The Supreme Court has affirmed the rights of Muslims Female Students in Lagos state to wear Hijab to school without harassment or discrimination.
In a majority decision, Nigeria’s apex court gave the ruling on Friday in Abuja.
Among those on the panel were Justice Olukayode Ariwoola, Justice Kudirat Kekere-Ekun, Justice John Inyang Okoro, Justice Uwani Aji, Justice Mohammed Garba, Justice Tijjani Abubakar, and Justice Emmanuel Agim.
While six ruled in favour of the use of hijab, one dissented.
The Lagos State Government had in February 2017 approached the Supreme Court to challenge the July 21, 2016 judgment of the Court of Appeal which reinstated the use of hijab by Muslim pupils in Lagos public primary and secondary schools.
This was after the state government sought to stay the execution of the judgment at the Lagos Division of the Court of Appeal but failed.
The case, CA/L/135/15, is between the Lagos State Government, Miss Asiyat AbdulKareem (through her father), Miss Moriam Oyeniyi and the Muslim Students’ Society of Nigeria.
A five-man special appellate court panel, presided by Justice A.B. Gumel, had on July 21, 2016, overruled the October 17, 2014 judgment of Justice Modupe Onyeabo of the Lagos State High Court in Ikeja, which banned the use of hijab in public primary and secondary schools in Lagos State.
While striking down Justice’s Onyeabo’s verdict, the Justice Gumel panel had held that the ban on hijab was discriminatory against Muslim pupils in the state.
The panel upheld the Muslim students’ contention that the ban violated their rights to freedom of thought, conscience, religion, dignity of human persons and freedom from discrimination guaranteed by the 1999 Constitution.
Justice Gumel also held that wearing the hijab was an Islamic injunction and an act of worship required of Muslims.
He said the use of hijab by Muslim pupils could not cause disunity, distraction and discrimination against students of other faiths as declared by the lower court judge.
Reacting to the judgement, the Amir (President) of MSSN in Lagos State, Miftahudeen Thanni, said that with the judgement, students in public primary and secondary schools in Lagos State can now wear hijab to school without harassment.
He warned teachers and government officials against harassment of female Muslim students, urging that the Supreme Court judgement should put a stop to the “undue” punishment of students willing to wear the hijab.
Thanni, however, assured the state government and residents of peaceful co-existence, noting that Muslim students won’t abuse the judgement.
According to him, the judgement has deepened the students’ and Nigerians’ confidence in the judiciary.
He said, ” The judgement simply means that though hijab is not mandatory in Lagos schools, Muslim students who wish to wear it are free to do so and legally allowed.
“We are a law-abiding organisation and we will continue to uphold the law of the land. We applaud the judgement. The position of the law is very clear on the subject matter. This matter once more assures us that all hope is not lost on having a modest society.
“The government should not be waging war against youths who chose to cover their nakedness while encouraging those who walk naked and engage in illicit acts in public.
“It gladdens to see that the injunction which the LASG is using as a basis to deny the rights of Muslim students has been decided by the apex court.
“We hereby urge all stakeholders to be law-abiding for a peaceful implementation of the judgement. There should be no violation of human rights against our students while we expect an immediate implementation of the judgement in all schools across the state. We urge the government not to delay implementation.”
While congratulating and thanking Muslims and the legal team on the recent victory, Thanni said, “We congratulate the entire Muslim Ummah (community) and urge our Muslim students to uphold decency and cleanliness which are the hallmark of Islam while exercising their rights. We also pray to Allah to forgive the shortcomings of the late Alhaji Adetola Kassim (SAN) who started this case without collecting a dime from us.”
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