WHD- MPAC Calls For Building Of Bridges Of Understanding
(Lagos, 31/01/2016) February 1st, 2013, marked the first annual World Hijab Day (WHD) in recognition of millions of Muslim women who choose to wear the hijab and live a life of modesty. Now that we are in its third year, Muslim Public Affairs Centre (MPAC) will again devote this special day to share the contributions and achievements of Nigerian Muslim women in hijab in every area of human knowledge, achievements and endeavour as well as their travails.
The Hijab is the covering worn by millions of women the world over following the revelation in the Holy Qur’an:
"Say to the believing men that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty…And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that they should not display their beauty and adornments except what (must ordinarily) appear thereof; that they should draw their veils over their bosoms and not display their beauty except to their husbands, their fathers...(a list of exceptions)" [Chapter 24, verses 30-31]
Nigerian Muslim women in hijab, just like their co-citizens, have championed social justice, equality, and tolerance, and over the decades they have been at the forefront of defending these values. They are exemplars in both the sacred and secular knowledge and have won major prizes in various professions as well as being leading lights in their respective areas of specializations whether in science or the arts.
Despite their glorious achievements and contributions, Muslim women continue to face untold hardship and challenges due only to their choice to fulfill one of the obligations in their faith. In some states in Nigeria, a significant population of Muslim students are coerced to make an unfair choice between religious observance and educational opportunities as those states continue to maintain that their state-sanctioned discriminatory policies against the hijab in public schools can supersede the Constitutional guarantee of freedom of religious expression for all.
At the national level, stereotypes, hate-motivated prejudice and bias against Muslims still persist: inhumane treatments, disdainful looks, sneering comments and water-cooler jokes. All these are definite signs that Islamophobia is thriving in our society. Islamophobia can overpower rational discourse and harm our nation's true interests. We call on the nation leaders, political establishments, the media and civil society groups to utilise the opportunity of this global event to build bridges of understanding, mutual discovery and open up new pathways to understanding and counteracting some of the controversies surrounding why Muslim women choose to don the hijab.
Muslim women, like all others, have the right to practice their religion. They also have the right to be treated equally and the right not to be stigmatized or discriminated against or harassed because of their religion. Like in other democratic countries, it is time for Nigeria to produce anti-hate laws which are essential protection against hate-mongers who continue to undermine the country’s diversity, peace, stability and tolerance.
Among the many activities and events to be held during the WHD on 1st of February, 2016 are hijab advocacy projects, "Muslim for a Day" - encouraging non-Muslims to don the hijab for a day, articles and other complementary presentations.The WHD seeks to contribute to better awareness, greater understanding and a peaceful world.
Muslim Public Affairs Centre, MPAC
e-mail: [email protected]