless provocation.
“Tomorrow is Monday and UTME resumes. Tell all the Muslim girls old enough to write the exams to insist on their rights to use the Hijab. Let them make loud noise against oppression. The whole world will hear them and Allah and their parents will support them,” the body added.
Muslim News Nigeria