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Fashola and the hijab controversy

By Ishola Balogun

We ll go to court if… – Muslim Lawyers

Bismillahi Rahamani Raheem.  Wasalatu wasalam ala seyidina Muhammad, wa ala alihi, wa ashabihi, wasselim.

“And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that they should not display their beauty and ornaments except what (must ordinarily) appear thereof; that they should draw their veils over their bosoms and not display their beauty except to their husbands, their fathers, their husband’s fathers, their sons, their husbands’ sons, their brothers or their brothers’ sons, or their sisters’ sons, or their women, or the slaves whom their right hands possess, or male servants free of physical needs, or small children who have no sense of the shame of sex; and that they should not strike their feet in order to draw attention to their hidden ornaments. And O ye Believers! turn ye all together towards Allah, that ye may attain Bliss.” (Quran 24:31)

Traditionally, the wearing of hijab is not only satisfying the demands of modest dressing but specifically, satisfying the Quranic injunction which ask women to draw their khimr over their bosoms, Quran 24:30–31. For many Muslims, wearing a headscarf is not only about religious expression, it is about religious obligation. Therefore, any proposed law banning it is an unwarranted infringement on the right to religious practice.

Many leaders of the Muslim community have expressed their repudiation over the rumours that there might be a ban on the use of hijab in public schools. The insinuation though was rife, but indications from the government quarters were that it was not a ban but a regulation within public school premises. You cannot blame the Muslims who were quick to react to the planned regulation.

They must have known the style and approach of Gov Muhammad Raji Fashola. How he carried out the demolition of mosques within Alausa was a shock to many Muslims while the pain, anger and frustration over the demolition still linger.

So, any attempt to undermine the interest of the Muslims in the state whether through the prohibition of hijab in public schools or destroy symbol of Islamic consciousness, or disregard the Islamic identity or whatever, might whittle down the rising profile of the governor especially among the Muslims.

Our leaders are quick to emulate developments in the western world without due consideration to circumstances, societal or socio-economic factors. France recently banned the Hijab (along with other visible religious symbols) in schools.  France’s secular constitution provides the grounds for excluding religion from their schools. Turkey has for many years suppressed the hijab in schools, public buildings and among employees of the state.

Gov. Fashola

However it is not just western countries who have taken this approach. Part of the reasons adduced for the action was the aftermath of 9/11. Authorities might have taken the action as part of a wider attack on Islam conducted in tandem with the USA’s ‘War on Terror’.

If that is the case with my lovely state, then it is most unfortunate as there is no justification for terrorism carried out by Muslims in the state. Therefore, the issue is not about perceptions of hijab or the practicalities of the dress itself but about discouraging the consciousness of hijab with the fear that it could lead to other things.

Recently on the Island, a Muslim brother was harassed at a public function. He was searched deep down just because he had bears. We have also heard stories of some Muslims (wearing turban, beards, in their Kaftans) gathered for a programme in Lagos, that assemblage made some ignorant residents to call the law enforcement agents who came and carried out investigation and found out they were peace loving people who came for religious purposes.

If you happened to have a beard with no moustache, people will be quick to tag you ‘Taliban’ or ‘Boko Haram’ to your face. Bearded people particularly when they wear Kaftan are regarded as terrorists. Sadly, theseWhat is worrying is that everyone has a story to tell of how they have been wronged in some way by a ‘bearded mullah-type person’.

People do not believe any more the modesty beards or hijab and all that it represents confers on a Muslim. This is the wrong impression some elements have created to tarnish the image of Islam and Muslims. But as Muslims, we don’t have to give in to such ploy, we should not succumb to any act that will discourage the wearing of hijab by Muslims girls or keeping beards by the brothers, no matter what the anti-Islam forces may give as reason.

At this junction, our leaders, Imams and scholars should come out to condemn any such move that will discourage the wearing of hijab in schools. Since this is what they have spent most of their lives in preaching, it is pertinent to stand firmly against any act that will circumvent the practice of the religion.

As for the government, it is noteworthy that in an attempt to satisfy fundamental secularism, we cannot afford to prohibit the principle of a particular belief. Eko o ni baje o…

We ll go to court if… – Muslim Lawyers
The Chairman of Muslim Lawyers Association of Nigeria, Lagos chapter, Barrister Musediq Akanni Sanni has said that there was no report of banning the use of Hijab by Muslim students in public schools.

He stated that the agreement reached with the government at a meeting with the Hon Commissioner of Home Affairs was that students will be allowed to wear hijab during the Jumat time, Zhuri and Asri salat.

“They agreed that students will be using hijab during the Jumat time, Zhuri and Asri salat; that was the agreement we reached with government. But when we requested for the minutes of that meeting, a contrary view was sent to us limiting the use of hijab to time of Jumat and in the school compound. We immediately reacted and demanded it should be reversed.”

He added that the association will be ready to go to court if the government did not go back to what was agreed on at the meeting.

Sanni however said, so far, no student association has reported any ban on the use of hijab. “No student association has reported any ban, but we will be prepared to go to court if what we agreed on is not duly implemented,” he said.

He said the association urged the governor to heed the advice; “we don’t want religious violence in Lagos.”

MULAN at a meeting held in Nassarawa recently was worried that the State of Excellence which has a high population of Muslims and high percentage of lawyers in its cabinet will disregard the clear provisions of section 38 of the amended constitution of the federal Republic of Nigeria 2011 and plethora of judicial authorities on Hijab (Headscarf) to prohibit its use by Muslim students in the state.

The body also said this was coming at a time when the reputable International soccer body (FIFA) agreed officially to allow players to wear the Muslim Hijab during football games and all sports.


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