Dear Justice Issifu Tanko,
Our attention has been drawn to your ‘unfortunate’ comments that seek to further entrench religious discrimination against Muslim women and girls in Ghana. If you could remember, in 2019 after several reports of discrimination against us, we started series of advocacy that sought to educate Ghanaians about the hijab and to remind them of our rights as guaranteed by the 1992 Constitution that you are equally a custodian off. Unfortunately, your comments as a Muslim, and a judge sought to discredit our very existence and citizens and muslims seeking to promote education and provide fair employment opportunities to us as citizens of Ghana.
Sadly, at your Public Vetting on Monday May 11, 2020 you insisted that because faith is not determined by dressing Muslim girls who wish to wear hijab to school should stop attending public schools and opt for those that accept such. We find your response very disappointing, undermining and disrespectful since you are aware students are placed in the second cycle institution. May we remind you that the collection of taxes does not know hijabis and non-hijabis to discriminate against them. How do we proceed to deny these vulnerable Muslim women and girls the opportunity to learn as guaranteed by laws?
Sir, as an esteemed Judge, we believe upholding the 1992 Constitution of Ghana through interpretation and protection of its citizenry against all forms of discrimination is one of your core mandates. As a secular state, our secularism is reflected in the same constitution which we have to manifest in law and practice. May we remind you that Article 21(b) and (c) states that “all persons shall have the right to: freedom of thought, conscience and belief, which shall include academic freedom and “(c) freedom to practice any religion and to manifest such practice;”. Clearly, if the manifestation of my religion is through the wearing of hijab, I should be allowed to do same. You also mentioned that school administrators should be allowed to enforce regulations on such. Is the 1992 Constitution not the sole law of the Land? How do these regulations, policies and bye-laws override rights enshrined in the 1992 constitution.
In furtherance to this, Article 12 (2) also guarantees the religious rights of Muslims that “Every person in Ghana, whatever his race, place of origin, political opinion, colour, religion, creed or gender shall be entitled to the fundamental human rights and freedoms of the individual contained in this Chapter but subject to respect for the rights and freedoms of others and for the public interest” As an honorable judge, should we be scared of appearing before you because of your biases against us?
We are equally disappointed you insisted that young girls should not be trained with this at a younger age where their confidence and assertiveness is built through dressing and teachings.
The Quran in Chapter 24 Verse 31 and Chapter 33 Verse 59 entreat the Muslim woman to cover up. Girls are thus encouraged to begin at a young age, which equally helps them learn to worship their Creator better. Quite apart from that, covering the hair in particular has cultural significance to many sections of the Ghanaian population, meaning that the concept of covering up is not new to our lands.
Your response seemed to suggest that Muslim girls wearing hijab will be an inconvenience to non-Muslims. We believe it is not the covering that is the inconvenience, since covering is not an alien concept to Ghana. The root of the problem is that there appears to be a certain disregard for the appearance because it is tied to the Islamic Faith.
Sir, did you know that, whiles everyone has to attend church service in school; Muslim students are denied the right to observe the five daily prayers? Our children are forced to read the Lord’s Prayer. When you go to some hospitals, Christian prayers are said before services are rendered to patients, and nobody cares whether there are Muslims in the audience. This doesn’t end with hospitals but in all spheres of public service. Wherein lays the religious freedom of this minority group?
Over the years, Muslim women have been shamed, exploited and discriminated against for wearing the hijab, others have lost jobs, whiles others have left the classroom and hospitals for same reason. Do you not think and believe your comments out rightly endorse this form of injustice and also breach ratified international regulations like the Universal Declaration on Human Rights (UNDHR), Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against women etc (CEDAW).
Malcom X said “You can’t separate peace from freedom because no one can be at peace unless he has his freedom.” Ghana has been touted over the years as a peaceful country with religious tolerance.
We cannot therefore allow any Supreme Court nominee, individual or organization allows their biases to disrupt the peace by not guaranteeing the right to religious freedom.
Finally, as posited by Rev. Dr Martin Luther King ”We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools” and we can only do this by respecting to live and let others live.
Ramadan Kareem Justice Tanko
Source: Daily Mail GH