PRESIDENT of the San Juan Muslim Ladies Organisation Nafeesa Mohammed said the group was standing in solidarity with medical engineering trainee teacher Nafesa Nakhid, who was barred from starting work at the Lakshmi Girls’ Hindu College, St Augustine, because she was wearing a hijab.
Mohammed said while the group recognised the right of school boards to formulate and implement their own policies, it believed wearing a hijab should be a non issue in this country.
This was not an isolated case. In 1994, Summayah Mohammed, daughter of Imam Yasin Abu Bakr, filed a civil lawsuit after she was barred from wearing her hijab while attending Holy Name Convent, Port of Spain. The High Court ruled the school’s policy was inflexible and the school’s order was quashed.
Lakshmi Girls’ Hindu College is partially funded by the State and is run by the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha’s board of education.
Mohammed said wearing the hijab was part of Muslims’ right to freedom of worship.
She called on all parties concerned to meet and resolve this issue before it escalated into an unnecessary dispute.
This country’s laws have been modernised, she said, and with the passage and implementation of the Equal Opportunity Act, mechanisms now existed to resolve these matters involving discrimination and fundamental human rights and freedoms.
“The hijab is an integral part, especially now when there is this heightened consciousness Islamically within the Muslim population: more and more people are wearing the hijab. Long ago, the background I come from, my forebears used to wear the orhni as a head covering and we were always modestly dressed. In the last couple of decades there has been this leaning towards the head covering in the form of the hijab, and we see so many different styles.
“We shouldn’t have to be enduring this kind of discussion in this day and age.”
She said there was a greater recognition and acceptance of the hijab and it was being more accepted in communities everywhere.
“It is just that this whole debate about the board and policy and all of that, they can easily sit down and work it out. I feel saddened that we have to descend into this kind of debate when there are so many other pressing issues in our society. It is our right as Muslims to practise our religion, it is a right that is recognised in our Constitution,” she said.
Under the Constitution, all citizens have the right to exist without discrimination by reason of race, origin, colour, religion or sex, and the fundamental human rights and freedoms: the right to life, liberty, security of the person and enjoyment of property and the right not to be deprived thereof except by due process of law; and the right to equality before the law and the protection of the law.