Hijab, symbol of identity not piety – Mustapha Hamid warns health authorities
The Zongo Development Minister has expressed anger at the growing cases of discrimination against female Muslim nurses who wear hijabs in public health facilities across the country.
Dr Mustapha Hamid has warned health authorities and hospital administrators against such practices as it is unconstitutional.
He said the constitution gives all citizens the right to profess and manifest the religion of their choice.
“I want the health authorities and administrators to tell me how else a Muslim woman manifest her ‘Islamness’ with the hijab? While the hijab is not a symbol of piety, it is a symbol of identity and identity is a manifestation,” he said addressing journalist at the meet the press series in Accra, Tuesday.
The Minister said he has been receiving numerous complaints from female Muslim nurses from various health facilities across the country who say they are being harassed by their supervisors.
“They are complaining that their supervisors and senior nurses ask them to remove their hijab otherwise they should go home otherwise they cannot work as nurses,” he said.
The Director-General of the Ghana Health Service (GHS), Dr Nsiah Asare has maintained that government’s policy on the wearing of the hijab by Muslim nurses has not been reviewed, hence they must be allowed to wear them.
But Dr Hamid has cited examples in some facilities where the nurses in question have either been frustrated or demoted after failing to obey instructions to remove their hijabs.
“I got a call from a Muslim Ward Supervisor at the Accra Psychiatric Hospital who told me she has been demoted because the Deputy Director of Nursing Services saw her and asked her ‘why are you wearing a hijab? You can’t wear a hijab here…if you want to go and work in an Islamic hospital.’ I feel very offended by that,” the obviously angry Minister disclosed.
The former Information Minister narrated further that the nurse in question, at Adizatu Ibrahim, went to her demoted post still wearing the hijab and she was queried with a letter by her supervisors.
“’…on the said day you were in hijab and the Deputy Director of Nursing Services wanted to be sure you were aware of the consequences of wearing a hijab…’ part of the letter said explaining that it is because they are working in a mental facility and the mentally unstable patients will pull the hijab,” he narrated.
According to the letter, a number of female staff have been injured by patients who were able to get hold of either hair or clothing.
“So all female mental health facility staff should shave?” he said questioning the rationale behind the directive.
Dr Hamid said he got to the bottom of the issue by contacting the head of the Mental Health Authority, Dr Akwasi Osei, who has ensured that Ms Ibrahim has been restored to her post and is still wearing her hijab.
He said President Akufo-Addo is very uncompromising as far as the integration is concerned and does not want discrimination of any sort especially on the basis of gender, religion or ethnicity, and will not take kindly to such treatment.
“I want people to know that the president has given me the mandate to protect the interest of Zongo people if those interests and rights are trampled upon…I am going to fight for those interest with my last breath,” he said.