A Nigerian Law School graduate, Amasa Firdaus, who was refused her call to bar for failing to remove her hijab, has said her defiance was to challenge the status quo.
The incident, which took place at the International Conference Centre, Abuja, on Friday, has generated intense debate on the Internet.
Firdaus, who spoke to TheCable and has been asked by the Muslim Students Society of Nigeria not to speak on the controversial issue, said she intentionally wore the hijab in a bid to challenge the status quo.
Asked why she did not wait to be called to bar before embarking on the campaign, she said those who removed their hijabs in the past did nothing to change the situation.
Firdaus said there was no law preventing female Muslim lawyers from wearing hijabs.
She added, “They just call it convention that the British gave to us and we have to stick to it. I used them. They complained (during) my first (law) dinner. That is how they do on the campus. You don’t wear hijab for dinner but I did. I chose Abuja because I knew they were a little lenient.
“People have been removing their hijab over the years. What have those people who have removed it done?”
The Muslim Students Society of Nigeria said it would write the presidency over Firdaus’ inability to attend the call to bar ceremony.
The national leader of the MSSN, Jameel Muhammad, described the restriction on the use of hijab as “Islamophobia.”
He said if the issue was not resolved by the presidency and national assembly, the society would resort to legal action.
“Then we might have to approach the court of the law. Already our lawyers have taken her brief,” he said.
A former Minister of Aviation, Femi Fani-Kayode, who was one of those that opposed the graduate’s defiance, wrote on Twitter, “The girl that insisted on wearing her hijab during her call to the Nigerian bar was being childish and disingenuous.
“You cannot insist on wearing religious garb during a secular ceremony and she is not the first Muslim to be called to the Nigerian bar. Nigeria is a secular state!”
Another commenter, Tobechukwu Ekwunife, on Twitter said, “Everyone must not be a lawyer. But if you decide to attend the Nigerian Law School, you are bound by its rules, if she insists on wearing the hijab, she’ll not be coerced to do otherwise but she cannot also expect to break the law that binds an organisation and claim right to religion.”
However, the President of the Nigerian Bar Association, AB Mahmoud, said the controversy surrounding Firdaus’ use of hijab was needless.
Mahmoud posted a picture of his daughter in hijab on the day she was called to the New York bar.
He said the issue would be addressed.