Lagos And The Ban Of Hijab, Open Letter To Governor Akinwunmi Ambode- By Abdulrazaq O Hamzat



When people perceive that there is a war against them which they

cannot run away from, they fights back. Even if the war doesn’t exist

in real world, may be an imaginary war which is only manifest in the

mind of the dreamer, sometimes, dreamers bring their imaginary war

defense into reality through creation of a real enemy. In the real

world, they will engage the perceived enemy, watched every of his

move, fault every of his action, link every action to themselves

through imaginary conspiracy theory and on that basis, mobilize

support for physical engagement.

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Through this practice, many insurgent and terrorist organization

strive. They exploit certain wrong actions of government to build

movement around themselves to carryout certain actions, though in

reality, not to advance interest of their recruit. But when the

recruits are in, its hard to go out.

Recently, a Lagos High Court in Ikeja upheld the ban of Hijab by the

Lagos State Government prohibiting the wearing of Muslim scarf or

hijab, in government owned primary and secondary schools. The

judgement was delivered by Justice Grace Onyeabo in Lagos. The judge,

neglected numerous arguments presented to her during the about

two-year case that sections of the Nigerian constitution and

international laws guaranteed the freedom of religion, thoughts and

conscience. She went ahead to deliberately delivered a flawed


Before approaching the court for justice, Muslim students had

severally been assaulted and harassed by some teachers and principals

for no offense, other than being modest  in dressing as required by

their religion. One of the scenarios of harassment was that on

February 5, 2013, Aisha, a JSS II student of Kadara Junior High

School, Ebute Metta was flogged forty three (43) strokes of cane on

the assembly ground by her principal, Mrs. E.C Ukpaka, because Aisha

did not remove her Hijab after coming out of Islamic Religious

Knowledge class, where it is ordinarily permitted to adorn Hijab.

As a result of this harassment and several others,scores of Muslim

Students stormed the office of the then Lagos State Governor,

Babatunde Fashola to protest the alleged banning of Muslim students

from wearing Hijab in public schools. The protesters, led by Assistant

-General Secretary, Muslim Students Society (MSS), Zhikirul-lahi

Sulaiman, brandished placards with inscriptions including ‘Hijab is

our right”, “Stop this Hijabophobia”.

In seeking a peaceful route to the restoration of the rights of

Muslism students to use hijab as guaranteed by the Nigerian

constitution and universal declaration of human rights, the students

went to court to seek justice, but unfortunately, even a law court

judge seems to lack adequate understanding of human right law,as this

flaws clearly manifest in her incoherent judgement.

First, let me join millions of Muslims in Lagos and Nigeria to state

categorically that, no legal document has prevented Muslim women from

wearing hijab if they so desire. It is however regrettable to note

that, the same country that said woman have a right to dress however

they want including dressing indecently by exposing all parts of their

body is now placing a ban on Muslim women who choose to wear hijab to

cover their body. How else can injustice and double standard manifest?

It must be noted that, dress code is part of that overall teaching of

Islam. There are two verses in the Qur’an in which Almighty Allah

talks about the issue of decency.

In Chapter 24 known as an-Nur (the Light), in verse 30, Allah

commanded Prophet Muhammad as follows:

“Say to the believing men that: they should cast down their glances

and guard their private parts (by being chaste). This is better for


This is a command to Muslim men that they should not lustfully look at

women (other than their own wives); and in order to prevent any

possibility of temptation, they are required to cast their glances

downwards. This is known as “hijab of the eyes”.

Then in the next verse, Allah commanded the Prophet to address the women:

“Say to the believing women that: they should cast down their glances

and guard their private parts (by being chaste)…”

This is a similar command as given to the men in the previous verse

regarding “hijab of the eyes”.

This hijab of eyes is similar to the teaching of Jesus where he says,

“You have heard that it was said by them of old time, you shall not

commit adultery. But I say unto you, That whosoever looks on a woman

to lust after her has committed adultery with her already in his


So if you see a Muslim casting his/her eyes downwards when he/she is

talking to a member of opposite sex, this should not be considered as

rude or an indication of lack of confidence — he/she is just abiding

by the Qur’anic as well as Biblical teaching.

After “hijab of the eyes” came the order describing the dress code for women:

“…and not display their beauty except what is apparent, and they

should place their veil over their bosoms…”

According to the commentators of the Qur’an, the women of Medina in

the pre-Islamic era used to put their veil over the head with the two

ends tucked behind and tied at the back of the neck, in the process

exposing their ears and neck. By saying that, “place the veil over the

bosoms,” Almighty Allah ordered the women to let the two ends of their

headgear extend onto their bosoms so that they conceal their ears, the

neck, and the upper part of the bosom also.

Finally. the verse goes on to give the list of the mahram – male

family members in whose presence the hijab is not required, such as

the husband, the father, the father-in-law, the son(s), and others.

In view of this, denying Muslim students their constitutional rights

of adhering to the tenate of their religion is not only a glaring

violation, but it is also a call for public disobedience as it is

against the Islamic teaching for women to desist from wearing their

hijab. Muslim children are brought up with this practice so they could

grow up, adhering to and observing ten-ate of their religion as

provided for in the constitution.

The schools are for the public, financed with tax payers funds which

include Muslims, there is no way Muslims can be prevented from

attending the school they finance, neither should they be denied the

right to dress decently with hijab as required by their religion. They

are not asking other students from other religion to wear hijab, they

are wearing it by themselves.

A social commentator, Abdulsalam Abdulrahman while reacting to an

article on the social media noted that, it is high time we realized

that depriving Muslims of their religious rights is a continuous

invitation of terrorism in the world, as every true Muslim on earth

must always fight in the course of Allah to defend every aspect of his

or her faith. For peace and unity to remain in this nation, we just

have to be religious sensitive and tolerant without being bais or


Research had shown that, acts characterized as terrorism in nature can

occur both in conflict and peace-time. They may constitute crimes in

domestic and international law, and they are motivated by a complex

milieu of reasons and ideals. Their characterization can also depend

upon the person or institution using the label and may even change

over time. To give two important examples, the list of most wanted

terrorists kept by the United States of America featured, at one time,

Yasser Arafat and Nelson Mandela. These two personalities were

subsequently awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

It should be noted that, If either of these two personalities were

killed when their status remain designated as terrorists, the world

wouldn’t celebrate them like it is doing today, neither would the

world see their peaceful nature worthy of them being awarded the noble

peace prize. Rather, they may remain in the dark side of history for

the same reason they are being celebrated today. This goes to justify

the saying that, one man terrorist, is another man’s freedom fighter.

Today, Mandela died a hero for the same reason he was designated as terrorist.

For the purpose of emphasis, the Lagos state government must know

that, any attempt to deny Muslim students a right to  their hijab is

an invitation to unrest, as millions of Muslims across Lagos and

Nigeria would not only resist such a violation of religious right as

guaranteed by UDHR and Nigerian Constitution,but would never rest

until it is restored.

Let it be noted again that, while some people like this writer might

go about the struggle to restore the rights of Muslims peacefully and

intellectually, lesson of history had shown that, others may employ

whatever means they deem necessary which include violence.

By definition, terrorism is the unlawful use or threat of violence

against persons or property to further political or social objectives.

It is usually intended to intimidate or coerce a government,

individual or groups, to modify their  behavior or politics. Ideology

is the most important feature of terrorism. This distinguishes it from

other criminal acts or conduct during armed conflict. In contrast, the

primary motivation of terrorists is altruistic, motivated by a higher

cause or ideology that is greater than his or her personal impulses or

gains. A terrorist acts for the furtherance of an external cause,

whether it be a localized secessionist movement or global jihad, and

for the benefit this has to both the cause and the people of it.

Terrorist’s commitment to his ideology is unbending. It has been

observed that, there is no room for negotiation or compromise. Those

refereed to as terrorist holds onto an unbreakable idea or passion.

This indestructible passion is what drives the individual into


Denying Muslim students a right to their hijab is offensive, it is

also considered an abuse against the fundamental rights of every

Muslim child, something that might spark unrest and push some people

into resistance, either openly or secretly. The Lagos state government

is asking Muslim students to choose between their religion and their

school, without giving similar conditions to adherent of other faiths.

But the spirit of the Nigerian constitution doesn’t create such a


Some scholars have suggested that one of the main causes of terrorism

is economic deprivation- that it is rooted in poverty and

within-country inequality. Others have added that monetary incentives

and religious indoctrination are used by terrorists as veritable tools

where poverty and ignorance have taken roots. Groups which use

oppression as an excuse for terrorism believe their fundamental rights

are being violated by government and justice must be pursued at all



A public commentator, barrister Abdulsalam Abdulfatah Liberty

maintained that,such demand for hijab, so cardinal to religion of

Islam is a fundamental right of Muslims; such is the spirit of our law

nevertheless the judgment of Lagos State High Court, this we are

convinced is a right base on the letter of the 1999 Constitution of

Nigeria (as amended) in section 38 (1).


“Every person shall be entitled to freedom of thought, conscience and

religion, including freedom to change his religion or belief, and

freedom (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.”


The Constitution of Nigeria and the Quran on this issue represent a

coherent legal networking when sec. 38 CFRN preserves the Surah Al-Nur

verse 31, Surah Asab verse 59, and other verses of Quran and Hadith

that mandate HIJAB for Muslims girls/ woman.


Even in the UK or US where Christians are the majority, Muslims

students are allowed to wear hijabs because its their right. We

shouldn’t unjustly deny certain group of people their right for no

just reason like it is being done in Lagos.

I therefore call on the Lagos state government under the leadership of

the new Governor, Mr. Akinwumi Ambode to immediately reverse that law

banning use of hijab by Muslim students in Lagos state public schools.


Abdulrazaq O Hamzat is a peace and conflict resolution expert and can

be reached on

Abdulrazaq O Hamzat

Abdulrazaq O Hamzat

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1 Comment on this article. Feel free to join this conversation.

  1. Richard June 1, 2015 at 6:36 am -

    My dear Abdulrazaq O Hamzat , so the Nur verse (the light ) in your Qur’an was existing when Mohammed the prophet of Islam was raping all small girls that he came across during his days . Maybe it was included after seeing how the womanising prophet was destroying small girls and promising his followers seven virgins when they kill none – muslims. Stop shedding crocodile tears, even in the westen world, the rubbish called HIJAB has been banned in all public spaces including schools. Are you not aware that your people are using it to smuggle bombs to destroy people and properties all over the world ?