By Ebunoluwa Sessou
In 2014, the Lagos Division of Court of Appeal approved the injunction by the Lagos State Government to stop the use of hijab in public schools.
The judgment was given by Justice Grace Onyeabo of the High Court of Lagos State on October 17, 2014. It ruled that female Muslim students should not use hijab in public schools except in Muslim-owned schools.
Meanwhile, on June 17, 2022, the Supreme Court invalidated the restriction the Lagos State Government placed on the use of hijab by female Muslim students in its public primary and secondary schools.
This judgment has raised reactions from different stakeholders. The question that followed was how far can the judgment go especially in a multi-religious setting like Nigeria?
Such injunction will fail —Rev Kristilere Israel
Speaking on the issue, Rev. Kristilere Israel, Senior Pastor, Shepherdhill Baptist Church, said that a country like Nigeria should not allow such an injunction to see the light of the day.
In a chat with WO, the Cleric said: “In a secular nation like ours, all religions should be respected and be allowed to practice without any interference.
I have no problem with Muslims wearing hijab in their own Muslim schools. But, because we are in a secular state, in whatever is a public place/public establishment, we must not allow one religion to dominate the others and everybody should allow whatever is acceptable to all in that establishment.
“If it is a Christian school, the Christians can do whatever they like in their own school. They lay down the rules and everybody will follow suit. The same goes for a Muslim school, hijab or any other wears that are related to the Muslim religion could be allowed.
“But, for public schools in a secular place like ours, it should not be allowed. And I think this is one of the reasons this government is proving to us that they prefer one religion over the other. I do not need anyone to tell me what I already know.
It is a way to show they have allowed Islam to override other religions in the country and it is something that should not stand.”
The pronouncement will bring more chaos —Barr Ufeli
In his reaction, Barr. Evans Ufeli, Rabbi Solicitors, in a chat with WO, stated that the pronouncement was contrary to the ethics of institution establishment.
According to him: “Some of us find the pronouncement rather confusing because it has opened the floodgate for people to start using traditional attires in place of their professional assignment which in itself by extension, runs contrary to the ethics of many professions.
“I think we should separate religion from state and institutions because this kind of judgment will create problems in the future as it is already creating confusion right now.
“The important thing about institutions and professional bodies and schools is that they have their own code of conduct.
They have their own moral codes enshrined by the law setting up institutions. But, when people now attempt to take their religious regalia to their professional, school, institutional or place of work among others, and then the court affirms and supports it and fixes a judgment which is a resemblance of the affirmative that you can throw caution to the wind, that is the reason we are where we are now.
“Law is the engine room for social re-engineering. Whatever the court says is the law. But, the implication is that where the Supreme Court or the Court that makes the ruling that tends to allow people throw caution to the wind, then, the court will not be fair to the society. At the end of the day, people will be wearing their white garments to the Court.
“We have over 250 tribes and uncountable religions. You can imagine if all of us start wearing religious regalia to our institutions, there would be chaos in the society. We should avoid that and the court should be cautious,” he urged.
Meanwhile, the Nigeria Association of Teachers of Arabic and Islamic Studies, NATAIS has urged institutions of learning across Nigeria to respect the Supreme Court judgment on the use of hijab in schools.
Also, the Muslim Students Society of Nigeria, MSSN, Lagos State chapter, applauded the judgment of the Supreme Court upholding the use of hijab in Lagos schools.