BY: Yusuf Akinpelu
As the hijab controversy in the International School, Ibadan, enters day five, students seen putting on hijab have been asked to pull off their hijab or they return home.
This directive is in accordance with the resolution of the meeting held by the school’s Board of Governors on Wednesday which is a follow-up to the PTA meeting held on Tuesday.
The PTA meeting had been convened to discuss the unusual use of hijab by about 45 female students of the school on Monday.
Part of the resolution of the meeting had been that status quo of dressing be reinstated, and this was passed at the floor of the Court of Governors, the highest decision-making body of the school.
However, this resolution has been rejected by Oyo state Muslim Community, Muslim Right Concern, Muslim Parents’ Forum and some other Muslim organizations.
This is partly because the proponents of the matter had stormed out of the PTA meeting before its resolutions were reeled out. This reporter attributed this action to the fact that when they spoke, it was observed that the proponents for the use of hijab were shouted down by those not in support of the move.
The Muslim Right Concern (MURIC) for one queried this in a Press statement sent to newsmen yesterday. “Why should a matter which affects Muslims only be subjected to the decision of a Christian majority?” the group had asked.
“Majority may have their way but the minority should have their say. But that is only in democracy. Incidentally, this is not about democracy. It is religion and religion is a sensitive matter. It will not succumb to democratic rules.
“Also by shouting down the Muslims at that meeting, the chairman has exhibited gross irresponsibility. The chairman of any meeting has a duty to protect all. He must have a listening hear and he should allow common sense to prevail at the end of the day. Common sense, in this case, should have made the chairman realize that bringing a majority Christian group together with a minority Muslim group in a matter affecting Muslims only in present-day Nigeria will only end up in confusion,” the release read further.
According to TheEcho’s observation, as at Thursday morning, 9 students stayed of the school had to stay to out because they had hijab on.
Therefore, it becomes a thing of concern to know the argument why the kids had to be barred from entry into the school.
What say those saying “no to hijab”?
Speaking at the PTA meeting on Tuesday, a parent, Mrs. Eniola Adeyemo, questioned why hijab should be a choice. She enthused that if it should be a choice, “then other religious beliefs should be considered.”
This was quickly backed by a large number of the parents, much of whom are Christians.
Just then, a lecturer of the university and a parent, Dr. Ogunleye, rose to speak. He called for reinstating the school’s dressing status quo.
“As much as there are many good things hijab wants to teach the girl child, other religions too have something good to teach the girl child,” he said, much to the nod of some parents. “That should be separated. The issue of hijab should not come in here. Let’s maintain the status quo,” he stressed.
In quick succession, Dr Eniola Badmus, also a parent, called for going back to the status quo. Separation on the basis of religion should stop, she said.
Another parent opined that when religious beliefs are to be considered in the acquisition of education, then parents should strive to enroll their wards in Christian or Muslim schools.
This opinion was shared by a host of other parents.
Another parent who identified himself as Prince Morohunfolu Adedoyin said: “there are more salient issues we should face.”
“Religion cannot be forced down the throat of ISI. No one in the world can anyone to that,” he said, adding that, “the dose of dialogue should be adopted. The use of enforcement must stop with immediate effect.”
A parent blamed the separation that occurs in the school. The school is reported to split her students into Class A or B on the basis of religion. The parent called for the end to this.
“The issue of separation of Muslims and Christians should stop. It is as good as segregating the so-called children. When it is time for IRS and CRS, they can be split.”
He added: “My son is in JSS 1. I have 6 years contract with the school. If you want to change it my six years must first be completed.”
What say the proponents of hijab?
While addressing journalists on Wednesday, November 14, during a press conference in the University of Ibadan, the Muslim Parents’ Forum and Coalition of Muslim Youths in Oyo state tabled their arguments.
Speaking at the briefing, Imam Ismail Busayri, Secretary General of Muslim Community of Oyo State (MUSCOYS) explained that adopting hijab as part the school’s uniform would only conform with global demands and realities.
“This is Nigeria not Vatican. If in USA, in UK, in Canada, hijab is never an issue, why not Nigeria? Britain, our colonizer, allows the use of hijab by uniform forces, whether the police, army. Are we going to be more civilized than those that colonized us; can we? He questioned.
He quested further saying, “Why then can’t we adopt their rules as regard Hijab? Not long ago, America swore in a female judge who was a Hijabi (one that dorns hijab).
“Hijab is never a distraction; it would allow them (the female students) to focus. Hijab is decency. It is maturity. We will not be violent; we would be civil. No more denial of our female students. UI is adopting anti-girl child education at a time when many girls are out of school already.”
He went to mention that hijab shouldn’t even be an interfaith tussle. “Have you ever seen an uncovered Mary — whose hair is left open? Or have you seen a miniskirted Mary? Or a braided Mary? Why are we disturbing ourselves?” said the Imam.
He then called for the intervention of the government to matter to avert escalation.
“We want the government to come into action to avert the escalating situation. Hijab is a fundamental part of our religion and is a very sensitive issue especially for our daughters. Injustice cannot last forever,”
In the same vein, the National Ameer (President) of the Muslim Students’ Society of Nigeria (MSSN), Dr Taofeek Yekini, who is also a parent in the school, bemoaned the treatment he got during the PTA meeting. “They shouted me down,” he said.
“Unfortunately, he added, “those, that are against the use of Hijab had no specific backing rather than the tradition of the school not using Hijab for the past 55 years.”
“A parent even said ‘I would never allow my child to be in the same school with a Hijabi girl’ Isn’t that hate speech?”
He then called for a roundtable discussion on the matter than warring over it. Because, according to him, “if you were to go to war after meeting at the roundtable, you would still have to go back to the roundtable to settle it. But many lives would have been lost before then. Then why not make use of the opportunity of the first roundtable?”
The VC has been contacted
The Chief of the University, Professor Abdurrahman Oloyede chided the groups for jumping the gun by not carrying the Muslim Community of the University along over the matter. He made this known during his Friday sermon at the university’s Central Mosque.
He advised them to leave the members of the Muslim academia to the task. “We don’t want mob action on this university. We would handle it in our own way. Here, English is what we speak not mob action. If dialogue doesn’t work, we will go to court.”
He then said the Community has written the VC, Professor Idowu Olayinka. He, therefore, advised the parents to return their kids to school while leaving their hijabs at home.
“On Monday, let your kids return to class. Let them leave their hijab at home. By Allaah, we would fight it. Don’t let them miss classes again. Whatever is missed cannot be retrieved.
“We’ve written the VC. We called him that we want him to explain to us: whether or not ISI is a private school in spite of it being built by the University of Ibadan. If it is private then, who is the owner? And more importantly, why are they separating students on the basis of religion?
“This step suits morals and religious grounds,” the don harped.