Hijab Saga: Civil Society Must Speak Up – MURIC Warns


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Outspoken and leading lawyers have been uncharacteristically withdrawn and conspicuously mute.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)

Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC),
E-mail: [email protected]
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