World Bulletin / News Desk
Nigerian Muslim women have called on authorities to pass legislation prescribing sanctions against government agencies or private firms which discriminate against the use of the Muslim headscarf, hijab.
In separate news briefings commemorating the Feb. 1 World Hijab Day across the country, coalitions of Muslim women decried rising cases of women being shut out of workplaces or female pupils being sent out of class because they wear the hijab, and said authorities must reverse the trend they insist violates the Nigerian law.
Nimatullah Abdulqadir, president of the Al-Mu’minaat, or the believing Muslim women, told a news briefing in the commercial capital Lagos late Tuesday that some government officials "are perpetrating an act of oppression and injustice against Muslim women.
"We also call on both national and state parliaments to enact appropriate legislations that will guarantee the right of Muslim women to dress according to their religious belief.
"The challenges faced by Muslim women in Nigeria as a result of their desire to wear hijab continue to leave bitter taste in our mouth, especially when juxtaposed with the unlimited freedom enjoyed by other women who choose to dress in any manner of their liking including sometimes in semi-clad attires," she added.
Mutiat Orolu-Balogun, coordinator of Hijab Rights Advocacy Initiative, said hijab was an added religious duty for Muslim women and asking them to remove it amounted to discrimination and oppression.
"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," Orolu-Balogun told another news briefing in Lagos on Wednesday.
"Asking a Muslim woman to remove her hijab is a form of violence against women. It should have no place in a progressive society like ours as more people, including women, are getting more educated and moving into the work force," she said.
Coalition of Nigerian Muslim Women, another pro-hijab movement, also condemned the attack on hijab and said the government had to prevent continuous discrimination against any woman who chooses to wear the Muslim headscarf.
Hijab has become a serious issue in Nigeria following attempts by some schools and government agencies to ban or restrict its use.
The Muslims have won two cases which are now before the appellate court. Last year, Lagos' ban of the hijab was declared unlawful by an appeals court. The case is now with the Supreme Court.
World Hijab Day, an initiative of a U.S.-based Pakistani woman Nazma Khan, was first commemorated in 2013.