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When the learned turn ignorant

A huge wave of disappointment, no doubt, greeted the announced postponement of the House of Representatives committee hearing, on the hijab controversy at the Nigerian…

A huge wave of disappointment, no doubt, greeted the announced postponement of the House of Representatives committee hearing, on the hijab controversy at the Nigerian Law School. 

    But even more disappointing than this was our discovery that the postponement was occasioned by a lawsuit instituted against the proposed hearing, by a certain ‘Coalition for the preservation of legal practitioners ethics’ at an Abuja High Court.

    For a profession that calls it’s members learned, this coalition has displayed the highest degree of ignorance when they termed the proposed hearing as unconstitutional. Are there any aspects of life in Nigeria that are off limits to our elected representatives?

    How can a hearing into a matter of great importance to more than half the population of Nigeria go against the provision of the Nigerian constitution? 

    And why do we call them lawmakers, if they cannot look into issues that border on the well-being of Nigerians and make laws to safeguard them?

    Or can it be that these learned but actually ignorant bunch are trying to call hijab observance itself as unconstitutional? If so they have again shown their ignorance of the provisions of the Nigerian constitution, which guarantees freedom of religion for every religious adherent in this country, so long as it does no infringe on the rights of others.

    What is obvious, from the step taken by members of this ‘learned coalition’ is that they are hiding behind this lawsuit to cause unnecessary delay in the case of Firdausi Amasa Abdussalam, knowing full well that such a delay can only lead to denial of justice for the young lady. 

    What is amazing is how the House of Reps judiciary committee allowed itself to be railroaded into postponing the scheduled hearing. In democracy we have three independent arms of government, and they are the Executive, the legislature and the judiciary. 

    Holding public hearings into issues of concern to the citizens of Nigeria is one of the legislature’s primary functions. 

    How could they allow themselves to be intimidated into calling off the hearing after all preparations for it had been concluded? In response to the advertisement calling for memoranda from all stakeholders in the hijab controversy, numerous Islamic groups have issued their memoranda, and those directly affected by the Law School saga like Firdausi Abdussalam were already in town for the hearing, when the unfortunate postponement was announced.

    Are they afraid that this step can lead to an end to all the discrimination against hijab-wearers that has been going on in some Nigerian schools and other uniformed institutions?

    Of the many arguments that were forwarded after the Law School incident on December 13th last year, the one that strikes me most is the one that says a lawyer is not even even obligated to wear the legal robes until he/she has already been called to the bar. So if there was a violation of the dress code, shouldn’t that apply only when a lawyer is fully a member of the Nigerian Bar? 

    In any case, a woman who covers her hair and tucks her hijab neatly, under the collar of her legal robes is removing nothing from herq legal attire; everything is intact, so why should she be persecuted for trying hard to balance her religious obligation with the demands of her chosen career?

    Since the refusal by the Nigerian Body of Benchers to call Firdausi Abdussalam to the Nigerian Bar, we have seen photos of female Muslim lawyers from  

    both developed and developing countries, comfortably doning their mini hijabs on their legal robes, why should it be different here? 

    In Britain, our colonial master, whose legal system we still operate, Muslim women are allowed to appear in courts with their hijab, why can’t we have the same here?

    Ordinarily, Nigerians can’t wait to emulate the actions of people from the developed Western World, but when those actions favour the standpoint of Islam, they quickly recoil into their prejudiced cocoons and refuse to acknowledge, let alone follow those examples. 

    And this is why the eight legal practitioners who instituted a legal action to stop the hearing on Firdausi’s Law school travails should be seen for what they are: Islamaphobes. 

    Yes these are members of a coalition whose sole aim is to frustrate the effort to get justice for that unfortunate victim of the colonial mentality prevalent in our legal  profession. These are peoples so filled with Islamaphobia that they would rather do everything to frustrate Firdausi’s aspirations than rise up and join the league of multicultural societies which have accepted the hijab. 

    The challenge before our House of Reps judiciary committee is to go to the court and defend their right, competence and jurisdiction to hold that public hearing.

    They must remind these diehard islamaphobes that in a democracy where there is clear separation of powers between the Executive, the Legislative and the Judicial arms of government, they are within their rights to hold hearings on national issues and make laws accordingly.

    Members of this coalition are so blinded by their hatred for Islamic principles that they will even feign ignorance of this aspect of democracy. They must not be allowed to have their way. Firdausi Amasa must be allowed to seek justice for her travails. The House of Reps Judicial committee must not let her down in this.

 

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