Opinion: Amasa Firdaus, her hijab, her rights, the Call to Bar, and the importance of rules


This hijab and call to bar issue…

I think we need to realise at some point that no right or freedom is absolute. Absolute freedom is a myth.

And irrespective of how nice democracy appears to be, it subtly approves of a form of tyranny – that of many against a few.

It is easy to mouth off a constitutional right. On its own, that’s easy. But when that right comes face to face with another person’s (or body’s) right, something has to give.

You cannot, in a bid to fully exercise your freedom of movement, enter a military base without permission.

You cannot, as a doctor in a bid to exercise your freedom of religion, abandon a patient in an emergency because you’ve set aside a special ‘quiet time’.

I would be mad to go to Zamfara and be claiming one smelling wobe, frolicking upandan with my friends Steve, Seun or any of the boys, with liquor in the trunk when I know they have a special set of laws governing their conduct. Shebi it’s freedom of expression?

When I moved from journalism to corporate communications, I got a three page letter on dress code alone – colours, shades, etc. If I wanted the job, I would have to comply. If I didn’t want it, simply because of my desire to exercise my right to freedom of expression, I would decline and look for a place that suited me – perhaps in advertising or tech. I wanted it. So I complied.

My right to freedom of expression would pause when face-to-face with the organisation’s freedom of association.

We fail to remember this but it is what it is. I can’t say I want to attend Covenant University and use a phone on campus. Their rules. If I don’t like them, I won’t go.

This is why the argument solely based on freedom of religion won’t fly in the hijab issue. If a body has a set of regulations governing how they receive members, they hold the keys to admitting you or not by simply exercising their right to freedom of association. Na you wan join.

We can’t keep bandying rights around by cherry-picking those convenient to us alone; it’s not that simple. Freedoms can be abused. This is why mosques and churches keep disturbing the peace of neighbourhoods with loud speakers at odd hours simply because of a freedom to worship.

This is why loud parties are thrown with streets blocked and neighbourhoods left sleepless. Just a few people, making life hell for others simply because they feel they have a ‘right’ to do so without considering others.

That said, I think there are conversations to be had. The legal robe, wig and everything else is ridiculous to me, especially considering the climate. But even in the USA, you have to wear a suit that won’t make you look like a mob boss and their judges still wear robes. Maybe compromises will be reached, maybe not. Sometimes, ‘standards’, no matter how ridiculous, are required to create a sense of orderliness.

What happens if the hijab is allowed? Tomorrow, someone from ‘Chosen’ will wear his bib to the bar. And so it begins:

It’s the same debacle that occurred in Osun just a few years ago. We need to know what battles to fight and those to lose but nothing will be struck out simply because a right exists. There are other rights out there and when these things clash, it becomes an equation where elimination reigns supreme.

Maybe common ground will be reached but for now, the NBA has not erred. The lady knew better than to do what she did, and for someone who should know a lot about precedent, she had none for back up.

But then again, precedents are set so who knows whether we’ll see burqa donning lawyers with wigs in years to come.

All has to start with a conversation and this might just be it.

Until then, fingers crossed.

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