ON HIJAB, LAW SCHOOL AND CALL TO BAR
“Meanwhile sources at the ICC stated that before the ceremonies were to begin, all Muslims were respectfully asked to remove their hijabs prior to entering the hall. This request was complied with by all the Muslims present except Amasa Firdaus who vehemently refused to remove hers. In the process of her protests and despite entreaties made to her by other Muslims she was denied entry into the hall by the Body of Benchers. During the ceremony, a Respected former Chief Justice of Nigeria also met with Amasa Firdaus to convince her to remove her hijab but she did not heed the pleadings as she reiterated that even at gun point she would never remove her Hijab…” (Culled from a Nigerian Law Blog site)
Dear Amasa Firdaus, I want to address you. Please allow me share a brief story with you so that you may be inspired and remain resolute.
In 2015, my wife, a Soldier with the US Army, was told at the Army Annual Training at Fort Dix, New Jersey, United States 🇺🇸 that she either take off her Hijab or leave the Annual Training. My wife insisted that her Hijab is part of her and she will never remove it to please anyone or authority. Exactly like you reportedly insisted. Eventually, she was told to leave and she left the Annual Training. After the conclusion of the annual training, her Military unit said she cannot return….At another point, she was invited back to the drill and she went there with her Hijab 🧕 on her head. Again, she was told she cannot use her Hijab and she had to leave and she left. Away from the limelight she fought this vehemently by escalating the issue to the top echelon of the command. We prepared a memo to the authorities explaining why she should be allowed to use her Hijab 🧕.
She was away for almost a year but eventually and in end, the Army Secretary under President Obama released a new regulation allowing the use of Hijab. It was a glorious moment. Her decision to remain undaunted paved the way for others who will come after her. Suddenly, the fight was worth it. All those period she had to cry became a thing of joy. We were elated that her resolve to remain undaunted finally paid off. Today, she proudly wears her Hijab on her uniform, attends her drill sessions and performs well. She’s a badass solider who’ll soon be commissioned as an officer and I’m so darn proud of her.
That is my message to you today Firdaus. You have a made a huge sacrifice and I cannot begin to imagine how sad you feel that the profession you so much look forward to joining has asked you to choose between your faith and your call to bar. You must be so disappointed that Nigeria let you down. I bet you also feel that your Muslim colleagues who took off their Hijabs 🧕 when ordered to do so should have stood firm and maybe when they realise that none of you is willing to break rank, they’d have allowed you all to use your Hijab. I get the feeling of sadness. But don’t be. You’re a hero.
You have once again reignited the conversation that has been on for years. You have brought our attention to the way the Nigerian Law School and Council of Legal Education who are empowered to train new lawyers show flagrant disregard to your rights under S. 38 of the constitution. Your courage and sacrifice remind me of that of my wife. You call to bar may have been delayed but in the end, Justice will prevail and it won’t be denied. Please, cheer up! The road ahead will be tough but Allah will strengthen and ease that burden for you.
To your friends and family, this is the time to rally round one of your own and give her all the support she needs. Her decision to fight this injustice is not stupid. Heroes are not always in uniform.
To my lawyer colleagues, once again, we have been called to task. How do we explain it that the Nigerian Law School & Council of Legal Education who are empowered to train new lawyers will themselves refuse to obey the judgments of the Court? Does that not worry us? As a Lawyer, I’m extremely disappointed. Several courts including the Court of Appeal in the case of Lagos State v Aisha Abdulkareem held that the use of Hijab 🧕 is a constitutional and fundamental right and no one can take it away. Also in Abidemi Rasaq & ors V. Commissioner for Health Lagos State suit no ID/424M/2004, the Lagos State High Court held that a circular issued by Lagos State School of Health Technology banning students from wearing Hijab 🧕 is unconstitutional. Similarly in the case of Provost Kwara State College of Education, Ilorin V. Basirat Saliu suit no CA/IL/49/2009, the learned Justices of the Court of Appeal held that the use of Hijab 🧕 by female Muslims qualifies as a fundamental right under Section 38 of the Constitution.
Despite all these decisions, the Nigerian Law School and by extension the Council of Legal Education continues to victimize Muslim Law Student who chose to cover their hair by threatening not to call them to Nigerian Bar. Are we really going to debate this issue from our religious googles or be objective and err on the side of common sense and humanity?
To MULAN and other Muslim Senior Lawyers and Judges, I once read that the Elders have said that they needed just one person who’s willing to face the consequences and stand her ground to wear her Hijab and they will take it up. Now Amasa Firdaus has given herself up. Will you fail her?