The holes in the veil
Just as some other writers of his ilk, Ray Ekpu, at the back page of The Guardian on Tuesday demonstrated poor understanding of the religion of Islam. He drew inferences from sources convenient for him and dismissed illustrations that would readily have faulted his assertions. Ekpu’s piece, Unveiling the Hijab, one directed at the recent happening in Osun, South West Nigeria and the popularly growing clamour for the rights of the Muslim girl to comply with her faith’s dictates, clearly ignores the essence of Islam and what its tenets are.
Every religion has its basic tenets — their guidelines that distinguish them from other faiths. The hijab is a mandatory garment for a Muslim female without which the practice of her religion will be incomplete. One is miffed by the gale of allegations and accusations against the Governor of the State, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, which tend to erroneously paint the picture that it was he who masterminded the hijab fuss. Ekpu’s article sadly toes the same line of reasoning that desperately seeks to demonize hijab wearing and make its campaigners appear like confusionists. But they are not!
Islam demands of its females, to dress modestly and be decently concealed from the views of others. Needless to state, this is against the abominable fashion that in today’s world, makes the vital parts of the woman centre of attractions.
While it is convenient for the writer to gleefully call our attention to Tunisia, Turkey and Tajikistan where he claimed that hijab has been “banned in public places”, we cannot accept his careful blind eyes to the various countries of the world where hijab does not constitute any negative impression and has caused no division or threat to peace.
Since 2013, Turkey had lifted its ban on the use of hijab and women are free to wear it in all parts of Turkey. In Tajikistan, the ban on hijab is part of an extremist anti-radicalization campaign of the government, which also makes it a crime for men to carry beard.
It is warped for anyone to reason that because insurgents have hidden under the use of veils with men disguising as women to unleash havoc, hijab must be taken off. The same argument therefore, ought to have been mounted to take off our roads Toyota Hilux, which has been a major brand used by terrorists as evident in the several videos clips of the evil-minded killers.
The fact that, in Ekpu’s words, “certain institutions have from time immemorial been arranged for discipline and orderly conduct of affairs” does not preclude the possibilities of re-arrangement at the availability of fresh insights and new realities. Could the latest happening at the Scotland Yards in the United Kingdom where police authorities have resolved to recruit over 600 new officers purposely to accommodate hijab-wearing officers in the force been unfashionable?
Hijab wearing women have become popular with security agencies, para-military organizations, schools in some of the world’s most advanced civilizations. In a way, it has further deepened the readiness of the global community to promote mutual understanding of one another’s peculiarities as part of strategies to evolving a united, coherent society. A court had in Lagos State ruled against Muslims’ demands for the use of hijab in the state but the Muslim community has challenged the ruling in an Appeal Court. One would have thought that those opposed to hijab in Osun would follow this same civilized way of doing things for the good of the society.
Our society would be rid of needless tension if and when we resolve to respect the sentiments of one another and demand less of what we don’t need all in the name of equalization.
That the late Obafemi Awolowo who established the first Muslim Pilgrims Welfare Board in the Western Region did not create an equivalent office for Christians perhaps, was in recognition of the fact that Christianity did not demand of Christians any pilgrimage obligations as it does of Muslims who have pilgrimage to Mecca as one of the five pillars of their religion. Ekpu’s claim that Aregbesola has been in “trenches with his workers over non-payment of their salaries” represents part of the stigmatization even in the face of the country’s worsening economy that has made more than 27 states terribly challenged in meeting their salary obligations.
This is why even when Aregbesola has paid his state workers up to March 2016, he still tops the list of debtor governors in the heads of those who must cast him in their preferred mould. For the peace of our society, it is germane to review our respective stands on issues in order to return to our era of mutual love, understanding and collective journey to greatness instead of allowing religions to divide us as a people with common heritage.
• Alhaj Mustafa Adeleke Olawuyi, the 1st Vice President, Osun State Muslim Community, wrote this in response to Ray Ekpu’s ‘Unveiling the Hijab’