By Rafiu Ajakaye
LAGOS, Nigeria (AA) – Nigerian Muslims and civil rights activists are outraged after the country's law school barred a Muslim student from a call to the bar ceremony after she refused to remove her head covering on religious grounds.
The controversy has seized local social media, as activists questioned the decision of the Nigerian Law School, citing a recent Appeals Court ruling which upheld the right of Muslim women to wear the head covering anywhere.
Abdulsalam Fridaus Amasa said she was denied entry into the hall in the Nigerian capital, Abuja on Thursday “simply because I insisted on wearing my hijab ” or headscarf.
“I broke no law by insisting on wearing my hijab as a Muslim lady, ” she said on Friday in a statement seen by Anadolu Agency.
She also confirmed the incident to Anadolu Agency in a phone interview.
Ahmad Adetola-Kazeem, an activist and Muslim lawyer, blasted the law school's decision.
“The action of the law school is null and void based on the provisions of the Constitution such as sections 38 and 42, which allow freedom of religion, freedom to exhibit one's religious views, and freedom from discrimination on the ground of one's religious orientation, ” Adetola-Kazeem said in a phone interview.
“What happened yesterday was sheer discrimination against the Muslim student based on her religion. ”
-'No law school rule barring headscarves'
He added that the school had no legislation or rules barring wearing Muslim headscarves.
“We have asked this question over the years but nobody has produced any regulation of the law school that bars headscarves, ” he said, adding that the action effectively barred Amasa from practicing law in Nigeria.
“We’re taking steps to address this issue. The Muslim Lawyers Association of Nigeria is meeting on it. We are definitely not going to let it go like that, ” he said, insisting that the court of appeals ruling was binding on “all institutions in Nigeria, including the law school “.
Kayode Ogundamisi, a fiery London-based Nigerian activist, criticized the law school in a post that has gone viral on social media.
“#EndDiscriminationAgainstHijab the oyinbos [whites] who dashed you wig and gown are beginning to recognise diverse faith-based dress codes in different professions. Call the lady to bar. Interesting how Twitter HUMAN LIES activists went blind on this,” he wrote on Twitter.
Officials at the law school declined to comment.
“I don't have any reaction or independent opinion on the development now. We are meeting on it, ” Ukekwe Chinedu, spokesman for the prestigious school, told Anadolu Agency on Friday morning.
Headscarves have become controversial in Nigeria, as public schools and some institutions repeatedly bar Muslim women from using it, provoking legal cases that have been decided in favor of the latter.
The Supreme Court is currently hearing an appeal by the Lagos state government of an appeals court ruling upholding the right to wear headscarves in public schools.