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Why hijab imbroglio persists

By Sulaimon Salau
13 February 2022   |   2:42 am
Poor assertion of authority and flagrant disregard for declaratory court judgments by state governments have continued to throw the schools off-balance as regards the usage of hijab

[FILES] Hijab

Poor assertion of authority and flagrant disregard for declaratory court judgments by state governments have continued to throw the schools off-balance as regards the usage of hijab by Muslim girls, thereby infringing upon their fundamental human rights. 
 
Stakeholders, who reviewed the recent event that led to the crisis in Oyun Baptist High School, Ijagbo, Kwara State, believed that such confrontations are avoidable if the necessary authorities and state government had made decisive declarations and enforced previous court judgments on the usage of hijab in the state and other states.

 
In Lagos, a coalition of Muslim groups has continued to request the Lagos State Government to issue a circular reminding school administrators of an appeal court’s ruling, which permits Muslim students to use hijab in schools in the state.
 
In Oyo state, the matter is still before the state high court, while the next sitting date is March 11, 2022.

Solidarity march organised by the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) in 2019 to draw attention to the molestation of female students at the International School of the University of Ibadan

 
Lamenting the emotional trauma suffered by the affected girls, Member of Trustees of International Muslim Union, Sherifat Ajibade, described as both unconstitutional and criminal, any form of discrimination against Muslim women for wearing hijabs.
   
She said: “If the law guarantees us the right and we find anyone going against that right, we will sue such an individual or organisation to avoid violence,”
 
Also speaking, the founder of, Hijab Rights Advocacy Initiative, Mutiat Balogun, said there is a global movement for the freedom of women and freedom to make choices concerning their bodies and dressing, but that such courtesy is not extended to Muslim women.
 
“The focus on the girl child and the need for her rights to be protected and not trampled upon sadly seem not to be extended to the Muslim girl child,” she said.
   
Balogun quoted Section 38 (1) and (2) of Nigeria’s 1999 constitution, as amended, that; “(1) Every person shall be entitled to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom (either alone or in community with others, and in public or in private) to manifest and propagate his religion or belief in worship, teaching, practice and observance.

Students in the classroom

   
“(2) No person attending any place of education shall be required to receive religious instruction or to take part in or attend any religious ceremony or observance if such instruction, ceremony or observance relates to a religion other than his own, or religion not approved by his parent or guardian.”      
 
Leader of Islamic Welfare Foundation, Malam Aliyu Badmus told The Guardian, that government has failed in its responsibilities, hence they continue brouhaha over hijab usage in schools.
   
He said: “Courts have given judgments. Governments are reluctant to implement because they are afraid of the blackmail that government will suffer if they choose to implement the court decisions in favour of hijab.
   
“Even where they have gathered the courage to issue circulars, they have failed woefully to implement their own circular. Imagine what is going on in Kwara State. The government had issued a circular saying that it is right of every Muslim girl to wear hijab in schools, but why is that same government is unable to enforce its own circular? It is because they are afraid of the blackmail they will suffer from Christians.
 

Muslim students at a function


“Government is the employer of the managers of those schools. The schools are government schools. Yet their employees are taking instructions from the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), at the expense of his employer, and the government pretends to be helpless.
   
“How can you tell your employees that this must be done and they are defying your order, the least that will happen is that you fire such people. But you can see how bad it has become, that government is always afraid to do anything that will affect the feelings of the Christians. That has to change. Justice must be maintained. If government must live by its responsibilities, it is a fundamental thing that it must ensure that there is justice between its citizens and groups,” he said.

However, President-General, Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) Mohammed Sa’ad Abubakar, has warned that Muslims will no longer tolerate injustice being meted out to the faithful in their quest to obey the will of their God.
 
Sultan, in a statement signed by the Director of Administration, NSCIA, Arc. Zubairu Haruna Usman-Ugwu, said the Court of Appeal has given at least three declaratory judgments in favour of the use of hijab in public schools in Kwara state, adding that the Oyun Baptist High School is one of many missionary schools that were taken over by the Yakubu Gowon Decree of 1974.

 
By the said decree, missionary schools including Muslim-owned ones, acquired a new status of public schools.
 
He said: “The victims of this premeditated violence were only exercising their constitutionally guaranteed right to peaceful protest over the decision of Oyun Baptist High School, Ijagbo, to deny some female Muslim students entry to the school premises on account of their use of hijab. 
 
“This situation was aggravated by the inaction of the government of Kwara state to quickly arrest the situation and enforce its own directive which was restated on January 25, 2022, to all public schools in the state on the use of hijab and berets for willing students after the management of Oyun Baptist High School suddenly decreed that female students should not wear hijab to the school again.
   
“With the indifferent attitude of the government to this infringement, the students took their frustration and complaint to the Kwara State Teaching Service Commission and to the Government House in Ilorin prior to the protest at the school gate in Ijagbo.
   
“On a fateful day, according to credible reports and videos circulated on the social media, students on peaceful protests were gruesomely attacked by hired hoodlums and armed thugs wielding dangerous weapons including guns, which were fired indiscriminately at the protesters. Many people were injured and at least one person, Habeeb Idris, was killed in the process.
 
“The level of savagery meted out to these innocent students through the connivance and inaction of those who are supposed to protect them is highly worrisome and deeply regrettable,” he stated.
 
He continued: “Nevertheless, it is in the public domain that the incident was not unconnected with the recent statement of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in which the body vowed to reject any ‘imposition’ of the use of hijab in the so-called mission schools in the state.
 
“That is why the leadership of the Association has been incoherent while struggling to validate the gross violation of the fundamental rights of the female Muslim students of Oyun Baptist High School on the use of the Hijab.
 
“Again, the Council will like to put it on record that Oyun Baptist High School is one of many missionary schools that were taken over by the Yakubu Gowon Decree of 1974. By the said decree, missionary schools including Muslim-owned ones, acquired a new status of public schools.
   
“The fact that the Government of Kwara State decided to retain the names of these schools is purely to respect the contributions of the founding fathers of the schools to educational development.
 
“Besides, by the Kwara State Education Law of 1996 (CAP E1 of the Laws of Kwara State), these schools became grant-aided public schools, effectively ending their missionary status. In addition to the above law, the High Court of Kwara State in 2016, ruled in favour of the Kwara State Government to the effect that the hitherto missionary schools belong to the government, a judgement that was subsequently upheld by the Appeal Court in the state in 2019.
 
“All these have proved beyond any reasonable doubt that the claim to the school by anyone apart from the government is illegal.
 

“With respect to the use of hijab in public schools, the Court of Appeal has given at least three declaratory judgements in favour of the use of hijab in public schools in Kwara state,” he stated.
 
The National Coordinator, Islamic Welfare Foundation (IWF), Dr. HKA Kalejaiye, described the continuous discrimination against hijab-wearing girls in schools as a violation of girl-child rights, threatening to exploit legal actions against perpetrators.
   
He also called on the National Human Rights Commission to take proactive steps to prosecute the perpetrators of discrimination against human rights wherever it is committed in Nigeria.
 
He said: “Some State governments and grant-aided schools have taken it upon themselves to create a needless and baseless controversy on the use of hijab in public schools. The Islamic Welfare Foundation condemns in very strong terms this affront on our Constitution and will resist it with all legal means available to us as citizens of this great country.
 
“We want to place on record that virtually all the hierarchies of courts in Nigeria have put Judicial imprimatur on the rights of the girl child to use hijab anywhere in Nigeria including the schools.
 
 
“We make bold to say that these court decisions did not give a distinction between public, private or grant-aided schools,” he stated.
 
He, therefore, called on governments at all levels, especially the state governments and particularly the states in the South West and Kwara State, that they should stop treating Muslim students as second-class citizens in their states.

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