By Abdullah Abdulganiy
Recall that last week on this page, yours sincerely threw light on how the age-long Hijab question reared its ugly head in the ancient city of Ilorin, the Kwara State capital. The issue was not funny at all as it had already drawn the ire of the Muslim faithful who organised a protest against the victimisation and harassment of their wards in the so called grant-aided Christian missionary schools in clear violation of the constitution and global best practices.
The state government led by Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq had to take a deft move by ordering the shutdown of affected schools till a clearcut position was taken by the government. Although the law is clear on the Hijab question, the need for bringing all concerned stakeholders to the roundtable to dissect the issue dispassionately which informed the constitution of a committee cannot be ruled out and is in order.
So, the committee concluded its assignment last week and the government announced its position after a rigorous process of legal review through the Secretary to the State Government, Prof. Mamma Saba Jibril. It’s pertinent to add that the committee was an assemblage of critical stakeholders and opinion leaders from both sides of the religious divide. In its position, the state government upheld the use of Hijab in schools as a matter of constitutionally guaranteed right.
It was however baffling that rather than eat the humble pie and listen to the voice of reason, the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Kwara State chapter sent a signal that suggests it’s a government on its own and is above the law of the country. The body had declared that it rejects the constitution which granted all citizens the right to freedom of religion without let or hindrance, saying it condemns the use of Hijab. It also called upon its members to occupy all the affected schools.
CAN should understand that the issue of Hijab is not a matter of choice as far as the law of the land is concerned; it’s a matter of right. Therefore CAN’s rejection of the use of Hijab is akin to rejecting the right to life or the right to education. It simply does not add up. The right to use the Hijab is basic and fundamental and is not subject to the opinion of any group no matter how highly placed.
I alluded to how the same Hijab CAN is rejecting in Nigeria is allowed in the US, the UK and a couple of other countries that are dominated by Christians. Not only is the Hijab donned by students in schools, it’s also used in offices, institutions, up to the military. Where’s CAN drawing its wisdom from?
It was rather unfortunate if not laughable that CAN argued simplistically that upholding the use of Hijab is Islamizing the grant-aided schools. And I ask: Why has the Great Britain not been Islamized with the use of Hijab? Ditto to America and Israel. All these diversionary tactics and old scripts are not fashionable again.
Again, CAN mentioned that Hijab will lead to discrimination. How will that happen? Discrimination is a thing of the mind. A piece of apparel which is just a means of identity like name, language, sex, tribe cannot brew discrimination insofar there is understanding, tolerance and fair mindedness.
According to CAN, the Hijab will also allow “terrorists to easily identify our children and wards.” Pray, do terrorists ask for religious affiliation before launching attacks? When the school children in various parts of the North were kidnapped by men of the underworld, was their religion considered? It’s even arguable that Muslims are largely the victims of terrorist attacks in the country. So, why is CAN playing to the gallery? Terrorism is evil and does not know any religion.
The Hijab question like many commentators have asserted is long time settled. The law is clear on it. Of particular note is the regulation from the Kwara State Ministry of Education that no pupil shall be denied admission into any school (whether private or public) on the basis of his religion and no pupil shall be forced to practice any religion other than that which is approved by his parent or guardian.
The above item of the regulation knocks out the thought of CAN that by relieving the state government of grants supply, it will be able to deny the Muslim girlchild of her right to don the Hijab. CAN will either subject itself to the rule of the Federal Republic of Nigeria or leave the country to establish its CAN Republic. As far as Nigeria is concerned, the right to wear the Hijab remains.
Live and let live!