Sequel to the court judgment permitting female Muslim students to use hijab with their school uniforms, Christian students in the State of Osun went to school in church regalia as instructed by the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Osun chapter.
While a voluminous hue and cry from various quarters has followed this development, we wish to advise Osun CAN to fall back on doctrinal teachings, model influence as well as precedence in Christendom.
For doctrinal teaching, Osun CAN should allow the Bible to guide its action on the matter. The Bible enjoins Christian females to cover their heads with a veil (I Corinthians 11:4-13).
As a model for Christian women, Mary the mother of Jesus (peace be upon him) provided the practical example of how a Christian woman should dress. Mary uses veils in all her pictures that we have seen and she should be a model for all Christian women.
Christendom has a precedent in the use of veils by Catholic nuns. There is little or no difference between the Muslim hijab and the Catholic nun’s veil. Osun CAN and indeed all Christian women can adopt this.
So instead of this rancor, we advise synergy between Christian and Muslim doctrinal teachings. The root of religious crisis can be traced to the lacuna between scriptural teachings and the practice among adherents of Christianity and Islam. Although both religions teach love and peaceful coexistence, the practitioners do the opposite.
In this hijab controversy, however, the Muslims have proved more faithful to the teaching of their scripture. They wished to use the hijab with the school uniform but school authorities disallowed them. Instead of taking the law into their hands, they petitioned the state government.
Although Ogbeni Aregbesola is a Muslim he did not give them the permission to use it. Still exercising restraint, they went to court. Afterall the court should always be the final arbiter in a democratic setting. However, the reaction of Osun CAN to the court’s pronouncement leaves much to be desired.
In the present circumstance, we of the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) are of the opinion that the way forward is for Osun CAN to dig into Christian archives, design a Christian veil that matches both the colour and stuff of the school uniforms just as the Muslims have done and direct Christian students in the state to use them.
But nobody should expect female Muslim students of Osun to stop using their hijab after this landmark judgment. The only logical option left is for Osun CAN to seek parity for female Christian students in the state to use the Christian veil on their school uniforms. Osun CAN will be playing dog in the manger if it fails to do this but insists that Muslims should not use their hijab. If someone does not need something, he has no moral right to stop others from using it.
This is where the Osun police command must be on alert. The police must not abdicate its responsibility. MURIC warned not too long ago that the so-called peaceful coexistence that exists in the South West is a very thin veneer. The cord holding Christians and Muslims together in the sub-region can be likened to a single thread of a spider’s web. It is too fragile and it exists because the Muslims have chosen to remain quiet on the issue of religious freedom. We can all see how it is playing out now.
To cement our position, we can trace the origin of the two religions because today was born from the wombs of yesterday. Islam came to Nigeria in 1085. Christianity came in 1842. Islam was in Yorubaland as early as the 17th century, about 200 years before Christianity. But on arrival, the British colonialists enslaved the Muslims by imposing Christian culture on all facets of life in the land at the expense of Islamic landmarks. This should have been addressed after independence but it was not done.
Each time the Muslims ask for their rights, they were told to go and live in Kano or Sokoto if they want to enjoy their rights. We cannot take this discrimination any more. We demand the right to religious freedom. Our right is our right. This is why we support those clamouring for restructuring in Nigeria. The whole gamut of our coexistence must be revisited. They will be surprised that it cannot be about oil alone. South West Muslims demand religious emancipation.
The hijab saga in the State of Osun is informed by the reluctance of Osun CAN to set the Muslims free. CAN has long been promoting a neo-colonial agenda. MURIC advises CAN to let the Muslims go. There is no need for bickering. We can eat together and work together so long as no group lords it on the other. CAN can use its Christian veil. We are already using our hijab.
We could have ignored the church garments which Osun CAN ordered Christian students to wear but it is not even in the interest of Christian children or that of their parents. For how long can the ridiculous show continue? The Muslim hijab is cheap and small. Church regalia is costly and cumbersome. Can the parents afford it all the time? Osun CAN is cutting its nose to spite its face.
Unlike the church garment, hijab is not too conspicuous on a school uniform. The church garment covers up a school uniform whereas hijab leaves the uniform uncovered. It is about head and bosom cover, not about a garment that covers the whole body. CAN missed this point.
Again we have no serious grouse against the use of church garments in school, afterall it is more decent that the short, tight and provocative skirts we call school uniform, except that it elicits public ridicule and promotes indiscipline in schools.
MURIC invites Osun CAN to join hands with us in the fight against indecent dressing and immorality. Nigeria cannot be pretending to fight HIV and AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases as well as premarital sex and teenage pregnancy when school uniforms are designed to seduce the opposite sex. We must be serious for once.
In our concluding remark, we remind Osun CAN that Nigeria has experienced enough religious crises. We have lost thousands of our compatriots including properties worth billions of dollars. Neither economic growth nor political stability can be achieved without peace. We therefore urge Osun CAN to tow the path of dialogue in resolving this impasse.
Professor Ishaq Akintola,
Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC)