There was wild jubilation at the premises of the Court of Appeal in Lagos State, yesterday, when the right to wear Hijab, Islamic headscarf, in public primary and secondary schools was granted. Kids with hijab After the judgement, Muslim faithful were seen shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’, ‘Alihamdulilah’, meaning Allah is the greatest and all thanks is due to Allah, respectively. But in a swift reaction, the Lagos State government said it is still studying the judgement.
In a telephone reaction, Commissioner for Information, Mr Steve Ayorinde, said the appellate court delivered its judgement based on its wisdom but the government will have to study it critically to know the next line of action. Ayorinde, who reacted based on the earlier telephone calls made to the state Attorney General, Mr Adeniji Kazeem said: “The position of the Lagos State government is that we have to study the judgement and the reason behind it.
We are all aware that Lagos State and indeed the entire country is a secular state as prescribed by the Constitution and that issue of religion must always be approached with great caution, especially in multi-religious state like Lagos. So, we need to exercise restraint before our next line of action.” With yesterday’s verdict, Muslim students in Lagos State public schools have the right to wear Hijab on their school uniform both within and outside their school premises.
While delivering the verdict, the justices set aside the ruling of the Lagos State High Court, which had disallowed the use of Hijab. During the panel hearing, the presiding justice, A.B. Gumel, also asked parties involved in the case to update their defence documents. Other Justices in the panel set up by Appeal Court President, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa are Justice M. Fasanmi, Justice A. Jauro, Justice J.S. Ikejegh and Justice Jombo Ofor.
The case is between Asiyat Kareem (Minor) suing through Mr. AbdulKareem Raji; Mariam Oyeniyi through Mr. Sulaimon Oyeniyi; and Muslim Students’ Society of Nigeria, Lagos State Area Unit (suing through its president, Saheed Ashafa), against Lagos State Government (LASG) and others, who were the respondent. Justice Amina Augie of the Court of Appeal, Lagos had earlier affirmed that granting Muslim students the right to wear Hijab in Lagos State schools needed constitutional interpretation. Justice Augie, while granting the right to hear a case on the Hijab matter on May 3, asked the appellants to write the Appeal Court president to set up a full court (of five justices) to hear the case. In the case, the appellants want the judgement of the lower court to be reversed, while the defendant wants it to be upheld. Counsel to the appellant students, Mr Mohammed Lawal, in his reaction lauded the judgement and described it as victory of truth over falsehood.
On the position of law as enunciated by the Court of Appeal, the lawyer said: “The constitution of Nigeria recognises multi religion state not secular, so whenever any of our religious rights is being infringed upon, we need to demand for our right and that is what we have done.
“The state has said in its policy statement that Hijab is only allowed during Islamic activities, however with the position of the judgement today (Thursday) things have changed. The court stated that the state was not able to show which policy it stated contradicted the usage of Hijab in public schools and that where such policy exist, it cannot override the provision of the constitution, which allows the appellants to practice their faith. “Any student harassed by any teacher or principal can take this up because if such thing happens, that is a contempt of the court.” President of Muslim Students’ Society of Nigeria in Lagos State, Saheed Ashafa, expressed delight over the ruling. While saying the right to wear Hijab was long overdue, Ashafa urged all parties to act in accordance with the judgement. He said: “This is victory for Islam. Victory to Muslims. The words of Allah have come to pass. We are glad that there are few judges whose neutrality has not be stained by sentiment.” “We wonder why we had to face so many challenges before our right is granted.
This recognition and truthful interpretation on freedom of religion as enshrined in the Nigeria constitution (Section 36) and United Nations Charter, will further strengthen public trust in the judiciary.” ‘’Today will remain historic in the life of every Muslim in Lagos and Nigeria as a whole. We will remain law abiding and appeal to all and sundry not to act in ways and manners that are contrary to the judgement.
‘This should mark the end to harassment, embarrassment, victimisation, cheat and allacts of wickedness unleashed on Muslim female students who wear the Hijab.” Also, Amirah of MSSN in Lagos State, Hafsah Badru, described the Hijab as a religious garment, which should be put on at all times.
“Injustice can never prevail over justice, truth will always prevail over falsehood; the commands of Allah are supreme over all man made laws. Allah is the Greatest. We have not asked anyone not to observe their religious right in respect to legality, we have only asked that ours should not be tampered upon, and as Allah wants it, we have the right granted,” she said. The Muslim Rights Concern, MURIC, hailed the verdict of the Court of Appeal. The association in a statement signed by its Director, Prof. Ishaq Akintola said the ruling had restored hope in the judiciary as the last hope of the common man.