Justice Bamgbose Alabi of the Abeokuta High Court in Ogun State has ruled that “the use of hijab is considered a fundamental human right only for adults”. This formed the basis of his judgement on Thursday 4th June, 2020 in a case filed by Aishat Abdul-Aleem, an 11-year old Muslim girl who was sent out of school at the Gateway Secondary School, Abeokuta in December 2018.
In its reaction to this judgement, an Islamic human rights outfit, the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC), has described the judgement as judicial namby-pamby. MURIC’s reaction was contained in a press statement issued by the Director of the organization on Monday, 8th June, 2020.
MURIC said, “We reject this judgement in its totality. What manner of judicial declaration is this? Is the judge telling us that minors have no religion, no fundamental human rights, not even a dot in social statistics? Is he telling us that minors do not exist? Why are minors counted during census? Why do we register them at birth? Is the killing of a minor judiciable or not? This judgment suffers from desertification of a human face. It has no soul. It is judicial namby-pamby.
“The ruling stands in contra-distinction to Section 38 (2) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which states inter alia, ‘No person attending any place of education shall be required … to take part in …ceremony or observance (which) relates to a religion other than his own or a religion not approved by his parent or guardian’.
“The above section has clearly and convincingly recognized the right of minors to enjoy fundamental human rights. It also placed them under the umbrella of their parents’ or guardians’ inalienable rights.
“By this arbitrary judgement, the judge has elected to discriminate against children on account of age. This is contrary to Article 2 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. What will happen if a case of rape of a minor is brought to this court? Can minors ever get redress in this court? Do minors even exist as far as this court is concerned?
“The judgement in the case of Aishat Abdul-Aleem is a judicial somersault. It is as arbitrary as it is absurd. It is equally an unprecedented miscarriage of justice. It cannot hold any water. We charge the litigants to approach an appellate court without delay.
“Previous judgements in hijab cases have set precedents which this judge has chosen to ignore. In the case of Abidemi Rasaq & 3Ors Vs Commissioner for Health Lagos State & 2 Ors, Suit No. ID/424M/2004, the Lagos High Court declared unconstitutional a circular issued by Lagos School of Health Technology banning the students from wearing hijab.
“Also in the case of Provost Kwara State College of Education, Ilorin vs Basirat Saliu Suit No. CA/IL/49/2009, the Court of Appeal, Ilorin Judicial Division held thus: ‘The use of veil (hijab) by female Muslims qualifies as a fundamental right under section 38 of the Constitution.’ Abeokuta High Court must tell us if Aishat Abdul-Aleem is not a female Muslim.
“The landmark declaration of the Court of Appeal in Lagos State v Miss Ashiat Abdkareem CA/L/135/15 still remains unchallenged. In his lead judgment, Justice Gumel held that the use of hijab was an Islamic injunction and also an act of worship hence it would constitute a violation of the appellants’ rights to stop them from wearing the hijab in public schools.
“MURIC considers the Abeokuta judgement an extension of the persecution of Muslims in Yorubaland to the judicial terrain. The honourable justice has simply returned Ogun State to the Stone Age. By ruling that minors are not covered in fundamental human right to use hijab, the court has denied Muslim parents the opportunity to train their children in the use of hijab from childhood.
“The Abeokuta ruling is another example of the persecution of Muslims in Yorubaland. It is only in Yorubaland that Muslims must approach the courts before they can secure their Allah-given fundamental human rights. It is only in Yorubaland that Muslims suffer psychological trauma on account of the persecution and humiliation that their children go through in the schools.
“Yet some extremist irredentists want Yoruba Muslims to support them in a secessionist move to create Oduduwa Republic from the present Nigeria. They want to take us from the frying pan into the fire. How can a child whose step-mother has always maltreated him agree to leave his father in order to follow the same wicked step-mother after a divorce?
“Yoruba Muslims are not getting the dividends of democracy in Yorubaland. They are treated like underdogs. But instead of taking to violence they head to the courts. Even then they are not getting justice in the courts. It is getting to boiling point and we are hoping that Yoruba Muslims will not put their backs to the wall very soon. We appeal to Muslims in Yorubaland in particular and Nigeria in general to remain calm. It may be a long road but we will get there one day. Nonetheless, the road must not be painted in red.”
Professor Ishaq Akintola,
Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC)