By Alfred Dogbey
Government has condemned the act of preventing Muslim women and girls from freely wearing their hijabs at work places and schools.
It follows news reports that Muslim women and girls are being forced to take off their hijabs, a traditional scarf worn by Muslim women to cover their hair and neck and sometimes their face, as their religion demand.
The issue, which many Muslims in Ghana believe is a case of ‘human rights violations’ against them by some school authorities and institutions, has led to a massive demonstration in the western region last Friday.
In a stern statement issued and signed by government’s official spokesperson and Minister for Communications, Dr Edward Omane Boamah, categorically stated that,
“We consider it not only as religious intolerance, but also a breach of the 1992 Constitution of the republic of Ghana, for Muslim students to be forced to take off their hijabs in schools”.
The statement, dated Friday 20 and copied The Herald emphasized that, “In much the same way, it is unacceptable for Muslim students to be forced to attend church services in schools, especially when it seeks to introduce those students to a religion, which they may not subscribe to, nor be adherents of”.
The Minister further noted that, “it is government’s position that Muslim women must be allowed, and not forced to take off their hijabs at work, to the extent that their wearing them do not pose a danger to themselves or to others on the job”.
He said, “We wish to point out, that under article 21(1)(c) of the 1992 Constitution of the republic of Ghana, ‘all persons shall have the right to freedom to practice any religion and to manifest such practice”.
According to Dr Omane Boamah, given that the constitution guarantees, as part of the fundamental freedoms, the freedom of “any religion and to manifest such practice”, it would be wrong to force any individual to abandon her/ his faith.
He stressed that, it is equally wrong to force Muslim women and girls to disrobe or take off their hijabs at their places of work or schools.
The statement categorically warns that heads of any institution, including schools and work places, found to be contravening this basic constitutional right would be liable to sanctions.
Hundreds of Muslims in the Western Region last Friday, hit the streets of the Sekondi-Takoradi Metropolis for a peaceful demonstration.
The event dubbed, “March And Rally For Freedom”, was under the auspices of the Western Regional Chief Imam, Western Regional Imam of Ahlussunna Wal Jama and the Regional Council of Muslim Chiefs.
The protest march commenced at the Air Force Mosque in Takoradi at about 2pm after the Friday Jumah congregation service, and ended at the Regional Coordinating Council at Sekondi.
They held placards some of which read, “Hijab is our dignity,” “No compulsion in religion” and “Respect our rights.”
The Muslims later presented a petition to the Western Regional Minister, Paul Evans Aidoo, who was supposed to take it to President Mahama in Accra.
The demonstrators alleged that Muslim students were being coerced into attending compulsory church services in most of the second cycle institutions in the country.
“Some other schools are preventing Muslim students from observing their five daily prayers on campus,” they alleged.
Haj Saeed Hamid Jill, the convener of the event, noted that Muslim female students were being prevented from wearing their hijab (veils) on campus.
“Muslim professionals, such as nurses, bankers, those in the public and civil services, are also being prevented from observing their hijab,” he added.
Haj Saeed Hamid Jill stated, “This and other clear issues of human rights violations have necessitated the coming together of all Muslims to demonstrate.”
He mentioned that Muslims, had vowed to ensure that their rights were respected by both individuals and institutions.
“We believe that after the authorities have gone through the petition the rights of Muslims in Ghana will be respected,” he observed.