Islamic group asks Osun government to legalise hijab in public schools

Rauf Aregbesola, Governor of Osun State

The group said it could take the government to court on the matter.

An Islamic group, Muslim Rights Concern, MURIC, has called on the government of Osun State to formally legalise the use of veil, Hijab, in the state’s public schools.

The group stated its position at a press conference held in Lagos on Wednesday to assess the crisis generated by the state government’s policy on reclassification of public schools.

The policy, which sees the government build model schools, refurbish dilapidated structures and merge scantily populated schools amidst other reforms, has drawn mixed reactions from the public.

The reactions climaxed recently when students of Baptist High School, Iwo, in opposition to the policy, came to school in various kinds of robe, causing chaos at the school premises.

MURIC, in the statement presented to journalists in Lagos, accused members of the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, and Baptist Convention of masterminding the crisis.

“The school’s hostile attitude culminated in the ugly events of Monday 3rd February, 2014 and that of Tuesday, 5th February, 2014. In the Monday incident, three (3) students came to the school wearing ‘celestial’ gowns, twelve (12) wore church choir dresses, twenty one (21) put on tajia caps, two wore Baptist cassocks, seven in royal ambassador garbs, five donned Yoruba caps, three wore Ifa beads while three put on Boys’ Brigade uniform.

“The following day, Tuesday, a masquerade entered the school and caused great excitement though it ran away when the policemen who were already drafted to the school tried to arrest him.

“We do not need to look far for those behind the mayhem being unleashed on the peace-loving Muslims of Iwo town. The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in an interview published in the Punch of Sunday, 9th February, 2014 openly and vehemently admitted that they supported the ridiculous appearance of students in funny robes. Equally didactic is the revelation that one of the students who wore hijab on that day was Mary Ezekiel, obviously a Christian,” the group noted.

MURIC recalled that despite the fact the state government has been silent on its use; Muslim female students had been wearing veils to schools without molestation. It, however, fingered intolerance from a select Christians as the root of the ongoing crisis.

Insisting that the move was unfair since the higher percentage of Osun residents are Muslims, the group said it would explore all legal means to effect formal endorsement of use of veil as well as other rights peculiar to the adherent of the faith.

“To this end, we call the attention of the state government to the fact that any school which discriminates against female Muslim children on account of race, tribe or religion has run foul of the Nigerian Child Rights Act of 2003 and Article 11, 21 and 26 of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child 1990 (OAU doc. CAB/LEG/24.9/49/1990) of which Nigeria is a signatory.

“It is interesting to note that the government of Ekiti State approved the use of hijab last year for female Muslim pupils in public schools via circular No. EK/SSG/01/375 of 12th December, 2013. Governor Kayode Fayemi is a Christian and Muslims constitute only about 40% of the state’s population. So why can’t the Muslims enjoy their rights in Osun State where they have a large majority and the governor is a Muslim?

“MURIC therefore calls on the government of the State of Osun, a state where Muslims are predominant in the population, to pursue the path of justice by integrating Muslims in the system along with their Christian counterparts and other important stakeholders. We reiterate our commitment to justice, equal rights and fair play. We demand as of right, not as a privilege, that the government of the State of Osun should issue a circular similar to the one issued by the Ekiti State government expressly approving the use of hijab in all public schools.”

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