The Minister of Inner-city and Zongo Development, Dr Mustapha Abdul-Hamid, has warned health authorities not to discriminate against and humiliate hijab-wearing female Muslim health workers.
“I want the health authorities and administrators to tell me how else a Muslim woman manifests her Islam-ness with the hijab? While the hijab is not a symbol of piety, it is a symbol of identity and identity is a manifestation”, Dr Abdul-Hamid said at a press briefing on Tuesday, 29 January 2019 in Accra.
He expressed worry about the numerous complaints received by his office about the alleged maltreatment of hijab-wearing female Muslim nurses at their health posts.
“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 lamented.
He continued: “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 [wear a hijab], go and work in an Islamic hospital’. I feel very offended by that”, the minister stated.
Dr Abdul-Hamid subsequently assured Muslims health workers that he will fight for their cause and ensure that their religious rights are respected at their workplaces.
“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 interests with my last breath,” he said.
The minister, on Friday, 4 January 2019, personally visited the Maamobi General Polyclinic to learn for himself why a Muslim student nurse on an internship with the health post was allegedly asked by her superiors to take off her hijab.
The same student had complained that she suffered similar harassment at the regional office of the Ghana Health Service when she went there to register for her internship.
She was allegedly denied an internship letter for refusing to take off her hijab while she went through the registration process.
After learning of the alleged incident via social media, Dr Abdul-Hamid said he spoke to both the Minister of Health, Kweku Agyemang-Manu and the Director-General of the Ghana Health Service, Dr Anthony Nsiah-Asare, on the phone for an intervention.
Dr Nsiah-Asare subsequently issued a directive to the health posts saying that the government’s policy on the wearing of the hijab by Muslim nurses had not been reviewed, hence they must be allowed to wear them.
In the circular sent to all Regional Health Directors, Medical Superintendents, Polyclinic In-Charges, Metro, Municipal and District Directors of Health Service in the region, the GHS prompted them of the fact that the move contravened government’s policy directive which gave approval to the wearing of the hijab.