These pictures are of two women of two different generations. The first one sitting in a bus is Rosa Parks in 1955. At that time it was against the law for black people to mix with white people in a bus. White people were to sit in front while black people were to sit at the back. If the white seats were full, the black people were to give up their seats for the whites to sit. This was not in 18th century oo. This was in 1955 America. on December 1 that year, Rosa had closed from work and was going home when she was asked to give up her seat for a white man. She refused. It caused outrage and she was arrested. This sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott and gave birth to the American civil rights movement in its proper shape as we know it. The boycott lasted a year and on December 20 1956, the bus segregation was declared unconstitutional and banned.
The other lady is Amasa Firdaus who wore her hijab to a law graduating ceremony in Nigeria in 2017. They asked her to remove it, she refused. She was denied entry even into the conference room and her call to the bar was put on hold. She lost out on becoming a lawyer that year simply because she wore a hijab. A year later after a review of the dress code, she did not only get called to the bar, the rules were amended to allow Muslim women who chose to wear the hijab to be called to the bar without having to remove it.
Some people are so comfortable with status quo and so afraid to challenge anything. They follow every rule, conform to every norm, do as they are told every time, everywhere. It is partly the reason some see a problem with Zainab’s refusal to remove her hijab and her subsequent disqualification by the Ghana Most Beautiful team. Her action has triggered some conversation and a petition has been launched. Whatever the results of that, the question of discrimination on the basis of religious dressing would have been illuminated.
Women have courageously challenged societal norms in many forms throughout history. Some of the rights you enjoy today are a result of such behaviours. And they paid a price for it. Nothing good comes easy. This is how society gets better.
Rosa Parks paved the way for all blacks to have desegregated bus seating. Amasa Firdaus paved the way for Nigerian Muslim women to be called to the bar in their hijabs. Perhaps Zainab’s action could pave the way for upcoming muslim girls to wear their hijabs to a pageant. Whether the religion approves of a pageant or not is another matter. It is equally another matter whether you like pageants or not (I don’t). The key issue is it contributes to opening the space for muslim girls to reach their potential without being discriminated against on the basis of their dressing.
You too, challenge something in your life. And if you won’t, then stop “bashing” those who would and enjoy the fruits of their labour when the change comes.
By: Hardi Yakubu, Commander-in-chief of the Economic Fighters League