The Hijab Struggle: whither the CAN of Worms?

  • By Yussuf Ayodele

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Sincerely, I don’t know where and how to start. Firstly, my pen and I have been so much busy that I hardly could spare a minute for this write-up. Secondly, for many reasons, inter-faith arguments or debates have never been a genre of my ink and so I have always resisted the temptations to contribute. However, and unfortunately too, the lingering show of cluelessness and senility by the Osun state Chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria (in ferocious protest) against a court’s injunction that legalized the use of hijab by Muslim students (on Uniforms) in public secondary schools has just defeated my busyness and resistance. While I read the news over and over again (initially doubting its authenticity, and had to make some personal verification, especially the part where the association entered the lawsuit and that where it ordered the Christian students appear in school in robes and sultanas), I was forced to ask if it was actually CAN or a faceless set of over-zealous bigots who ordered such action. I was forced to ask if the Osun’s CAN has not been hijacked by some embittered witches camouflaging under religion and wondered if it is still under the well-known national body of the association; I felt mystified, I felt disturbed, I felt disappointed. Such is the feeling you get when you encounter stupidity from one whom (or at a time when) wisdom is required.

Forgive my wordiness, but it is necessary to enlighten the sane and rational of the public and especially to redeem the sanity of the misguided of them, who unfortunately might have fallen ill to the poisonous overdose of CAN’s follies.

Let me be mild and modest for a start. The hijab is not just a uniform wear worn in schools or a mere ceremonial gown; it is part of the everyday life of a female Muslim. Hasn’t this been said and over-rehearsed again and again? The hijab is unlike the “jalabia” which you may decide (or not) to wear once in a week or once in a year (if at all you ever like it). It is unlike the “Alukimba” which you may choose (or not) to wear for special ceremonies. Female Muslims wear their hijab to school, to market, to work, at home, in office, on the playground, every day, everywhere.They feel naked, sinful and disobedient without the hijab; it is a divine mandate of their religion… plus, it is their fundamental right! Anybody can choose to dress anyhow he likes provided it is not detrimental to the life of any other!

Now, enough of that! Leave the sermon to the priests; it has been seen, it has been said, but the mentally deaf would still not listen let alone hear. In 2013, the Osun state Muslim Community filled a lawsuit against the state government, asking for a court order to allow the female Muslims in Public secondary school use the hijab on their uniform, that’s all. Having understood the importance of hijab to the female Muslims, anything strange in such demand?Surprisingly, in a triplet show of fanaticism, contempt and envy, the Osun state’s CAN “voluntarily” joined the case as a co-defendant.But since when did the struggle for hijab become a religious battle between the Muslims and the Christians? And why would CAN make it seem so with such level of bigotry and religious intolerance? Of what detriment is the use of hijab by the female Muslims to their Christian counterparts? And how does the use of hijab stop the Christian student from using the cross and beret?

Now that the Muslims got their demand,the “defeated voluntary defenders” got their bitterness amplified and resorted to lawlessness, ordering the Christian students to appear in school in their robes, gowns, and sultanas and hiding under the saying “What is good for the goose is also good for the gander”.What the hell! Does that necessarily make the gander a goose? And does that mean the goose must become a rival of the gander? In that case, we should remind the students who choose to wear the sutana that they should not forget to remove their shoes and socks from home. We should remind them as well as those who dress in gowns and robes that they must appear like that every day, and they should dare not remove it after school, it must be on them at all time and everywhere they go, since that is what the Muslims would do with the hijab. Only then would we know that CAN is actually serious with her goose and gander demand and which case, we would advise they pursue their demand with civility like the Muslims did.

If CAN’s rascality and idiosyncrasy are forgivable, the worms already opened from such action may not. Such is the confused and diffuse opinion of The Nation Newspaper in its editorial of Thursday 16 June 2016 titled “That Curious Verdict”. The editorial maintains that the judgment distorts the principle behind the introduction of uniforms in schools. But since when did The Nation descend to such imprudence? Perhaps the judgment (that distorts the principle of uniform) wasn’t referring to the use of hijab. The editors should have taken the pain of educating themselves before making such reckless assertion no matter what it cost (after all, it’s just a click of the internet). The western schools where the idea of uniform originates permit the use of hijab for the female Muslims in the country. The case of United State of America is very germane here; such permission is protected under the constitutional right to freedom of religion. In fact, there is the Americans Civil Liberties Union that ensures that public schools respect the religious right of every student and any school that violates this right is brought under a federal lawsuit. The right also permits Christian students to wear the cross and the Jewish students wear their jewelry with the Star of David all on the school uniform. This is the same in Canada, in Germany, Britain and other parts of the west. Isn’t this religious tolerance and civilization at its peak? Does it distort the principle of uniform as shabbily submitted by The (confused) Nation? The same curious editorial curiously asked; “What has human right got to do with the dress code adopted by organisations? Do police women wear hijabs? Do judges?” YES ABOKI! Not only policewomen and judges do;soldiers, naval officers, pilots, doctors, nurses, sports women all do, even with their uniforms. What a show of ignominy! Was The Nation dead to the World before asking such question? The reference here is not even Saudi Arabia, Turkey or other Muslim-populated countries, you would find them in the United States, in Italy, in Germany and other western worlds. A little research that costs nothing than a few megabytes of data could have concealed the editorial ignorance. We wouldn’t like to believe that such has been the worms of rashness, misreporting, “junk and scraps” The Nation has been feeding Nigerian with since inception. It is unacceptable, it is unbelievable, and it is unforgivable!

The struggle for hijab should not be branded as a religious battle between the Christian and the Muslim. The use of hijab does not in any way trample on the constitutional right of anyone and it shouldn’t cause headache to anyone too. Let CAN be called to caution and The Nation newspaper be called to order. Let CAN thread the path of tolerance as preached by Jesus Christ and let The Nation newspaper thread the path of ethicality and professionalism as required of Journalism before infesting the entire nation with a can of worms.

Yussuf Ayodele

Nyanyan, FCT, Abuja