A group, the Muslim Ummah South West Nigeria (MUSWEN), has cautioned its Christian counterparts in Osun State against encouraging what they described as disobedience of a valid court order on wearing of Hijab, by their children.
In a swift reaction, the Christians insisted that Hijab is not part of school uniform and so would not encourage whatever would cause discrimination in schools.
At a press conference it addressed at Ibadan, Oyo State capital, MUSWEN said its members had been suffering discrimination and unfair treatment in the hands of the Christians since the period of the colonial masters.
In a statement titled ‘‘The crisis over Hijab in Osun State: Our response’ read on its behalf by its Executive Secretary and Chief Executive Officer, Prof. Dawud Noibi, the Muslim body, which refers to itself as the umbrella body for all Muslim organisations and institutions in the South west zone, claimed that in the court judgment which was delivered on June 3, 2016 by Justice Jide Falola had ruled that the use of Hijab by female Muslims is their fundamental human right to freedom of religion, conscience and thought and as such no student of the faith should be molested or sent out of school.
The body advised the members of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) to heed what it said was an advice recently given by a Christian leader, in which he said that the nation should adopt the policy that no law should prohibit what religion prescribes or requires citizens to do.
It also wondered why the wearing of Hijab, which is just a veil, that covers only the upper body of its wearer, should be a source of offence to those of the Christian faith.
‘‘How does a Muslim girl’s wearing of Hijab offend a Christian? Moreover, the court ruling does not compel all Muslim students to wear Hijab. It is left entirely to the choice of the individual student who wishes to obey the order coming from her creator.’’
Noibi also alleged that the Muslims have demonstrated tolerance in what he alleged are the imposition of the vestiges of Christian colonial legacies, such as the observance on Sunday and later on Saturday for Seventh Day Adventists, as well as the Gregorian calendar
‘‘Let us all learn to adopt the spirit of give and take and accord our judiciary the respect that it deserves. Resort to self help will ultimately help nobody. It does not cost much for us to live together in peace and harmony,’’ the statement added.
Noibi explained that the only way people of the two main faiths in Nigeria can make progress in peace is by respecting those peculiarities that are synonymous with each of the bodies.
He said: ‘‘In our multi-religious, not secular, nation, the peculiarities of the groups that make up the Nigerian state, must be respected within the limits of the law. This is the only way by which we can all make progress together and in peace.”
He advised Muslims in the region to remain calm and shun all form all provocation, while the situation lasts.
“As always, we want to appeal to all Muslims to remain calm and not be provoked in spite of the challenging situation.”
In his reaction to the statement, the Secretary of the South West Christian Association of Nigeria, Rev Aro Alfred Oloruntoba, who spoke to The Guardian said his association supported the posture of its state chapter by instructing its children to wear cassocks and other wears they may deem fit to school.
“If they say it is the fundamental human rights of Muslims to wear humans to school, it is also the fundamental human rights of the Christians to wear cassocks and whatever that is wearable for them.
“Is hijab part of school uniform?. Uniforms are for uniformity, but when something else comes to discriminate, then it become something else,” he said.