World Hijab Day: Group decries discrimination against Muslim women.

As part of activities marking the World Hijab Day, the Coalition of Nigerian Muslim Women, Wednesday, decried alleged discrimination against Muslim women at their work place.

The group, led by the Hijab Right Advocacy Initiative, spoke at a press conference in Lagos.

According to Mutiat Orolu, the leader of the group and convener of the conference, wearing of Hijab is not the culture of Arabs as erroneously held by some people or a fashion accessory that the Muslim woman may discard at will.

“It is a religious duty and an obligation on every Muslim woman in the observance of her faith. And this right to believe in and practise one‘s chosen faith is an inalienable right of every human being, as entrenched in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999(as amended),” she said.

Quoting sections 38, sub-sections 1 and 2, Mrs. Orolu maintained that wearing of the Hijab by the Muslim woman was the practical application of these provisions in the Nigerian constitution.

Mrs. Orolu, who is also a lawyer, narrated the ordeals of Muslim women in the society, stressing that their rights were being violated.

“Muslim women who choose to wear the Hijab face this (ordeal) and even worse every day while trying to get a job or even keep the ones they are currently in. In some cases, they have been forced to choose between having a job and practising their faith!

“One thing we all seem to agree on is that violence against women is wrong in all its forms, whether it is physical, emotional or psychological. Asking a Muslim woman to remove her Hijab is a form of violence against women.

“It should have no place in a progressive society like ours. As more people, women inclusive, are getting more educated and moving into the work force, Muslim women who choose to wear the Hijab still face discrimination in their work places and in the careers of their choice. Rather than discriminate, we should encourage work place diversity,” she said.

The legal practitioner, however, called on the media to be fair in its reportage of issues, noting that its role is vital to public perception of issues.

The group also urged the general public to accord Muslim women the freedom to practice their religion, as expressly stated in the Nigerian constitution.

“All we Hijabis want is the Freedom of Thought, Conscience and Religion; Freedom from Discrimination; Freedom from Violence against Women; Fair and accurate Representation in the Media; Inclusiveness in the Work Place and the right to be a citizen of this country just like everyone else.”

World Hijab Day is an annual event founded by Nazma Khan in 2013. This event takes place on February 1 each year in about 100 countries. It was borne out of the need to identify with Muslim women who face discrimination everyday due to the observance of their faith, the group said.

“Sugar Mummies” In Abuja Decry Discrimination By Society

Some women in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) on Thursday criticised discrimination by the society on their decision to marry younger men, why applauding the men for doing similar act. Speaking to newsmen in Abuja, some of the women alleged that they have been discriminated, judged and labelled “Sugar mummy” for their decision to marry men they were older than.

Mrs Esther David, a businesswoman, said she was five years older than her husband, who is also into the same provision business with her. David said her decision to marry her husband was borne out of love, admiration and respect she had for him, and not because she was desperate to get married as alleged by some persons.

“Our society tends to judge women negatively for marrying younger men, even if that relationship was born out of love and respect for each other. “But the same society see nothing wrong if a man marries someone that he is old enough to even be her grandfather,’’ she lamented.

According to her, she faced a lot of challenges from her in-laws due to their age differences before she was fully accepted as his wife, despite performing the traditional, Christian and even the court wedding. Similarly, Mrs Bose Ade, a mother of two, said even though she was eight years older than her husband, whom she has been married to for over a decade, said it does not change the love, affection and respect they had for each other.

“At first, it was very difficult for me to accept his marriage proposal because I was far older than him with over eight years.

“But I was later convinced by his persistence and support from his family that he was not dissuaded by our age differences,’’ Ade said.

However, she added that even though she was accepted by her in-laws she still faces discrimination due to their age differences from some of his relatives and the neighbourhood they reside. According to her, she ignores all those subtle attacks on her person, urging other women that are facing similar challenges to ignore gossip and concentrate on building their home.

“I don’t have problem with my in-laws, it is just some distant relatives of his and people in our area still gossip and call me names like old woman, and all sorts because he looks younger than I do.

“I choose to ignore them and make sure I exhibit love and affection for my husband just to spite them,” she said.

However, Miss Fatima Musa, an unemployed graduate said she cannot marry a man she was older than because the society would see her as “desperate’’ and she would not get the respect she deserves from him. Musa also added that women naturally look older physically than the men, so the age difference between an older woman and her much younger husband would be too glaring, particularly when the woman starts giving birth to children.

“Women naturally look older than men. So if you marry someone younger in age, one might end up looking like his mother or elder sister than his wife, especially when she starts bearing children,’’ she said.

On his own part, Malam Idris Samaila, said there was nothing wrong in a woman marrying a man she is older than, as long as mutual trust, respect and love was between them.

“Age is just a figure that people put so much emphasis on. It does not matter if a woman is older than her husband or the husband is older than the wife as it is commonly practiced in our society.

“The main issue we should be concerned about is how to build our homes within the tenets of our religious believes, as well as sharing love and understanding.’’

Samaila said the fear of marrying a younger man by some women, whom feel the age difference might bring disrespect between them, was uncalled for, as respect was earned and not deserved.

“When some people claim that marrying a younger man would make him disrespectful to them in the future is a flimsy excuse because I have seen instances, where a matured man marries a younger one like his daughter’s age mate and she still does not have respect for him.’’

He therefore appealed to the society to shun any form of discrimination against men or women, who marry much younger spouse and encourage the sanctity of marriage within the religious or traditional belief so as to reduce the rates of illegitimate children in the society.