Fridaus Amasa Abdulsalam Esq, Barrister and Solicitor of the Supreme Court of Nigeria. She is a law graduate of University of Ilorin, LLB Degree and a Masters degree holder in Comparative Law (MCL) from the International Islamic University, Malaysia.
She has received many awards for her rare courage as an activist and for her outstanding performance as an advocate. On December 12, 2017, Amasa was denied entrance to the International Conference Centre, Abuja where the rounding up ceremony (call to the bar) was to take place for refusing to remove her hijab. This event has later become a needless Hijab row in Nigeria.
Her advocacy eventually led to the Body of Benchers passing a resolution approving the use of hijab for female bar aspirants at the Call to the Bar from 2018. Fridaus Amasa Esq., speaks to The Muslim Voice, Nigeria’s Usman Oyebamiji about how she breaks the hijab barrier among lawyers, her upbringing and the rising hijab advocacy in Nigeria.
MV: Today, the issue of hijab had been the subject of litigation in various state in Nigeria. The Nigerian constitution allows all to practice their faith according to the dictates of their religion. As a law expert, expatiate on this statement.
Fridaus Amasa: Sounds like an LLB exam question (smiles).
Well, you’ve said it all. The laws are clear. The provisions if Section 38 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is very clear on freedom of religion of every Nigerian. This alone is enough to hold anyone accountable. The decided cases are also very supportive. But,
people continue to take laws into their hands.
The problem is enforcement. More work must be done by Muslims and the government.
MV: The wearing of the hijab by Muslim women is in line with the teachings of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), as recommended in Qur’an 33:59. You set a precedent for Hijab-wearing Muslims during the call to bar programme in Nigeria, what are your convictions then?
Fridaus Amasa: Knowing the importance of hijab. And more importantly, Allah’s guidance. I couldn’t have done it without His guidance.
MV: What motivated you to take the decision to advocate for Hijabi-Lawyers without fearing the consequences?
Fridaus Amasa: Few weeks to the call to bar, I was discussing my fears with a sister. And, she suggested that the call to bar ceremony be attended on my behalf. That’s improper and if caught, one may be denied the call forever. Despite that, it was a tempting option. But, my question to that sister was: “If I go scot free, will Hikmah and Tawakalt go scot free?” Those are my two younger sisters who were at that time, undergraduates at the Faculty of law, University of Ilorin. Hikmah was called to the bar in 2021 and Tawakalt just graduated at the faculty of law UNILORIN two days ago. She will soon proceed to law school in shaa Allah and will not be faced with the issue of hijab. Alhamdulillah.
So, I believe the greatest motivation I had were those behind me. I was hopeful that if I could make the sacrifice, Many Hikmahs and Tawakalts would have it easier. Alhamdulillah for the victory.
MV: You have the courage to stand firm for Allah’s wishes despite the intimidations by humans. Have anyone influenced you to do such brave act in the past?
Fridaus Amasa: The kind of upbringing I had was instrumental. The Islamic programmes I attended as an adolescent and the mentors we had growing up made us believe nothing is impossible especially if it’s in the course of Islam.
MV: Muslims and non Muslims called you many unprintable names for maintaining your hijab standard, how did you overcome these challenges?
Fridaus Amasa: It was expected. Besides at that time, I didn’t have a good mobile phone, so I was unable to see most of the online comments. The bad phone was a blessing in disguise (smiles). Seeing some of the comments few months ago brought nothing but smiles. Alhamdulillah.
MV: In 2018, you made the list of 10 Young Africa Change Makers. This is despite most Nigerian media attempted to downplay your victory. Tell us your reaction to the nomination then.
Fridaus Amasa: It was a great honour.
MV: How did you feel when you are called to the bar in your hijab, seven months after being denied at that time?
Fridaus Amasa: Grateful to Allah and fulfilled.
MV: In Nigeria, there is always a challenge using hijab in schools, offices, hospitals, organisations etc. What ways can government restore the confidence of Nigerian Muslims on the identity of women in hijab in various sectors of the country?
a. More sensitization on religious tolerance
b. Better Enforcement on fundamental human rights
c. Passing into law the Religious Discrimination Prevention Bill proposed at the National Assembly some months back.
MV: Lately, there has been bone of contention on the matter of hijab in Nigeria, which has unfortunately gone down to the school level and generated needless violent clashes. What’s your take on this issue?
Fridaus Amasa: Very sad. I pray such a crisis never occur again. The issue of hijab should never degenerate into violence.
MV: If passed into law will the delayed Religious Discrimination Bill by National Assembly reduced the persecution of hijab wearing women in Nigeria?
Fridaus Amasa: Hopefully in shaa Allah. It’s more explicit than the provisions of the constitution.
MV: As a Human Rights Officer of the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, what is the organization doing to stop the continued harassment of Muslim women and girls who wear hijab in this country.
Fridaus Amasa: As the umbrella body of other Islamic organisations, the Council tries to coordinate and support the activities of other Islamic Organisations. We issue statements on issues once in a while. A lot more can be done.
MV: You are raised by your parents and great mentors such as the late Sheikh Dr. Muhammad Ali Olukade Jaji, Professor Nasirudeen Muhammad and Alhaji Tijaani Edun. What is your relationship with them?
Fridaus Amasa: May Allah bless the soul of the three great leaders you mentioned. They all passed away very early. But, we benefitted from the works they did and we are still benefitting. When I said “upbringing” Islamic programs” in A4. above, the bulk of it can be credited to the training I got from Al-harakatul Islamiyyah founded by late Dr. Muhammad Ali Olukade and his jama’a. May Allah preserve those that are alive among them on goodness including my parents. And may He forgive and have mercy on those that have passed.
MV: To other hijab wearing Muslim women currently being tormented for their decision to stick to their Islamic apparel. Kindly give advice to them during their triviality.
Fridaus Amasa: I will like to remind fellow hijabis of a hadith of the prophet (s.a.w) and say “tuubuu lil gurabai” (glad tidings to the stranggers). Let us remain firm and hold strongly to the rope of Allah. After all, with Him alone is our rewards.
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