Thursday, 30th November 2023

The hijab between the lawful and the lawless – Part I

By Afis A. Oladosu
24 June 2016   |   3:30 am
Brethren, I thought we need to add the third in the 'triangle' of the current discourses on the Hijab. Let us call it the specious. But before we explore these readings, it is instructive to note that of all the sins a man may freely commit...


In the name of the Almighty, the Beneficent the Merciful
O Prophet! tell your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers to bring down over themselves [part] of their outer garments. That is more suitable that they will be known and not be abused. (Q33:59)

Brethren, I thought we need to add the third in the ‘triangle’ of the current discourses on the Hijab. Let us call it the specious. But before we explore these readings, it is instructive to note that of all the sins a man may freely commit, that of hypocrisy is the most abominable. Hypocrisy is the iniquitous occupation by the believer of two different spaces while posturing to be an occupier of only one. It is the dissolute temptation to be a friend to the Almighty while acting as a consort to Satan. I also aver that the worst hypocrisy would and should refer to that conscious effort to mask and ‘kill’ the truth while posturing to be its defender.

When lawyers become liars, when the temple of justice is desecrated by its practitioners who are quick to inveigh judicial proclamations that run contrary to their long-held prejudices and biases, when law is seen by lawyers as nothing but an apparatus for the protection of the swag of the religious self not for the guarantee of the freedom of the religious Other, then gargantuan hypocrisy finds exemplification.

It is along this axis that the brouhaha that has followed the judicial proclamation by a court of competent jurisdiction in Osun State which restored, I repeat, restored the constitutionally given rights of Muslim female students to use their Hijab on top of their school uniforms in the state finds exemplification.

In other words, in climes aside from ours where the rule of law in theory is the rule of law in practice, no controversies would have trailed the judicial decision. But I remember that a couple of months ago another court had refused a similar prayer of the Muslim Ummah in Lagos. It was pleasing to the Lagos High court then that the use of hijab by Muslim students was unconstitutional. Thus unlike what is happening in reference to the case Osun, Muslims in Lagos simply proceeded to the Appeal Court. It is this contrariety in our posture to the law that fed today’s sermon. It is from this slippery terrain that at least three interesting postures in relation to the use of hijab in this country emerge for our contemplation. I refer to them as the lawful, the unlawful and the space in-between.

The lawful posture emerged a couple of days ago when the Guardian Newspaper treated its readers to eclectic legal ministrations on the ‘storm’ in the state of living spring. Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs), expectedly held opposing views in relation to the issue. But apparently bound by the oath of fealty they swore to while donning the appurtenances of Senior Advocacy for the very first time, the SANs were unanimous that the constitutionality or otherwise of the permissibility of the use of Hijab by Muslim students in government schools in Osun need to be taken to the Appeal Court. If indeed the court grants the use of Hijab, those on the side of the law and the lawful would argue, it is only the courts that can take it away not the threat to burn down the nation.

But we all know that each time the Hijab is the issue, emotions usually ‘trump’ reason; each time the Muslim women’s garment of modesty, which is similar to the Habit usually won by Catholic’s Sisters, becomes an issue our addiction either to lawfulness or lawlessness always find amplification. While the lawful, as has been hinted at above, refers to the decorous and the civil, the lawless has featured threats, fulminations and imprecations. The ‘lawless’ in the theatre of the hijab not only detests the sight of the garment but usually seeks ways to negate and invalidate it. “No to Hijab”, he shouts. “Go to the court of law and appeal the judgment”, he is advised. “No, never!” he says again.

Thus the lawless reminds you of Adolf Hitler; he operates with only one philosophy: either my way or no way. He seeks the death and despoliation of everything that is different from him; he tramples upon the law of the land which breaks like glass under his boots of self-conceitedness and self-righteousness. He is always ready to propagate the sterile logic that the sight of the Muslim student in hijab upends the religious equation of the land.

The other day in a public school in the state of ‘living spring’, a national youth-corp member was denied opportunity to serve the nation in the school because she wears the hijab. She was told point blank that the school she had been posted to belong to ‘them’ not to others. Thus the hijab becomes a space for transaction in identity politics; or a metaphor for the unwanted; a label for the anathemized, the execrated.

Ask the lawless why so much aversion for the hijab. He would mostly respond by saying he is free of all prejudice; “I hate everyone equally” he would likely conclude. A Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) wondered how could the wearing of the hijab lead to crisis. I responded by saying it is probably because of the insistence of the lawless that what he does not eat should be forbidden to the other!
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