A National Newspapers, The Guardian, this week published an article titled “Unveiling The Hijah”, which in all content and construction, is very distasting to the entire Muslim community in the country.
In its characteristic manner, therefore, a notable faith based organisation, The Muslim Congress (TMC) has promptly reacted through a rejoinder contained in a Press Release and made available toThe Renaissance on Wednesday.
The Press Release, signed by the Amir (President) of the organisation,Dr Luqman AbdurRaheem, is presented below unedited:
The Muslim Congress (TMC) like other Islamic Organisations in Nigeria is disturbed by the orchestrated attempts by a section of the print and electronic media to subvert the historic court judgement on Hijab in the state of Osun through sponsored write-ups and misguided Newspaper editorials.
These venomous editorials have been strategically rolled out in succession, a trend which suggests that there is a grand plan somewhere to stifle the rule of law and court judgment in the peaceful state of Osun. The elements behind this diabolic agenda are also trying to make the state ungovernable through their intolerant actions and inactions.
The most recent article designed to malign Islam and the Muslims was the publication in The Guardian Newspaper on July 21, 2016 purportedly written by one Ray Ekpu with the title ‘Unveiling the Hijab’. The title and its content confirmed our presumption that previous editorials in the Punch, the Nation newspapers and several online platforms were pre-planned and launched to misinform, gather support and elicit underserved sympathy for the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Osun state chapter.
What Ray Ekpu and his cohorts have failed to tell the reading public is that CAN Osun chapter has taken the laws into its hands by instigating innocent Christian students to defy court ruling by wearing choir robes and other religious garments to schools in order to heat up the polity. Are these instigators really religious leaders or spoilers?
This dance of shame by the leadership of CAN in the State of Osun ought to have been condemned and criticised by Ray Ekpu and other writers. It is rather unfortunate that they attack the court ruling and Hijab despite the fact that the Muslims have sacrificed a lot for peace to reign for the past three years. Are these writers qualified to play the role of interpreting the laws and court pronouncements, a function reserved for the Supreme Court?
We say boldly that this defiant behaviour is capable of compromising peace and progress in the state that is presently suffering the pang of economic downturn. The leadership of CAN and the foot soldiers in the media have clearly and shamelessly shown their pathological hatred for Islam, the Muslims and the Hijab.
Besides, it is regrettable that a respected body like CAN would descend so low to cause anarchy in reaction to a mere court injunction it considers unfavorable to it, rather than explore the civil approach of appeal at a higher court. This unfortunate resort to impunity becomes more harrowing when it is considered that innocent Christian students are being used as cannon fodders to pursue an unwholesome enterprise of prejudice, Islamophobia and sheer intolerance.
This instigation of minors is not only an exploitation of the innocence of the latter, but also constitute a disregard for the law court and a denigration of the essence of the judiciary that is looked upon by every decent and sane person as the arbiter of disputes and the last safeguard against anarchy and disorderliness. Most disturbing is that these minors are being taught from their tender age how to place little or no premium on the institutions of the society, some of which they may come to occupy in the future, and that self-help is a ‘nobler’ path to seek redress.
The Osun state chapter of CAN ought to have borrowed a leaf from the Muslim Students’ Society of Nigeria (MSSN) Lagos State Area Unit, which lost a similar case in a court ruling, but took to the legal instrument of appeal rather than resort to anarchy and dance of shame!
Moreover, it is worrisome that journalists who are supposed to be the conscience of the nation are being paid to attack court judgement by their religious constituency. In the article mentioned earlier, Ray Ekpu goofed professionally by making sweeping comments without having his facts right on the duration of the court case in the state of Osun.
He stated arrogantly that“Recently the Osun State Moslem community filed a case against the state government urging it to allow Moslem female students to use the hijab in public schools. Justice Jide Falola of the Osun State High Court on June 3 this year gave a verdict that Moslem female students should be allowed to wear hijab in all public schools in the state because it is their fundamental human right. The Moslems gave the verdict a storm of applause.”
The fact of the matter is that, the Muslim community filed and endured a legal battle for three good years. Is three years of filing and waiting for a court judgement “recent”? For the avoidance of doubt, Ekpu should be educated that the Hijab case in the state was officially instituted by the Osun Muslim Community and the Muslim Students Society of Nigeria in February 2013. Why should a veteran journalist murder a fact to please his constituency and sponsors?
Pathetically, Ray Ekpu has also assumed the status of Islamic jurist and analyst. He wrote on Hijab citing Wikipedia that “the stipulations of the hijab were originally meant only for Prophet Muhammad’s wives and were intended to maintain their inviolability.
This was because Muhammad conducted all religious and civic affairs in the mosque adjacent to his home …. that during the Prophet’s life time no other Moslem woman wore the hijab. Aslon says that Moslem women started to wear the hijab simply to emulate Muhammad’s wives who were revered as “Mothers of the Believers” in Islam”. This poorly researched write-up is nothing but garbage and trash!
To Islamophobic journalists, we advise that Wikipedia is not a reliable source for academic and intellectual discourse in Islam. The three scholars mentioned by Ekpu are Orientalists.
All write-ups by the orientalists including the one cited by Ray Ekpu are not inspired by the purest spirit of scholarly impartiality, and the sincere intention to educate and inform the public yearning to learn; rather such write-ups are dubiously put together with intention of belittling Islam and its adherents.
Learned scholars have warned that “Articles in Wikipedia may be well written and insightful, but they are not embedded in the world of scholarly discourse. Without knowing who wrote the article, it is more difficult to judge whether the author’s writing is worthy of consideration, or to critique his or her motivations or qualifications. Without a known author, Wikipedia articles cannot be considered authoritative” (Williams College Libraries, 2016).
For the avoidance of doubt, Ekpu and his cohorts should please note that the Hijab is unlike a choir robe worn occasionally in the Church by women and girls. For the matured Muslim women, the dress code is not complete until the Hijab is worn.
This is a divine commandment. The Qurán is the authentic source for understanding Islam. We state with pride that Islam has strongly emphasised the concept of decency and modesty for women through the use of hijab.
The verse of the Qur’an that enjoins the observance of hijab are many, but the following two are relevant to the present discourse. Allah enjoins:
“And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that they should not display their beauty and ornaments except what must ordinarily appear thereof; that they should draw their veils over their bosoms and not display their beauty except to their husbands, their fathers, their husbands’ fathers, their sons, their husbands’ sons, their brothers, or their brothers’ sons or their sisters’ sons, or their women or the servants whom their right hands possess, or male servants free of physical needs, or small children who have no sense of the shame of sex…(Quran 24:31).
“O Prophet, tell your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers to draw their cloaks close round them (when they go abroad). That will be better, so that they may be recognized and not molested. Allah is ever Forgiving, Merciful.” (Quran 33:59)
These verses and several others provide theological foundation for the use of Hijab. Even liberal societies such US, Canada and Britain appreciate the seriousness of the Hijab dress code. In these countries, the public and private schools permit the use of Hijab.
Whereas, the choir robes are not worn nor are they allowed because they obviously would conceal school uniforms. Apart from this, unlike the Qurán there is no known injunction in Bible compelling the wearing of a particular attire, otherwise, it would have been accommodated in western liberal societies. Therefore inventing a choir robe to counter the hijab at this point is an exercise in bad faith and a lack of consideration for tolerance, respect and peaceful coexistence.
The Congress avers that both EQUALITYand EQUITY are essential to keeping the peace among multi-religious groups in a complex society like Nigeria. For instance, that Nigeria maintains two embassies in Italy (one for state matters and the other for religion) is anchored on the principle of equity – the recognition and granting of the need (s) of each segment of the society without prejudice to the rights of others.
It would therefore be untoward for Muslims to agitate for equality in that regard. We therefore frown at a decoy where ‘equality’ is invoked only as a means to prejudice the rights of others as CAN and its sponsored media consultants are currently advocating for Osun state.
More importantly, it is our belief that the world has gone global and cultures are intermingling on a daily basis. A look at some of the advanced countries that we emulate as a people shows how hijab-wearing females have provision for them in public institutions in recognition of the need for citizens to balance between civic obligations and religious injunctions and Nigeria cannot be an exception.
It is worthy of note that anti-Hijab reactions staged by CAN and the paid journalists/writers in The Guardian, The Punch and The Nation newspapers are borne out of sheer intolerance, Islamophobia, selfishness, ignorance and lack of consideration for the religious rights of fellow men.
It is sheer propaganda to label the Governor of the state, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola as the harbinger of the confusion that is now raging in Osun state. With or without the Governor, those who see the denial of the hijab as a violation of their rights would still have gone to seek redress before the law.
And when the law speaks, law abiding citizens ought to sheath their swords. Neither should the school re-classification policy of the state government be held in contempt as its aim is to accelerate the level of development of all public schools in the state. If ‘Opon Imo’ is novel, it came out of the same genuine concern as the re-classification policy.
In conclusion, The Congress counsels Islamophobic Nigerians and media organisations that Hijab stands for peace, unity, tranquillity, decency and compliance with the laws of Allah. These facts have been realised and accepted by the developed countries.
We urge all stakeholders in the Nigerian project including CAN Osun chapter to see the Hijab as such too, and accommodate the Hijab and its wearers in government schools as important contributors to the Nigerian quest for greatness. For biased writers, we say “what you don’t have, you cannot give’’.
Long live Nigeria, Long live the Muslim Ummah, Long live the State of Osun!!
Dr. Luqman AbdurRaheem MNIM, FAAE, FCEnt
Amir, The Muslim Congress