A Nigerian law school graduate was denied her call to the bar for refusing to take off her headscarf.
Amasa Firdaus Abdulsalam was not permitted by the Body of Benchers to enter the International Conference Centre on December 12 where the call to bar is usually held.
The Lagos-based Nigerian Law School said that she was breaking the dress code set by the university, but Abdulsalam, who was already wearing her new gown, insisted on wearing the wig on top of her hijab.
The hijab is a headscarf worn by many Muslim women who feel it is part of their religion.
According to local reports, Abdulsalam called the refusal of the Nigerian Law School to call her to the bar a violation of her right to freedom of religion as protected by Section 38 of the 1999 Constitution.
The call to bar is the official moment where an individual is sworn into a law society or court and obtains licensing to practise law in that jurisdiction.
Abdulsalam can be called to the bar next year only if she is regarded as having complied with all the rules.
The President of Nigerian Bar Association A.B. Mahmoud vowed that the association would look into the situation.
“UK based Nigerian lawyer recognized for promoting diversity in the legal profession,” Mahmoud tweeted, posting a photo of Olufunke Abimbola, who was recently recognised by Queen Elizabeth II for her contributions to promoting diversity in the legal profession.
“The NBA will embrace diversity and tolerance in the Nigerian legal profession,” Mahmoud continued, adding that “the Hijab issue will be addressed.”
He also tweeted a photo of his daughter Zubaida, who also wears a hijab, being admitted to the New York Bar earlier this year.
The case has sparked an intense debate on social media, with the hashtag #JusticeforFirdaus being used.
A Muslim lady, Amasa Firdaus, who graduated from Unilorin and NLS Abj campus was barred from entering the ICC for the Call to Bar because she refused to remove her Hijab in defiance to the archaic and repugnant tradition and she wasnt called to Bar either. pic.twitter.com/Hdoj5FAEYK
— ابي بكر (@danabdullahi) December 14, 2017
After five years in the university 🎓 one year in law school, huge amount of money paid for school fees both in the university and law school, this muslim sister was not called to bar simply because she wore a small hijab #JusticeforFirdaus pic.twitter.com/2kKfPzAz8u
— Firdaus Balogun (@firdaus_balogun) December 14, 2017
I think Amasa Firdaus should have been called to the bar with her hijab. We are experts at focusing on the wrong things. The problems of the legal profession are declining quality, slave wages for new entrants and corruption at the bench. Not hijabs worn discretely under a wig.
— Dr. Joe Abah (@DrJoeAbah) December 16, 2017
One Twitter user pointed out that Abdulsalam should have known better and complied with the rules.
I was there and others who wore hijab took it off when it was time for the ceremony. She has been studying law for six years she ought to know this isn't part of their attire. Some of the benchers were Muslims but none wore any of such https://t.co/LyAtjHeZap
— Mama Leo 🐈 (@Eweha_A) December 14, 2017
Others said that the hijab is indicative of a larger problem to impose Islam in public institutions.
The issue with you people is that you drag your religion to every where and its not suppose to be so. You should learn to set your religion aside to do what others are doing. When you people want to take passport you put in your hijab there by defeating the main purpose of it
— Uche❤ (@uchee___) December 15, 2017
The "subtle" thing about our Muslim brethren gradually imposing their religious beliefs on our institution.
The Hijab issue is really funny, as funny as Muslims demanding sharia in Australia (A Christian country).
It's such a red flag and it should be addressed.
— Mayo MuziQ (@MayoMuziQ) December 15, 2017