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Stakeholders applaud as Lagos okays hijab use in schools

Stakeholders in the Muslim Community in Lagos have hailed the decision of the state government to issue a circular on the use of the Hijab…

Stakeholders in the Muslim Community in Lagos have hailed the decision of the state government to issue a circular on the use of the Hijab in public schools and institutions in the state.

The circular, with reference number CIR/HOS/’22/Vol.1/068 was issued on Monday, December 5 and signed by the State Head of Service, Hakeem Muri Okunola,

The issuance of the circular which took effect immediately was coming more than six months after the Supreme Court ruled in favour of Hijab, ending the eight years legal battle over Hijab in Lagos Schools.

Supreme Court Justices including Olukayode Ariwoola, Justice Kudirat Kekere-Ekun, Justice John Inyang Okoro, Justice Uwani Aji, Justice Mohammed Garba, Justice Tijjani Abubakar, and Justice Emmanuel Agim had on Friday June 17, 2022 ruled in favour of the Hijab.

According to the court, the ban on Hijab violated the Muslim students’ rights to freedom of thought, conscience, religion, the dignity of human persons and freedom from discrimination as guaranteed in the 1999 Constitution.

It would be recalled that the State government had banned the use of hijab, the Islamic veil adorned by female Muslim students, saying it was not part of the approved school uniform for pupils, thereby triggering a protracted legal battle which was resolved by the Supreme Court.

Since the Supreme Court gave the ruling, there has been an uneasy calm in the Muslim community over the silence of the state government and its refusal to issue a circular in order to give effect to the ruling.

The Director of the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC),  Prof Lakin Akintola, had on Monday issued a statement, saying, “LASG appears not to know that its silence over the Supreme Court judgement can be misinterpreted as a deliberate attempt to undermine the rule of law and it may fall foul of contempt of the highest court in the land.”

But shortly after MURIC’s statement was circulated, the state government issued a circular giving full effect to the judgement.

The circular titled, “Supreme Court Judgement on the Use of Hijab in Lagos State Schools read: “It’s hereby notified for general information that the supreme court judgment SC/910/2016 delivered on the 17th of June 2022 on the use of Hijab as it affects pupils/students in Lagos State schools has delivered that the students should be allowed to wear the hijab if desired.

“A Comprehensive Guideline on the use of Hijab in Schools will be issued by the State Government in due course, however you are to note that the judgement is binding on all schools in the State.

“As a law abiding administration, all Accounting Officers are to note the contents of this Circular for immediate compliance and give it the deserved Service-wide publicity.”

Reacting to the development, Hijab Rights Advocacy Initiative, (HRAI), one of the organisations that has championed the use of Hijab which membership cuts across various Islamic organisations in the state expressed delight over the development.

Executive Director of HRAI, Hajiah Mutiat Orolu-Balogun stated that the state has shown that it is a responsible and law-abiding government.

She said, “Now that the state has issued a circular and copied all officers in the State, those who tend to take laws into their hands don’t have any excuse again.”

Also, the Muslim Students’ Society of Nigeria commended the state government on the circular and urged full compliance with the Supreme Court guidelines.

The Amir (President) of MSSN Lagos State Area Unit, Miftahudeen Thanni, who hailed the government, expressed reservation on the second paragraph of the circular, saying, “It’s a settled matter”.

According to him, the guidelines on the hijab to be worn are already contained in the Supreme Court judgement.