President John Mahama has issued a stern warning to school heads and institutions that infringe on the religious rights of students to stop it or face punishment.
He told Parliament on Thursday, in his state of the nation address that school heads or institutions who force Muslim students to worship in churches on Sundays, or force Christian students to observe Islamic rites, will be dealt with appropriately.
Similarly, he said it was inappropriate for any school or institution to force nuns to take off their black veils.
President Mahama’s warning follows a recent demonstration by Muslims in the Western Region in protest to what they described as discrimination against them on grounds of religion.
The Muslims called on schools in the country not to infringe on the rights of Muslims by forcing them to attend Sunday church activities.
Secondary school girls, who were among the estimated 300 demonstrators, were seen with placards with inscriptions such as “Hijab my pride,” “Respect our rights,” “Respect Ghana’s constitution freedom of worship” among others.
The Government, after the demonstration, issued a statement signed by Communications Minister Dr Edward Omane Boamah saying: “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 noted.
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.