Nigeria: Muslim body slams school banning headscarves

By Rafiu Ajakaye

LAGOS, Nigeria (AA) – Shutting out Muslim girls from school for wearing headscarves amounts to unacceptable religious bigotry and a violation of the Constitution, Nigeria's apex Muslim body said on Saturday, a day after nine pupils were told to leave a school in the southwest Oyo State.

The nine Muslim teenagers were prevented from entering the International School Ibadan (ISI) compound on Friday because they wore headscarves, barely a week after the government in southwestern Lagos officially approved the wearing of headscarves by Muslim girls. The government decision came two years after its circular banning headscarves was struck down on appeal.

In a statement on Saturday, the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) said the action of the school, located in the premises of the country's premier University of Ibadan, amounted to official discrimination against Muslims and threatened to sue the violators.

“The denial of the Muslim girls of the right to use their hijab is just a ring in a long chain of institutionalised religious discrimination against Muslims in the school, which should ordinarily be a centre of excellence where learning, probity, excellence and character are respected,” NSCIA spokesman Salihu Shehu said in a statement.

“We strongly condemn the management of ISI and warn the principal that she will be held responsible for whatever her administrative incompetence and religious intolerance precipitate in this matter.

“Muslims in Nigeria can no longer fold their arms and watch their rights being unabashedly trampled upon by minions and tin-gods who find themselves in some positions of authority, ” the statement read.

Headscarves have increasingly become a symbol of Muslims’ rejection of the British colonial legacies in Nigerian public life.

In 2017, a Muslim female law graduate was barred from a call to bar event in the capital Abuja for wearing a headscarf, precipitating anger from the Muslim community and a debate over the country's controversial secular status.

Barrister Firdaus Amasa was later called to the bar with her headscarf after the country's council on legal education backed down. In a 2016 ruling, a court said wearing headscarves qualifies as a human right under the country's Constitution.


US: Gap creates stir with ad featuring hijab

By Umar Farooq

WASHINGTON (AA) – U.S. clothing retailer Gap’s advertising campaign for its back to school fashion line has drawn widespread criticism for including a girl wearing hijab.

The advertisement promotes its children's line of clothing and has been spread through posters as well as social media.

On YouTube, the company released a 15-second video that received more than 1 million views. But the ad garnered a mixed response from viewers, with some saying the girl is too young to wear hijab or that hijabs should be banned.

“Dear @Gap @GapKids your attempts to “inclusiveness” by normalizing “Child Hijab” is disgusting. You’re literally supporting an act of child abuse, ” said a post by Hanouf Mohammad on Twitter.

The ad campaign was not only met with criticism in the United States but also in Europe, where UK ex-foreign secretary Boris Johnson compared women who wear religious headgear to bank robbers, and in France, where the headscarf is banned in public schools.

Hamdia Ahmed, a Somali-American fashion model and the first Miss Maine pageant participant to don a hijab, came to the defense of the clothing company, saying it was a great step to create inclusiveness within fashion.

“This makes me so happy OMG.! ” Ahmed said on Twitter.

The advertisement is aimed at showcasing the diversity of the brand, and this is not the first time that Gap has featured a model wearing a hijab.

In May last year, Gap released a video on Instagram with a woman wearing a hijab. Earlier this month, the company released another commercial with a woman wearing a hijab as part of its fall and winter fashion campaign.


Canadian police investigate possible hate crime

By Barry Ellsworth

TRENTON, Canada (AA) – Police in Canada are searching for a woman who became the victim of a possible anti-Muslim hate crime, authorities said Monday.

An 18-year-old woman who lives in Brampton city, Ontario, was at a bus stop Sunday evening in Mississauga in the Toronto area when another woman approached and hurled racial insults at her, police said.

The suspect reached toward her and repeatedly flicked a lighter at her, at which point another woman intervened. The suspect then tried to remove her hijab.

Police want to interview the victim, who departed before authorities arrived at the scene.

“Police want to ensure the unidentified victim’s well-being and would like to speak to her regarding details of the incident,” police said in a statement.

Meanwhile, police said the suspect then used racial slurs toward another woman and also assaulted her.

A 35-year-old area resident was arrested and charged with assault with a weapon, uttering threats and assault.

This follows another recent incident in which a Toronto man was arrested after hurling racial taunts towards a Muslim family and was charged with assault and threatening death.

Statistics show so-called hate crimes are on the rise in the Toronto area.

They increased significantly to 158 in 2017 in the Brampton/Mississauga areas surrounding Toronto, up from 56 in 2016.


UK Christian women don hijab in solidarity with Muslims

By Muhammad Mussa

LONDON (AA) – Many Christian women across the world have started wearing the hijab as part of the Ramadan Hijab Challenge to show solidarity with Muslim women during the Islamic holy month.

The initiative, created by the World Hijab Day organization, encourages non-Muslim women to wear the hijab and fast for during Ramadan.

“This event is for those who want to experience the hijab for more than just one day in order to better understand what Muslim women go through on a daily basis” Nazma Khan, the founder of WHD, told Al Jazeera.

One participant, Ellie Lloyd — a Christian woman living in Qatar with her daughter, said: “I am a Christian woman taking on the 30-day Ramadan Hijab Challenge” and that the reasons for participating in the challenge are “to help raise awareness and experience first hand what it is like to wear the hijab”.

“The intention is to help fight Islamophobia worldwide and make this world a more accepting and peaceful place to live in,” she added.

The World Hijab Day organization was founded in February 2013 by Nazma Khan with the aim of spreading awareness and understanding of the Hijab and Muslim women.

The World Hijab Day is held annually on Feb. 1. The Ramadan Hijab Challenge is a new initiative aimed at recognizing the challenges Muslim women face in the holy month.

“For many people, the hijab is a symbol of oppression and segregation. By opening up new pathways to understanding, Nazma hopes to counteract some of the controversies surrounding why Muslim women choose to wear the hijab,” a statement said on their website.


Muslims at Kenya college barred for wearing hijab

By Andrew Wasike and Magdalene Mukami

NAIROBI, Kenya (AA) – Female Muslim students at the Kenya Medical Training College in Mwingi town were denied entry Friday for wearing the hijab.

The students said the issue over their dress code started around two months ago after a new deputy principal was transferred to the college who vowed to ban Muslim students from wearing the hijab, saying it was not part of the school uniform.

“Our female students have not been able to attend school for the last three days as the management has directed the gatekeeper not to allow them [to enter] in their hijabs, ” Abdullahi Hassan, a male student, told the Nation newspaper in Kenya.

Yusuf Abdullahi, an official from the Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims (SUPKEM), told Anadolu Agency: “We are aware of what has happened today. We want the issue to be sorted out by the Ministry of Education to avoid the discrimination that we are seeing. We as Muslim leaders will not remain silent. ”

This is not the first time that such a case is being reported in Kenya. St. Paul Kiwanjani High School in Isiolo County filed a petition at the High Court earlier this year to ban Muslim girls from wearing the hijab at school. Other high schools and colleges have also banned the hijab, forcing Muslim students to transfer elsewhere.

Kenya's High Court previously ruled that students should not be allowed to wear different attire at school, saying it encouraged religious and status divisions. But the Court of Appeal later overturned the High Court’s verdict and ruled in favor of allowing Muslim girls to wear the hijab, saying school rules could not be allowed to suppress one’s belief or right of worship.

The decision by the appeals court is not final and can be appealed again at the High Court by any aggrieved party.

Alaturka Gazetesi

UK: Senior education official to support headscarf ban

By Muhammad Mussa

LONDON (AA) – A top British education official is expected Thursday to speak in support of a school leader who imposed a ban on headscarves, or the hijab, according to local media reports.

In a speech today, Amanda Spielman, chief inspector for the Office for Standards in Education (OFSTED), is expected to publicly support Neena Lall, the head teacher of a predominantly Muslim state school who imposed the ban last month, setting off an uproar from parents and community leaders in east London.

Speaking at a Church of England conference, Spielman is expected to say that school leaders must have the right to set school uniform policies as they see fit, in order to “promote cohesion,” and also to warn of the dangers people pose in using religion to “actively pervert” education.

“Under the pretext of religious belief, they use education institutions, legal and illegal, to narrow young people’s horizons, to isolate and segregate, and in the worst cases to indoctrinate impressionable minds with extremist ideology,” she will claim.

Pre-rebutting Spielman’s remarks, a spokesman for the Muslim Council of Britain said: “As Ms. Spielman continues to issue a disproportionate number of public statements about Muslims and apparent links to extremism, we hope she will consult before issuing further unjustifiable policies.

“A lack of appropriate engagement will undoubtedly strengthen the negative perception among many Muslim parents about Ofsted’s interventions.”

The predominantly Muslim state school’s ban on young Muslim girls wearing the hijab was overturned earlier this month after the resignation of the chair of governors.

Last November, Spielman came under fire after saying that OFSTED officials would question young girls in primary school who wear headscarves. More than 1,000 academics, teachers and faith leaders blasted OFSTED’s decision as a “knee-jerk, discriminatory and institutionally racist response.”

Alaturka Gazetesi

Attack on Toronto girl wearing hijab proves false

By Barry Ellsworth

TRENTON, Canada (AA) – An alleged attack in Canada where an 11-year-old girl said her hijab was cut by a man wielding scissors never happened, Toronto police said Monday.

On Friday, police launched an investigation after a Muslim student in Toronto’s Scarborough district said someone tried to cut her hijab with scissors while she was walking to school.

News of the alleged attack drew swift condemnation from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne and Toronto Mayor John Tory.

But on Monday, police said after a thorough investigation, authorities concluded that the attack never took place.

“We had, as everyone knows, allegations of an extremely serious crime on Friday which we investigated. We had a team of investigators who put together a significant amount of evidence and they came to the conclusion that the events that were alleged did not happen,” Toronto Police Service spokesperson Mark Pugash told Canadian media.

The prime minister’s office, Wynne and Tory said in separate statements that they were glad the incident never occurred.

No charges against the girl will be filed and the investigation is closed, police said.

Alaturka Gazetesi

Toronto schoolgirl attacked, hijab cut with scissors

By Barry Ellsworth

TRENTON, Canada (AA) – Toronto police are hunting for a suspect after an 11-year-old Muslim girl was attacked Friday on her way to school by a male who tried twice to cut off her hijab with scissors.

The incident occurred at about 9 a.m. near Pauline Johnson Public School in Toronto’s east end.

Khawlah Noman is a sixth grade student at the school.

She described the attack at a news conference.

“I felt really scared and confused,” Khawlah said, although she was not hurt in the incident. She said she was on the sidewalk when she sensed a man behind her and turned to find him holding scissors. She screamed and the man ran off, but returned a few minutes later.

“He continued cutting at my hijab again,” Khawlah said.

Police were called shortly afterward.

“We don’t know what motivated the attack, ” Toronto police Constable David Hopkinson said initially but authorities later said the incident is being investigated as a hate crime.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau weighed in from London, Ontario, where he was meeting with his Cabinet. “My heart goes out to the young girl who was attacked, seemingly for her religion. I can't imagine how afraid she must have been, ” he said. “I want her and her family and her friends and community to know that that is not what Canada is. ”

Khawlah’s mother, who was at her daughter’s side while she spoke, demanded the attack be labeled a hate crime.

“I don’t know why he did that, it’s just not Canada,” Samad said. “I am so proud to be a Canadian, and I feel so safe in this community.”

She added that she has been in Canada for 25 years and this is the first incident of its kind that she can remember.

“I’m frustrated and I’m angry but I do believe in peace in Canada,” Samad said.

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne called the attack a “cowardly act of hatred” in a tweet posted Friday.

The male suspect is described as Asian and in his 20s.

Alaturka Gazetesi

Iran says no more arrests for breaking dress code

By Mustafa Melih Ahishali

ISTANBUL (AA) – Police in Iran’s capital said Thursday they will no longer detain women who violate the Islamic dress code, local media reported.

Tehran police chief Gen. Hossein Rahimi said “those who do not observe the Islamic dress code will no longer be arrested, nor will judicial cases be filed against them “, according to a report by the semi-official Tasnim News Agency.

It said violators will be ordered to take police-instructed classes on Islamic values instead, although repeat offenders could still be subject to legal action.

The current Islamic dress code has been imposed in Iran since the 1979 revolution.

Alaturka Gazetesi

Nigerian Muslim body slams law school for barring hijab

By Rafiu Ajakaye

LAGOS, Nigeria (AA) – Nigeria's apex Muslim body on Tuesday threatened the country's law school with nationwide protests for barring a Muslim woman from a call to the bar ceremony because she wore a hijab.

“We stand behind Abdulsalam Firdaus Amosa who acted within her constitutional rights and we insist that she must be called to the bar and adequately compensated for the humiliation she was subjected to, ” Prof. Salisu Shehu, deputy head of the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA), said in a statement.

“The NSCIA demands that the federal government, through the Ministry of Justice, call the Council for Legal Education and the Nigerian Law School to order so that they will not stoke religious crisis in the country.

“Our Council patiently waits for what the Ministry will do as it puts other options on the table including litigation and nation-wide protests, ” the statement said.

Abdulsalam Firdaus Amosa, a law graduate, was barred from entering the hall in the Nigerian capital, Abuja last Thursday after she refused to remove her head covering on religious grounds.

The law school said her dress contravened the dress code for the call to the bar ceremony.

Citing four court rulings, the Muslim apex body said the action of the law school amounted to “Islamophobia ” and perpetuation of a policy of denying Muslims their rights in the guise of secularism.

“It is the height of Islamophobia displayed by the authorities of the Nigerian Law School, the Body of Benchers and the Council for Legal Education who now willfully break the law, ” the statement added.

The Body of Benchers is responsible for the formal call to the bar of persons seeking to become legal practitioners in Nigeria.

The law school is meeting on the development later this week as citizens remain divided over the issue.

On Monday, several Muslim groups, including Muslim Lawyers Association of Nigeria, told a media briefing that the lady was unfairly treated and asked the law school to reconsider its decision or face public anger.