By AUSTIN OWOICHO, Abuja
An Islamic human rights organization, the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) has taken the National Communications Commission (NCC) to task over an incident in a Lagos GLO customer office which occurred on Monday 15th June, 2020 in which a Muslim lady, Mutiat Oba, was subjected to religious stigmatization. The group wants NCC to make a categorical statement on the manner of use of hijab by Muslim women during sim registration.
MURIC made the demand in a press statement signed by the Director of the organization, Professor Ishaq Akintola, on Wednesday, 1st July, 2020.
The Director explained further, “Mrs. Mutiat Oba was at the GLO customer office on Adeola Odeku Street, Victoria Island, Lagos on Monday, 15th June, 2020 between 1.30 and 3 pm to complain about her GLO sim card. She was advised to buy a new sim which would require registration.
“It was during capturing that the official, a lady who goes by the name ‘Banke’ asked her to expose her ears which were under the hijab as required by Islamic dressing rule. Mrs. Oba refused at first but was eventually pressurized to do so by ‘Banke’ who claimed that a newly procured equipment which was approved by NCC would not capture her face unless she exposed her ears. ‘Banke’ also claimed that it was not peculiar to GLO alone as all other telecoms have been instructed to do the same.
“The GLO official remained unconvinced even after Mrs. Mutiat Oba presented her driving licence and international passport both of which had her pictures in full hijab with covered ears. Even ‘Banke’s superior in the office (a lady with fair complexion) did not help matters as she also insisted that their customer must expose her ears for capturing. Depressed, humbled and intimidated, Mrs. Mutiat Oba agreed to expose her ears.
“MURIC strongly condemns the incident in GLO customer office. It is an encroachment on Allah-given fundamental human right of Mrs. Mutiat Oba, a law-abiding citizen of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. It is the most odious and insidious religious stereotyping. It is also the most provocative and certificated Islam-bashing in recent time.
“MURIC hereby calls on NCC to clarify its true position. Was there any time that a directive emanated from NCC office to telecoms asking Muslim ladies in hijab to show their ears before capturing? If so, why? Is NCC unaware of the provisions of the law regarding freedom of religion, particularly ‘freedom to manifest’ as stipulated in Section 38 (i) & (ii) of the 1999 Constitution?
“Nigerian Muslims are asking NCC to make a categorical statement on this crucial issue. MURIC is asking NCC why such a directive was given if it was given at all. However, we are also requesting NCC to investigate the matter and take disciplinary action against GLO if NCC never issued such a directive. It means some non-Muslims are misusing their positions to pursue their selfish agenda of religious persecution.
“But can GLO claim innocence if NCC washes its hands off this stigmatization? Are we to believe that Glo is complicit? Who is to blame: NCC, GLO or GLO staffers? What is clear for now is that somebody actedultra vires and there must be consequences otherwise the Nigerian project remains a sham, our democracy an illusion and our human right claim a mere hoax.
“This is the scenario that faces Muslim ladies in many government agencies, particularly in driving licence, international passport, national identity card offices. MURIC office has been inundated with complaints particularly in the South West because these oppressors dare not try it in the core North for fear of immediate backlash, often expected to be violent.
“Does it mean, therefore, that Muslims in the South West are being deliberately persecuted because they have never been known to be violent? Must we wait until Muslims in the region are pushed to the wall and they decide to defend themselves by any means possible?
“MURIC will continue to expose tyrants, oppressors and religious bigots whose preoccupation is the persecution of Muslims and the subjection of Muslim women to ridicle, contempt and public opprobrium with the aim of compelling Muslims to compromise their faith.
“MURIC will use every legitimate means available to seek redress if NCC fails to make clarifications on this matter within fourteen days from today. We will naturally assume that NCC is an accomplice and that the Commission tacitly gave the green light for the persecution of Muslim women in telecom offices. Meanwhile we appeal to Muslims around the country to remain calm and law-abiding as we are on top of the situation.”