By Henry Olamiju
“Islam and hijab protects a woman from being objectified, without her having to sacrifice any of her femininity!” ~ Anonymous
There’s a need for me to start this piece by indicating that though I’m not of the islamic faith, I do love to see women who make wearing hijab look fashionable.
As someone who’s spent some time in the northern parts of Nigeria, I’ve come to respect the religious codes that are prevalent in those places and furthermore I’ve come to give kudos to those who make their religious exercises as simple and alluring as possible. Many people go about their religious beliefs-cum-exercises as if they were compulsory life-threatening burdens they must bear everyday.
Without sword or hammer and without any coercion by brute force or fiery words , many of these people want to make you ‘aspire’ to join them in their religious exercises.
That kind of religious attitude and disposition scores far more important points in the hearts of the unbelievers than shoving one’s religion in other people’s faces.
Let me quickly come to the issue I have today. The Hijab. It is a piece of clothing worn by muslim women around the face and neck region and may as well cover the hands too.
Recently there was a case of public protests following reports that a school principal in Lagos disciplined a student who wore her hijab to school. The principal, Mrs. E.C Ukpaka, of Kadara Junior Grammar School, Ebute Meta flogged one Aisha Alabi, a 14-year old student of the same school. While I condemn the flogging of the student – the principal should have just refused the student entry into school until she changed into proper school uniform – I
think it was appropriate to bring an action of such a sensitive nature to the foreground. The Muslim Students’ Society subsequently called its members out on a protest for the ‘unjust’ action of the principal. The Lagos State Government looked into the matter and invited the education stakeholders, members of the legal profession as well as representatives of the Muslim Student Societies to a parley. At the end of the meeting, it was agreed that hijabs are not part of the school uniform and are therefore not to be worn on the school uniform. It was however also said that hijabs are allowed when the student is going to pray or to read the Quran.
To be frank, I was surprised at the outcome of the meeting. Without being able to any serious claims on research work, I can say that Lagos State Government (or more specifically Action Congress of Nigeria) has more Muslims in power than their Christian counterparts. That ‘statistic’ by itself doesn’t worry me – whoever is capable should strive for the post and do the job – but occasions like that education parley do. I expected the result to be in favour of hijabs. I was wrong. Dead wrong. Gladly wrong.
The spokesperson also added the following: “Whoever wants his/her child wear hijab to school should enrol them in a private muslim school”. I felt that was cheeky shot but notwithstanding it is the truth.
Really, I’ve heard of people trying to register a Christian Fellowship with the authorities of a Muslim university, how absurd can that be? Individual religious institutions are there to promote their own kind so secular (academic) institutions should also promote the secular nature of the state.
In some countries, there are no school uniforms. After all, a uniform is defined by a set of distinct characteristics chosen to identify a group of people. Since we are not one of those countries (or we are, just not yet?) uniforms should remain uniform. And that goes to everyone hoping to display the paraphernalia of their respective religions ON the school uniforms.
The articles of the constitution, I’m aware, allow for freedom of expression of religion but that is as long as it doesn’t step into the ambit of another person’s human rights or compromise the secular nature of the Nigerian state.
The truth about the matter is that we are going to need such parleys all over the nation in order come to an agreement on how we are going to live peaceably as one Nigeria. Matters should be settled amicably in the presence of stakeholders, officers of the state as well representatives of the legal profession.
In this particular case, Lagos State has done well.
I’m on Twitter: @holamiju
P.S. There’s a spirit in man…