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“I don’t think it was prudent for Government to have been so quick to issue a [statement].
“That was a folly: it was a political gaffe,” the international relations and diplomacy expert asserted, saying: “Without consulting the stakeholders they came out and then gave out a communique issuing threats here and there; that didn't help matters so it put the Christian community on the defence. They felt like it was disproportionate and it was favoring one part of the aisle.”
No sooner had the demonstration ended than the Government released a statement condemning “the act of preventing Muslim women and girls from freely wearing their hijabs at workplaces and in school.”
“We consider it not only as religious intolerance, but also a breach of the 1992 Constitution of the republic of Ghana, for Muslim students to be forced to take off their hijabs in schools.
“In much the same way, it is unacceptable for Muslim students to be forced to attend church services in schools, especially when it seeks to introduce those students to a religion, which they may not subscribe to, nor be adherents of,” the statement added.
The statement noted further that it is government’s position that Muslim women must be allowed, and not forced to take off their hijabs at work, to the extent that, their wearing them do not pose a danger to themselves or to others on the job.
“We wish to point out,” Dr. Omane Boamah said, “that under article 21(1)(c) of the 1992 Constitution of the republic of Ghana, ‘all persons shall have the right to freedom to practice any religion and to manifest such practice.”
“Given that the constitution guarantees, as part of the fundamental freedoms, the freedom of any religion and to manifest such practice”, it would be wrong to force any individual to abandon her/ his faith. “It is equally wrong to force Muslim women and girls to disrobe or take off their hijabs at their places of work or schools.”
The statement warned that heads of any institution, including schools and workplaces, found to be contravening this basic constitutional right would be liable to sanctions.
The Christian community took exception to the lopsided statement, since they argued, for instance that there are Christian students in Muslim mission schools whose religious rights were also being trampled upon. A statement issued by the Christian Council said it expected the Government to have condemned across the board, the infractions on the religious rights of all citizens and not just Muslims.