I woke to receive an important call from a concerned friend, who called my attention to a frivolous editorial of presumably standard national newspaper, The Nation, published on Thursday, June 16.
The editorial appeared on page 15 of the newspaper, with the headline, ‘The Curious Verdict’, referring to Justice Jide Falola’s judgment granted the wearing of ‘hijab to willing Muslim ladies in government schools in the State of Osun.’
I wondered what could be strange or unusual in the verdict.
Having followed the hijab case since 2012 and after carefully perusing the curious editorial, it was apparent that the editorial could only have been written by a biased and an uninformed person(s).
The editorial, by all intent and purposes, was indeed a far cry from any dint of journalistic integrity previously known with The Nation; the newspaper I have followed passionately for close to a decade.
Then, I became curious: how could such one-sided and biased report, capable of fueling religious conflagration be published without being properly vetted. How could it have escaped the gate keeping valve and the editing mechanism of supposedly a renowned national daily. It’s indeed very unfortunate that The Nation fell for this.
The following are the reasons I strongly rejected the editorial, and the need for The Nation to apologise to the Muslim Community. There is every need for it to do the needful by retracting it and punish those, who for selfish gains or parochial reasons decided to drag the hard earned image of the newspaper in the mud by executing the yeoman’s job.
1. Introduction of school uniforms against Muslims Right
The newspaper failed to tell it’s teaming readers how the Judge distorted the principle behind the introduction of school uniform. Categorically speaking, it must be stated that the school uniforms being used in most of our schools in the southwest is CHRISTIAN in orientation and design. It was designed and imposed on the locals by the Christian missionaries who brought the modern education to Nigeria during the colonial era.
As law abiding citizens, Muslims had lived with this imposition for decades- before and after independence. It is not until recently that some Muslim activists started calling for a review, to accommodate hijab (headscarf), which according to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, is their Right.
This was recently granted by the Osun State High court, before the Osun CAN embarked on the public show of shame.
The court stood with the fact that it’s the Muslims’ fundamental right to use hijab without any intimidation. Denying it constitutes a breach of section 38 and 42 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) and article 2,5,8,10,17, and 19 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Right.
Religiously, hijab is compulsory on Muslim ladies who have reached the stage of puberty; it does not only apply to adult women. It is Allah’s injunction as contained in several verses of the Holy Qur’an and Hadith- sayings and deeds of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).
It is therefore important to note that the colonial missionaries, that designed the school uniforms, brought Christianity to Nigeria and there is no way we can claim know the religion more than they do. If ‘robes’ and ‘sultana’ as showcased in the case of Osun Hijab crisis are part of Christian school uniform, they would have included them long before now.
This is where CAN got it totally wrong. It is also the same reason every lover of peace in Nigeria, including the media, should call the Christian body to order, and respect the Rule of Law. After all, the judgement is only binding on Muslim students who want to use hijab, without any binding force on Christian students against their wish.
2. Osun CAN protest not peaceful.
From available reports, contrary to The Nation claim, it is largely debatable to say that Osun State chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria’s protest was ‘peaceful’. If it was a ‘passive resistance’, what were the heavily armed security operatives doing at the Baptist Girls High School in Osogbo on Wednesday (June 15) during CAN’s crusade (holy war) to resist the court judgment.
Was it not reported reported in several media that CAN officials almost had a clash with the security men in Baptist High School, Iwo, when they wanted to ensure that the pupils carried out their threats at all cost, before it was eventually forestalled by the Oluwo of Iwo, Abdur Rasheed Adewale Akanbi.
Do they really need to go to that extent, causing confusion and using the innocent kids as instruments of terror and perpetuation of hatred when they have already vowed to Appeal the judgement? Or is CAN afraid to approach the court? And has it lost confidence in the Rule of Law? These are vital questions The Nation editorial intentionally ignored to justify Osun CAN violent and unconstitutional action.
It’s sad and pathetic that, the newspaper joined the Christian body to mock Justice Jide Falola who only interpreted the Rule of Law as entrenched in the Nigerian constitution, without favour or favour.
The Nation needs be reminded that the Muslim community in Lagos neither went violent nor embark on any ‘passive resistance’, when Justice Grace Modupe Onyeabo of the Lagos High Court ruled against the use of Hijab last year. They simply proceeded to the Court to appeal the judgement because of their strong belief in the judiciary and the Rule of Law.
3. Asking Ridiculous questions?
The editorial crew of the nation truly portrayed the stuff they were made of, when they either ignorantly or mischievously claimed that police officers and judges do not wear hijab? Let’s assume that the Editorial Board members aren’t exposed enough or haven’t traveled beyond the shores of Nigeria, a simple Google search would have helped, rather than displaying their ignorance in public.
The use of hijab on police uniform has been in practice in the UK, US and other civilised countries for years. Metropolitan police in London approved the use of hijab 10 years ago. Some states in USA permit women to wear hijab on police uniform. Last year, a Mid western state in the US admitted ‘an hijabi’ into the force. And so many other countries, including Canada did the same. This was done to encourage more women, particularly Muslim hijabi, to join the force without discrimination.
Here in Nigeria, Lawyers do wear hijab in and out of courts, needless to cite countless examples abroad.
Rather than call for moderation and regulation viz-a -vis the types, length and colours of hijab to be worn on uniform, The Nation chose to expose its ignorance on the subject matter; it is quite unfortunate.
4. Hijab Ban, exhibition of mischief
Quoting France’s ‘outright ban of hijab’ further exposed the newspaper’s highest level of ignorance on one hand and deliberate mischief on the order. For the record, France never banned hijab but resisted veil (full face covering). Professionally, in journalism, ignorance can never be taken for an excuse to murder facts which are considered sacred. This is exactly what the newspaper did.
Most public schools in America allow students to use hijab. This harmless cloth is not a threat whatsoever. All female Muslims – whether a kindergartener or a doctorate students are all allowed to wear hijab in schools. In fact, there are instances where President Obama has been pictured together with Muslim pupils on hijab.
The fact that France and few West African nations called for the ban of Niqab (face veil) or long hijab due to contemporary insecurity doesn’t mean The Nation newspaper should mischievously link it with the hijab saga in Osun.
Citing an extreme case of France in this context is in itself grossly inappropriate because even the US that constantly experience terror attacks, has not deem it fit to ban hijab, which is as good as head covering of Catholic nuns, constituting no threat in particular.
Again, the Nation newspaper needs to be reminded that terrorists have not only used hijab, they have worn suits, police and army uniforms to commit dastardly acts of terror in Nigeria.
In the same Osogbo, the Osun State capital, a man was recently arrested by members of the Peace Corps for impersonating a soldier. Sometimes in March 2016, a man was also apprehended for wearing army uniform and parading himself as a soldier in Rivers State. And in December last year, four armed robbers in army uniform were paraded by the police in Lagos.
Hence, if calling for the ban of hijab remains the solution as being suggested by The Nation, will it also find it comfortable to call for the ban of army and police uniforms, since they are also used to commit evils by the terrorists.
5. Why lying against hijab?
In its spirited effort to justify the unjustifiable, The Nation condescended to the level of abominable insanity by heaping an insult on the sanctity of religious symbol, alleging hijab encourages examination malpractices.
The Nation newspaper is hereby challenged to provide copious evidences of when and where such happened in Nigeria. Failure to provide admissible and incontrovertible proofs will confirm it as a pathological liar which should be boycotted for deliberately but fruitlessly attempted to tarnish the image of Islam and the beauty of hijab, except it apologises unreservedly.
6. The big Plot!
There can be no smoke without fire. It is obvious to discerning minds that the ongoing confusion being created in Osun by CAN on justice Falola’s judgement is deliberately orchestrated to bring religious crisis to the Southwest, the region that has hitherto experienced relative peace for decades.
The plot, according to sources is to use the State of Osun as a battle ground and subsequently spread it to other parts of the region. Little wonder why some alleged that a section of the media and columnists were paid to tackle Governor Aregbesola’s policy since he took office, because of his Muslim identity.
Without doubt, the detractors know too well that the Governor was not the judge in this matter, yet those who have already commenced the political campaign to discredit the Governor and his party are hiding under clearly non-controversial matter to achieve their clandestine plan.
The role of the media in the Rwanda genocide is still reverberating in our memory. Hence, the media should be cautious of what they write, especially in a situation like this. If the Osun hijab crisis escalates, Osun state CAN and its media accomplices should be held responsible because so far, Muslims have remained calm.
While the media organisations must not allow themselves to be used to foment trouble and cause chaos in the society, the Christian body must realise that since the Muslims fought the battle legally, they are expected to also seek redress in the court of law, if they truly have cause to do so.
Let no confusion be created. Let justice be allowed to prevail.
“And fear Fitnah (tumult, affliction and trial etc) which will strike, not only those (trouble makers) who committed wrong among you , and know that Allah is severe in penalty” Qur’an 8:25
God Bless the State of Osun, God bless Federal Republic of Nigeria!
Rasheed Abubakar was then the Coordinator, Media961. A journalist, publicist and the author of ‘Muslims and the Threats of the Media.’ He is now the Publisher of Muslim News Nigeria. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org .