It is incomprehensibly absurd that Muslims be denied, degraded, and violated in a nation where they make up a large portion of the population, yet religious rights are freely provided in nations where Muslims are a minuscule minority in America, Europe, and other regions of Africa such as Kenya. The Supreme Court of Nigeria issued a long-overdue but well-deserved ruling on Friday, July 17, 2022, regarding the fundamental human right of female Muslim students to wear the hijab to school as an exercise of their freedom of religion, which is guaranteed by the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended. This long-awaited judgment was undoubtedly welcomed by all.
Fundamentally, Nigerians’ right to freedom of religion is protected by the Federal Republic of Nigeria’s Constitution. The wearing of the hijab is recognized as a fundamental and constitutional right of Muslims in this country on the basis of the constitution. According to Section 38, Subsection 1 of the Nigerian Constitution (as amended in 2011), “Every person shall be entitled to freedom of thought, conscience and religion…(either alone or in community with others, and in public or in private) to manifest and propagate his religion or belief in worship, teaching, practice and observance”. Hijab’s constitutionality is unquestionably established by this.
In addition, there are numerous instances of legal declarations that depriving Muslim women of the right to wear the hijab beforehand is unconstitutional. For example, in a suit no ID/424M/20004 concerning Abidemi Rasaq & 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. Similarly, 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.
The hijab controversy had previously been the focus of legal disputes that reached the Appeal Court. In 2016, the court issued a ruling allowing female students in Lagos State to wear the hijab to school. Nevertheless, students in Lagos public schools are subjected to everyday humiliation, persecution, and denial of fundamental human rights that Allah has granted.
The final judgement of the Supreme Court of Nigeria delivered on Friday 17th July, 2022 wherein the apex court unanimously affirmed the right of female Muslim students to wear hijab in Lagos State schools. Indeed it was a battle to victory from 2014 when Sister Asiyat AbdulKareem was beaten and humiliated in Lagos Secondary School for deciding to exercise her religious freedom. The ruling sealed a ten-year judicial tussle between the Muslims of Lagos State and LASG. However, repression of female Muslim students continue as school principals and teachers claim ignorance of the Supreme Court judgement. They insist on disallowing hijab until we can produce a circular issued by LASG.
Hakeem Muri-Okunola, the Lagos State Head of Service, issued a circular on December 5, 2022. The circular’s information has advised all government organizations to abide by the Supreme Court of Nigeria’s ruling regarding the hijab. So, all hail the hijab warriors in Nigeria. The hijab warriors deserve praise. The soldiers are aware of this tone, which supports their tenacity and bravery.