Nigeria warns against discrimination of Muslim women

Message to telecoms firms comes after women complain of being ordered to remove veils

Nigeria warns against discrimination of Muslim women

By Rafiu Ajakaye

LAGOS, Nigeria

Nigeria’s communications minister warned Wednesday telecoms companies about infringing the rights of veiled Muslim women.

In a statement, Adebayo Shittu said his department had received complaints from women who had been asked to remove their veils in public when registering mobile telephone accounts.

He said such requests violated their constitutional rights to “freedom of thought, conscience and religion”.

“The minister's office has been inundated with several complaints from Nigerians, particularly women in veil, about the way they were being treated, sometimes humiliated, by the workers of the telecommunications companies,” he said in a statement from spokesman Victor Oluwadamilare.

The spokesman said women had been asked to remove their veils in public “despite the request by such women that a place should be provided out of public glare and for only female officials to attend to them”.

He said some women had been accused of being “Boko Haram agents” -- a reference to the insurgents who have recently adopted the use of veiled female suicide bombers in the country’s northeast.

The minister called on the firms to “accord maximum respect to Nigerians from all walks of life, particularly women” and said “sanctions may be applied” to companies found to have transgressed constitutional rights.

Nigeria’s telecoms operators are currently re-registering subscribers in line with new guidelines that unregistered accounts be disconnected. A recent violation of the policy resulted in a $3.9 billion fine for telecoms giant MTN.

Following the rise in suicide bombings, President Muhammadu Buhari, himself a Sunni Muslim, was criticized for seeming to suggest he would consider banning head coverings for Muslim women if the bombings continued.

According to independent polls, Muslims make up around 50 percent of Nigeria's population.

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