This is the official blog of the Nigeria-based Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC), a human rights organization which promotes, protects and projects the rights of Muslims. This group condemns terrorism and all acts of violence. Its motto is 'Dialogue, Not Violence'
Professor Wole Soyinka on
Sunday 26th June 2016 waded into the hijab controversy in the State
of Osun. In an article titled ‘To Everything, Its Place’, the much respected
Nobel Laureate descended heavily on Muslims for daring to seek approval for the
use of hijab.
The Muslim Rights Concern
(MURIC) is fully aware of Soyinka’s great contribution to the attainment of
democratic rule which we are all enjoying in Nigeria today. We also acknowledge
his role in the uplifting of Nigeria’s image particularly in the circle of
Nonetheless, we are
amused that our intellectual guru deployed all the Weapons of Faith Destruction
(WFD) in his arsenal to his Islam-bashing combat field but saw nothing wrong
with the way leaders of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) Osun chapter
incited Christian students in their rejection of the court judgemnet which was
favourable to the Muslims.
Nothing was said about
CAN’s gross disrespect for the rule of law. Could he have forgotten that CAN’s
attitude constitutes serious threat to democracy and the rule of law which
Soyinka himself fought hard to enthrone?
Professor Soyinka contended that the issue of hijab was never
raised “for several decades” after independence and assumed that the Christian
uniform is the conventional or, in his own words ‘common dress code’. We beg to
disagree sir. We assert that the revered Nobel Laureate is not only taking too
much for granted but also taking liberty for license.
MURIC affirms that Professor
Soyinka still needs to do his homework very well before going to press.
Contrary to his claim that hijab was not mentioned for decades, Muslims in
Yorubaland have been agitating for civil rights right from independence and the
files of governments at both federal and state levels are full of petitions forwarded
on issues of the Allah-given fundamental rights of Muslims.
Those petitions were
repeatedly submitted on a regular basis by Muslim communities and Islamic
organizations. Of course Soyinka is not expected to know this but it goes to
show the limitations of human knowledge even among nobel laureates.
To assume that the current
school uniform used in public schools should be the dress code is to commit
gross injustice to a large section of the populace. We have heard activists
complaining that the authors of the Nigerian constitution did not consult the
Nigerian people before writing it yet they ‘fraudulently’ claimed that “We, the
The colonialists committed
the same fraud against Nigerian Muslims when they replaced Islamic landmarks
with Christo-British practices and this includes the school uniform. Islam was
in Nigeria for 800 years and in Yorubaland for 200 years before the advent of
Christianity but British sense of fairness could not go beyond uprooting what
it met on ground.
Islamic schools in Lagos
alone were more than fifty by the year 1775 and they used hijab as part of
their uniform. This was long before the arrival of the British in Nigeria and
the advent of Western schools with their Christian school uniform. What was
imposed by colonial fiat cannot be called ‘common dress code’ by any common
Let us reiterate for the
umpteenth time and for the avoidance of doubts that to us as Muslims the
present uniform is Christian uniform unless Soyinka can convince us that the
British were not Christians. Justice, equity and fairness demands that this
should have been revisited immediately after independence.
Yet what the Muslims are
asking for is not more than a slight adjustment from the head to the bosom to
be made of the same stuff and colour with the school uniform. We are not asking
for any different uniform for Muslim students who are males. It is only for the
Professor Wole Soyinka
sir, with all due respect, you are well known for your atheistic propensities
and you do not hide it. We respect you for that. But you cannot sit in
judgement over religious matters since you do not believe in religion. You
cannot give what you do not have. We even expected that you would ask both
Christians and Muslims in Yorubaland to go back to their culture thereby using
‘buba, sokoto, iro, gele and iborun’. MURIC would have welcomed such a suggestion
because all we want is decent dresses for our daughters.
of Nigerian Muslims is legendary. It would have been normal if he had once
taken up the Christian folks but we cannot remember when last he did that. We
also cannot forget so soon how he lampooned the late Dr. Lateef Adegbite (leader
of Yoruba Muslims) severally during his life time. This lopsided trend is quite
disturbing because we see it as deliberate. A little balancing will give more
credibility to our revered Nobel Laureate.
It is high time Professor
Soyinka picked another pastime instead of bullying Muslims. The way Soyinka and
Femi Falana took up the Ese Oruru brouhaha earlier this year was astounding.
The prejudice was crystal clear. Whereas CAN was the first to raise the issue
of religion in the matter by pointing accusing fingers at Nigerian Muslims and
MURIC merely reacted, Soyinka and Falana called a press conference just because
of MURIC. It was an unprecedented albeit unnecessary bullying. They lambasted
MURIC for “turning a personal issue into a religious one”. We simply ignored
the duo at the time to avoid heating up the polity.
On a final note, we
assure Professor Wole Soyinka of our greatest regard for his person. However,
we advise him to commence a balancing reengineering of his views about Muslims.
We are not asking him not to criticize us, but he needs to balance it sometimes
if not all the time. His credibility will be greatly shaken if he continues to
bully and vilify Muslims. If Soyinka really believes in his ‘To
Everything, Its Place’,we most respectfully remind him that ‘To every group,
Professor Ishaq Akintola,
Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC)
War drums are currently being beaten in the State of Osun over
the June 13, 2016 pro-hijab court pronouncement. Both the Osun State chapter of
the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and the Islamic scholars in the
state are at logger-heads. Egged on by Osun CAN, Christian students have worn
church garments to school while Islamic scholars have invaded Osun schools to
enforce the court judgement.
The Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) is deeply perturbed by
the silence of civil society on events going on in the state. It is well known
that the assertion of civil liberties is a dividend of democracy and the hijab
issue is indubitably a civil liberty matter. We therefore find it strange that
a vital section that has always been vocal on issues of human rights has chosen
to sit on the fence in a matter that has attracted a Tsunami of reactions in
the print, electronic and social media.
More disturbing is the fact that human rights groups in the
country have never hesitated to pounce on Muslims in general even when it is
glaring that the crime was committed by a single misled Muslim. They fail to
separate the crime from the creed and become Islamophobic instead of singling
out the offender. The loud silence of civil society on this issue makes a
mockery of the whole concept of human rights in Nigeria.
We are particularly shocked by the nonchalance of the
feminists. Where are those who claim to promote the rights of Nigerian women?
Are they telling us that Muslim women are less feminine than their counterparts
in other faiths?
Are they saying Muslim women have no share in women’s
rights? They were quick to condemn early marriage when it involved Muslims and
they claimed at the time that they were defending Nigerian women. Why are they
silent now when a competent court of law granted the prayer of the Muslim woman
to don herself in the veil of decency, the armour of honour and the robe of integrity?
Where are they?
Outspoken and leading lawyers have been
uncharacteristically withdrawn and conspicuously mute. A court of law made a
watershed pronouncement. In contempt of court, a group of people incited civil
disobedience but our lawyers went on sabbatical. The silence of our renowned
lawyers on the hijab judgement in the State of Osun speaks volumes. It shows
that our lawyers find their voices only for Islam-bashing. This cannot augur
well for democracy.
MURIC appeals to civil society to speak up. It cannot
afford to maintain its deafening silence in the face of Amnesty International’s
declaration that hijab is part of human right. The international human rights
agency has authoritatively affirmed that prohibiting hijab “would violate the
rights to freedom of expression and religion of those women who choose to wear
a full face veil as an expression of their religious, cultural, political or
personal identity or beliefs”
The right to use hijab is an inalienable dividend of
democracy. The Muslims must be allowed to enjoy this dividend. A law court decision
is sacrosanct until it is set aside by a higher court. That is what we call the
rule of law, not the rule according to a powerful religious group. Osun CAN slapped
court decision in the face and foremost lawyers stand akimbo. We are
flabbergasted. Is it active involvement, tacit approval or subterranean collaboration?
To round up, we aver that human rights activists must have
the will to call a spade a spade and the courage to separate the wheat from the
chaff no matter whose ox is gored. We must be able to drop primordial
sentiments and hold on to the rope of objectivity. We must ignore a victim’s
ethnicity, religion, or political party to face the oppressor squarely, look
him in the face and tell him the truth. That is when our credibility remains
intact. That is when we will be getting it right.
Professor Ishaq Akintola,
Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC)
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
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
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
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
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)
CHURCH GARMENTS IN SCHOOL: OSUN CAN PROMOTING
Christian students of Baptist High
School, Adeeke and those of Salvation Army Middle School, Alekuwodo, Iwo, State
of Osun, yesterday attended school in church garments.
The Osun State chapter of the Christian
Association of Nigeria had earlier vowed to order Christian students in public
schools to wear church garments to school if Governor Rauf Aregbesola goes
ahead to implement the judgement of the state’s High Court giving legal backing
to the wearing of hijab to school. Justice Oyedeji Falola of the Osun State
High Court, Oshogbo, gave the ruling on 3rd June, 2016.
Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) condemns this hocus pocus. It is a manifestation
of impunity of the highest order. Osun chapter of CAN has turned the judiciary
into a laughing stock.
It is rather unfortunate that a
religious body of the caliber of CAN has disrespected the judgement of a high
court granting Allah-given fundamental human right to female Muslim students to
use hijab. Nigerians can now see the true face of religious fanaticism.
Something is fishy if Muslims take a case to court instead of going violent or
even demonstrating and Christians now take the law into their hands. This is
MURIC has always maintained that
violence and terrorism must be traced to provocation simply because there can
never be smoke without fire. The cause-effect theory must be properly examined
before apportioning blames.
Hijab is used freely in all public
schools in the North because the Nigerian law allows its use. But the picture
is different in the South where school authorities act a script written by CAN.
But to be or not to be? That is the question. The court has made a pronouncement.
We must decide who calls the shots: Osun CAN or the judiciary.
This is a very dicey situation and we
call on the government of the State of Osun and the state’s police command to
do the needful. The Muslims have obtained a favourable judgement and anyone who
stands in the way of its implementation must be thoroughly dealt with.
executive is guilty of child abuse. They are using innocent children to commit
illegalities. Those underaged children are being goaded to lawlessness by those
old enough to be their grandfathers. What kind of legacy are those elders
leaving behind? How can thuggery, hooliganism and impunity of such magnitude be
encouraged among secondary school students?
Have we found any solution to cultism
in schools yet? We should not be surprised if those children who wore church
garments to school beat up their teachers in future. Neither should we look too
far for their sponsors. At least it is now on record that CAN executive have
ordered indiscipline in public schools.
But we will not lose our heads in spite
of this provocation. We call on Muslim students, Muslim youths in general and
Muslim parents to remain calm. They should allow Nigerians to watch and fully
enjoy this theater of the absurd without being dragged into the list of the dramatis personae.
Professor Ishaq Akintola,
Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC)