Prof. Akintola, Adetola-Kazeem, Others Emerge as Hijab Advocates Personality of the Year

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Muslim News, Nigeria’s most authoritative Islamic Newspaper, has declared “The Hijab Vanguards” as winners of the 2021 Nigerian Muslim Personality of the Year (MNAwards) category.

#MNAwards is an acronym for Muslim News Nigeria Awards, celebrating Muslim achievers who have excelled and made the Muslim community proud in Nigeria and globally.

In a press statement released on Friday, October 14, 2022, the Publisher, Muslim News, Alhaji Rasheed Abubakar, said: “This year, we are recognising twelve (12) outstanding Muslim personalities from different organisations and institutions that contributed to the Hijab victory at the Supreme Court of Nigeria. They are called “The Hijab Vanguards”.

According to him, the Hijab victory recorded on Friday, June 17, 2022, is admittedly the biggest milestone achievement recorded by the Nigerian Muslim community in recent times.

Already, 12 personalities representing different organisations and institutions have been shortlisted as the Hijab Vanguards.

These include: Ms. Asiyat AbdulKareem, the molested student who dragged the Lagos State government to court; Barrister Hassan Fajimite, Muslim lawyer who led Muslim Lawyers Association of Nigeria (MULAN), Lagos State Chapter, to the final judgment; Hajiah Basheeerah Majekodunmi, female President, Muslim Students Society of Nigeria (MSSN), Lagos State, who also joined the case and provided moral support.

Others are Prof Lakin Akintola, the Director of Muslim Rights Concern, MURIC; Hajiah Mutiat Orolu-Balogun of Hijab Rights Advocacy Initiative, (HRAI); former female President of Federation of Muslim Women’s Association of Nigeria (FOMWAN), Hajiyah Halima Jubril; National President of Muslim Media Practitioner of Nigeria, MMPN, Alhaji AbdurRahman Balogun, and Sunday Editor, The Guardian newspaper, Alhaji Kabir Alabi Garba.

Hon. Saidu Musa Abdullahi, a lawmaker representing Bida/Gbako/Katcha Federal Constituency of Niger State, and initiator of “Religious Discrimination (Prohibition, Prevention) Bill, 2021” and Hajiah Idayat Asiwaju, the hero of Hijab at school of Nursing, Igando, Lagos also made the list, while late Habeeb Idris, victim of Kwara State Hijab saga and late Alhaji Gani Adetola-Kazeem, SAN, who led the battle from inception before he died in 2018, will be honoured with posthumous awards for their efforts.

This is the first time a group of people – who go by the name, ‘The Hijab Vanguards’, a title created by the organisers, will be collectively announced the Nigerian Muslim Personality of the Year 2021.

It would be recalled that the Honourable Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Professor Alli Isa Pantami won the 2020 Nigerian Muslim Personality of the Year awarded last year for “combining two great features of leading the “digitization of the Nigerian economy” and “providing the right religious education for his teeming followers across the globe”.

Abubakar, who initiated the awards in 2018, said the 2021 #MNAwards edition marked a departure from the previous editions as it celebrates unsung Muslim achievers in different fields of endeavour, noting that it is dedicated to celebrate the ‘Hijab Vanguards’ in Nigeria.

He, however, clarified that the Global Muslim Personality of the Year award category will remain the same, with outstanding Muslim personalities drawn from various professions from across the world for celebration.

According to Abubakar, members of the Awards Committee agreed on the need to recognise a milestone achievement recorded by Muslims on Hijab in the Nigerian category.

He said: “It has always been difficult for Muslim students and women to use the Hijab in public establishments, especially public schools, in the southwest geopolitical zone of Nigeria.

“Many of them have suffered harassment, molestation and maltreatment. In the worst scenario, some were sent out of school just because they chose to use the Hijab, in obedience to their Creator, Allah.

“Though the constitution of the country gives freedom to the use of the Hijab, some overzealous public officials have continued to harass Muslim students over the Hijab, even when the case was in court.

“So many individuals in their rights contributed to the struggle against the continued harassment and victimisation of Muslim women over the Hijab, which especially culminated in the victory recorded at the Supreme Court recently, after nearly a decade-long legal battle.

“They did this without resorting to violence. The Hijab Vanguards comprises individuals and organisations who used peaceful methods and approaches to push for the use of Hijab in schools and other public places,” he said.

With their resilience and sacrifice, he said: “The Supreme Court of Nigeria had delivered a landmark judgment, allowing the use of Hijab in public schools in the case of Ms. Asiyat Abdulkareem Vs Lagos State Government.

“We, therefore, see it as fitting to dedicate this year’s edition of the Nigerian Muslim Personality of year Award to the Hijab Vanguards, recognising the efforts of major personalities who had over the years contributed to the Hijab struggle in commemoration of this legal victory,” he said.

Abubakar decried a situation whereby the Lagos State Government has refused to issue a circular to its officials in schools on the court judgment, noting that some of these overzealous officials have, therefore, been hiding under this gap to further their violation of the Hijab.

He therefore, called on the State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu to obey the Supreme Court judgment and allow any willing student to freely use the hijab without victimization.

“Governor Sanwo-Olu must issue a circular with immediate effect or else, the Muslims in Lagos might use their electorate powers come to the 2023 gubernatorial election,” he said.

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