Many support the struggle of Muslims in France to change the country’s secular laws so that they can wear headscarves as a matter of individual conscience. Iranian Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi, who wears one in Iran but not in Europe, has called on European countries to allow the headscarves in the name of personal freedom. However, from Nigeria today comes a hint of what may be in store for non-Muslim women in a country where Muslims form the majority — as they may in France within 50 years or so if demographic trends continue. In Nigeria, Christian women are being forced to wear headscarves. Will Ebadi call on Nigerian Muslims to desist in the name of personal freedom?
Says AP: “Eleven Christian nurses fired by a public hospital in Nigeria’s strongly Islamic north for refusing to wear Muslim-style head scarves are appealing for international pressure to help restore their jobs.
“The women are among 21 fired in December 2001 by a federal government hospital in Azare, in the northern state of Bauchi, for refusing orders to cover their heads with scarves.
“Ten of the women later had their jobs reinstated after they agreed to abide by the directive.
“Seven of those still out of jobs met Monday in Lagos with Baroness Caroline Cox of Queensbury, deputy speaker of the British House of Lords, asking for help from Nigeria’s former colonial ruler.
“Cox, herself a former nurse, assured them, ‘I have every intention of raising these issues in Parliament.’
“The women said they had refused to cover their heads because they were Christian, and said their families were suffering from hunger and other hardships since the firings.
“‘Most of us are the breadwinners of our families. We can’t cope,’ said Ngozi Osakwe, one of the nurses.
“‘We are appealing as a last resort to … the international community and anybody who can reach the Nigerian government to assist us getting justice.’
“Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, has a largely Muslim north and a predominantly Christian south. A dozen northern states began implementing Islamic law, or Shariah, three years ago.
“Tensions over implementation of the Islamic code are blamed for helping to fuel Muslim-Christian violence that has killed thousands since.”
This is AP-speak for violence perpetrated by Muslims against Christians who resisted implementation of Islamic law, the Sharia.
“Church leaders complain of Christians being forced to obey Shariah laws that ban alcohol and dictate heavy clothing for women and girls, despite official insistence that the rules apply only to Muslims.
“‘When they passed the Shariah law we thought it would not affect us, as they said it would not affect Christians,’ Osakwe said. ‘But later, despite our appeals, they insisted we must comply with the Shariah way of dressing.’ . . .
“Dauda Ishaya, leader of an association of Christians in northern Nigeria, warned of growing discontent among minority Christians in the north.
“‘When they say Shariah is for Muslims they do not mean it. It is an attempt to impose religious hegemony on us,’ Ishaya said.”