HOUSE OF REPS COMMITTEE ON
JUDICIARY AND JUSTICE,
NATIONAL ASSSEMBLY COMPLEX,
THREE ARMS ZONE,
DENIAL OF CALL TO BAR TO MISS FIRDAUS AMASA OVER THE WEARING OF HIJAB: OUR INTERVENTION
As an organization devoted to matters of peace and peaceful coexistence, socio-economic rights and justice, inclusiveness, plurality and development, the Center for Global Peace Initiative (CGPI) hereby tables its intervention on the above subject matter with the belief that this public hearing will lay to rest all matters concerning the rights of Muslim women and girls to wear the hijab in public places and thereby cease being victims of the lawlessness of some people in places of authority.
For clarity, we write at the instance of the denial of call to bar to Miss Firdaus Amasah by the individuals wielding the power of authority at the Nigerian Law School, the Body of Benchers and the Council for Legal Education in Nigeria even though Miss Firdaus has fulfilled all statutory requirements for her to be called to bar of which her choice of faith/religion was not a part.
We therefore make bold to say that the denial of the right of call to bar of Miss Firdaus Amasah amounted to the following:
- A violation of her constitutionally guaranteed rights of freedom of religion and expression under Section 38, Subsection 1 of the Nigerian constitution which states that ‘Every person shall be entitled to freedom of thought, conscience and religion…(either alone or in community with others, and in public or private) to manifest and propagate his religion or belief in worship, teaching, practice and observance.
- An oppression and victimization of her person on religious grounds by those who connive to strip her of her right to call to bar, as justice delayed is justice denied.
- That the action of the individuals who conspired to deny Miss Firdaus Amasah her right to call to bar amounted to the usurpation of public trust reposed in those individuals and bodies. Their actions are contradictory to the spirit of the Nigerian Constitution, the norm of tolerance and the imperatives of a plural society like ours and therefore portending of grave dangers ahead if such audacious actions were not checked.
- That this injustice meted out to Miss Firdaus Amasah constituted a major reason for which the religious temperature of Nigeria continues to rise alarmingly and therefore requires definitive statements from the hallowed chambers to ventilate the position of the Nigerian Constitution as our ground norm.
- That this audacious, deliberate and inhuman violation of the right of women and girls in hijab is an agenda from some quarters carried out by those who hoped to profit from such. Muslim women and girls have been humiliated in public places like schools, passport and immigration offices, CBT centers and numerous other places where if reactions were to spontaneously take place, lives and properties could be jeopardized.
OUR GROUND FOR THE ABOVE CLAIMS
- Constitutionality: That the Constitution of Nigeria fully guarantees the religious rights of its citizens without prejudice as quoted in Section 38, Subsection 1 and other such sections of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution as amended.
- Invalidity of Unjust Traditions: That reference to ‘TRADITION’ by some apologists in support of the violent and unconstitutional actions of the authorities at the Nigerian Law School, the Body of Benchers and the Council for Legal Education holds no water as any tradition in contravention of the Constitution of Nigeria and the norm of peaceful coexistence is null and avoid and of no effect. Note also that what is referred to as ‘tradition’ here is not enshrined in any circular, memo or advertorial (as they would have been null and void), but rather the whims and caprices of some individuals insensitive enough to the concept of equality and plurality.
- The Multi-Religious Status of Nigeria: That it is HIGHLY ERRONEOUS to interpret Section 10 of the Nigerian Constitution which prohibits the adoption of any religion as state religion as intending a secularization of the Nigerian society. For emphasis, Nigeria is NOT A SECULAR STATE but A MULTI-RELIGIOUS STATE which reposes its trust in God just like any other nation on earth.
- Judicial Precedence: That there have been COURT INJUNCTIONS and RULINGS Swhich declared the hijab as a constitutionally guaranteed right of a Muslim woman and girl for which they shall NOT BE VICTIMIZED. For example, (a) in suit No ID/424M/2004 concerning Abidemi Razaq & Ors. V Commissioner of Health, Lagos State, the Lagos State High Court ruled that ‘a circular of the Lagos State School of Health Technology banning students from wearing hijab is unconstitutional (b) In suit No CA/IL/49/2009 involving the Provost Kwara State College of Education Ilorin V Basirat Saliu, the Appellate Court ruled that the use of hijab by female Muslims qualifies as a fundamental right under Section 38 of the Constitution.
- Common Sense, Good Moral Character and Public Sanity: That part of the responsibility of government is the maintenance of public morals, ethical codes and public sanity. Religious establishments are the purveyors of all these and their promotion must be supported so that anti-social behaviors and tendencies will have little incentive to germinate among the populace.
- That Miss Firdaus Amasah should be called to bar forthwith and without delay with the next batch of Lawyers.
- That Miss Firdaus Amasah be adequately compensated over the incident by the writing of letter of apology to her from all the individuals and bodies concerned.
- That all government institutions including Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) and other governmental institutions and parastatals be made to issue statements in clear terms that VICTIMIZATION OF THE HIJAB IS PUNISHABLE.
- That mechanisms should be put in place in the MDAs and other public institutions to alert and respond to complaints of victimization of hijab-wearing women and girls and appropriate sanctions imposed.
- CLEAR CUT DIRECTIVES SHOULD BE GIVEN TO VENTILATE THE POSITION OF THE CONSTITUTION THAT PERMITS MISS FIRDAUS AND OTHER MUSLIM WOMEN AND GIRLS TO WEAR THEIR HIJAB IN PUBLIC PLACES WITHOUT MOLESTATION.
- That your honor should be mindful of those colonial legacies and practices that fail to conform or respect the plurality of our society.
- That you have the responsibility of positioning our country in her rightful place in the comity of modern democracies. For instance, in the United Kingdom (UK) today, female Muslim attorneys are free to put on hijab both at call to bar and as practicing attorneys with the daughter of the current NBA President being a good example. We therefore plead that you restore
- justice and nip this practice of apartheid in the bud.
- Punishment should be meted out to overzealous public officers who abuse public trust to deliberately promote their faith by repressing and oppressing citizens who belong to other faiths. This is the solution to recurrence and prevention of avoidable but justifiable anger of the oppressed.