Petition Against Discrimination of Muslim Women Using the Hijab in the Legal Profession in Nigeria sign now

Muslim women who chose a career in the Legal Profession in Nigeria have become target of discrimination due to their insistence on using the Hijab. The use of the hijab has become an unnecessarily controversial issue in the legal profession of this country. From the universities, Law Schools and, most sadly, court rooms.
Hijab is an Arabic word that refers to headcover worn by Muslim women. Muslim scholars are in complete agreement that it is obligatory on a Muslim woman to cover her body in public and in the presence of men who are not within the prohibited degrees of marriage with them. All parts of her body except her hands and face are to be covered. The foundation for this assertion is found in the Quran and the Hadith being the two major sources of Islamic Law.
Quran 24:31 provides:
And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that they should not display their beauty and ornaments except what (must ordinarily) appear thereof; that they should draw their veils over their bosoms and not display their beauty except to their husbands, their fathers, their husbands‟ fathers‟, their son, their husbands‟ sons or their sisters‟ sons or their women, or the slaves whom their right hand possess, or male servants free of physical needs, or small children who have no sense of the shame of sex; and that they should not strike their feet in order to draw attention to their hidden ornaments. And O ye believers! Turn ye all together towards Allah, that ye may attain bliss

Also, in an Hadith reported from Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him), Asma, daughter of Abu Bakr, entered upon the Apostle of Allah (peace be upon him) wearing thin clothes. The Apostle of Allah (peace be upon him) turned his attention from her. He said: O Asma', when a woman reaches the age of menstruation, it does not suit her that she displays her parts of body except this and this, and he pointed to her face and hands.

For millions who wear the hijab, they do so out of faith, an absolute obligation to what they understand to be requirement from the Quran and it is essential to womens modesty. Although, Islam prefers for Muslim women a quiet life within her home where she is accorded a supreme role within the family, Islam allows that she can seek education, trade and participate in the life of her community provided she uses the hijab. The hijab means freedom for the Muslim woman. It enables them gain access to study, work and to interact with men in public without being viewed as being unchaste or wayward.
The hijab is a fundamental aspect of the life of a Muslim woman. Muslim female Law students and lawyers are well educated and enlightened and those who chose to wear the hijab do so out of their religious conviction and not out of compulsion. It amounts to the violation of the fundamental rights of Muslim women to strip them of the hijab.

Human right protects that which the individual considers to be his right provided it does not infringe on others right. The hijab does not in any way tamper with the right of other citizen. The denial of hijab for Muslim students and legal practitioners is a clear violation of the fundamental human rights of Muslims.

The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 provides as a fundamental human right, the right of every person to freedom of religion which includes freedom to manifest ones religion in practice and observance. The constitution provides safeguards against discrimination on ground of religion. Both sections are part of the fundamental rights provisions of the constitution, which constitutes the bill of rights, embodied in the constitution. The use of hijab is practically a matter of freedom of choice of a Muslim woman as a matter of freedom of religious expression. The freedom of worship and observance of ones religion either in public or private alone or in the community with other is a fundamental right, which forms part of the core of international human rights standards.

The Imported regulation or corporate dressing of the legal profession emanated basically from the cultural heritage of the English people. While we respect this fact, we also view that to insist on the slavish imitation of all that is done in England is not only demeaning to the sovereignty of the country, but also culturally insensitive.

We humbly request that the victimization and harassment of Muslim female barristers in Nigerian court and female Muslim students at the Nigerian Law School, especially during the mandatory dinners, because of the hijab should stop. Government Institutions should be more sensitive to human rights issues affecting religion given the pluralistic and volatile nature of religion in the country.

The Council of Legal Education and the Body of Benchers are urged to allow Muslim female students and female legal practitioners to comply with the Qurans injunctions. They should allow Muslim women wear the hijab as part of their regulation dress during the dinner and as part of their courtroom dress. This is the minimum standard for peaceful co-existence between the two major religions in the country.
It is quite reasonable to expect that some professional dress code may be inconsistent with some religious tenets. There is no reason why the hijab cannot be incorporated into the dress code of lawyers as an option for women. No profession has the right to say to a Muslim woman: Choose between this profession and your faith! Muslim women have the right to a professional life as well as a religious life.

The opposition to the hijab betrays religious hostility and intolerance. Whilst various dressings which Muslims consider immoral are allowed to flourish, all sorts of excuses are conjured up in the West in order to ban the hijab. Many more Muslims are now standing firmly by the tenets of Islam. The reason for this development is the realization by them that a Muslim is under a religious obligation to adhere strictly to Islamic principles and therefore shun all social influences which tend to undermine the Islam. There is need for religious tolerance in a multi-religious nation such as Nigeria. Peace cannot be purchased at the cost of a persons religious tenets. Hence it is our hope that this issue be resolved so as to serve as yet another lesson to the world that disputes can be resolved in a peaceful and civil manner.

President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria
President of the Senate
Speaker of the House of Assembly
Chief Justice of the Federation
Executive Governor, Lagos State
Executive Governor, Enugu State
Executive Governor, Kano State
Minister of the FCT
Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs

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