There are many sides and reactions to a story – to a story about a girl not called to The Nigerian Bar for refusing to take off her hijab, or for refusing to adhere to the dress code.
1. If she is allowed to break the rule, what about other people? Would you allow a C and S person wear their religious white garment? Would you allow a bishop wear his collar? Could a male Sango worshipper come to the ceremony with braids? Where do we draw the line?
2. What effect does her hijab have on her capabilities as a lawyer? The hijab is not even showing much, Islamophobia is real.
3. Did she not know the rule? A lawyer that cannot adhere to the law, is that one a lawyer? She just wants cheap popularity. If it’s dick now, she’ll take off the hijab.
4. Didn’t other Muslims take off their hijabs? Is she the only one? She wants special treatment. Let her hijab call her to bar. Fanatic!
5. Islam vs. Christianity banter
2017 has been a year of learning and unlearning. I’ve learnt that just because something is the law doesn’t make it just. I recently read Chude Jideonwo’s essay “Who Have I Hurt By Being Gay”. His brilliant essay reminds me that we must continually question society’s actions, even when it is the law. We must ask that our society tolerates us, accepts us and see us as human as everybody else. I’ve learnt and come to accept that being gay does not make one a lesser person and society should not treat gay people as such, not even under the pretext of religion, culture or the law.
Laws can be amended and we agree that some laws should be amended. But what is the right or wrong way to go about it. Write letters? Engage in non-violent protests? Why then was there so much outrage that a girl protested non-violently? Perhaps because in Nigeria, we find a way to make things a Christianity vs. Islam debate, with words like bigot and fanatic thrown around.
It’s been said that the hijab is not just a piece of cloth, it is a compulsory part of a woman’s dressing, without which she is naked. This probably sounds absurd, afterall, it’s just hair. But a hijab, for its adherents is more than that. To them it’s probably something which should not be compromised. (If you cannot compromise, then don’t practice the profession, right.)
Maybe lawyers like laws, even when they hate it, maybe they do not like for their laws to be challenged, for why are you a lawyer, if you cannot uphold a law, if you cannot adhere to a simple dress code. But it is not a simple adherence or compromise for some.
Maybe we will never understand this girl’s choices. How she would rather let go of law than of God’s pleasure (and we may continue to call it bull shit, as per ‘no be she holy pass’). To let go of something she has worked so hard for (I hear law school is not easy), simply because of hijab. It may seem like she lost. What has she gained from this – cheap popularity and she’s still not a lawyer. But success is perspective and sometimes a win may not be getting your way, sometimes, it may be starting a conversation.
But I’m tired of the way we quickly make things a religious issue. A religious body will not come out to condemn corruption (some even give politicians with questionable wealth, titles), won’t come out to condemn massacres, won’t come out to condemn situations where people of other religion are oppressed by its religion…, but would be very active about law school dress code.
Let’s talk about discrimination.
People talked about inability to build worship centers in some parts of Nigeria, the humiliation they’ve gotten from looking a certain way… it seemed everyone wanted to talk about discrimination either to validate her claim of being discriminated against or invalidate it. What I realized from all these is that non-violence does not mean tolerance. And we are willing to use any story, even from other countries to fit our narrative.
I believe the most discriminated against religion in Nigeria is the traditional religion. We grow up being taught to be scared of them, call them pagans, unbelievers, godless, evil. Yet they are the most tolerant. You do not see a traditional worshiper complaining about discrimination, they do not point accusing fingers, they do not compete for relevance, they do not try to outdo anybody or compete with other religions. Perhaps we all have lessons to learn from them.