Muslim women in the South are being asked to remove their hijab (head-scarf) before they can take registration pictures. Those who refuse to do so are sent away without being registered. Those who compromise their religious identity by removing their hijab are the only ones allowed to register.
MURIC denounces this discriminatory practice in the strongest terms. It contradicts the spirit of democracy. We are not in Soweto. Southern Nigeria is fast becoming another apartheid South Africa for Muslims. Forcing Muslim women to remove their hijab before participating in registration or before engaging in any legitimate exercise constitutes an infringement on their Allah-given and fundamental human rights. It violates the letter and spirit of Section 38 (i) and (ii) of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which guarantees freedom of religion, its practice and manifestation.
We alert the Federal Government and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) of the satanic manipulations of agents of chaos. None but a fanatic will compel a Muslim woman to remove her hijab before registering as a bona fide Nigerian. We warn that millions of Muslim women are being disenfranchised through this illegal, unconstitutional and parochial method.
We suspect that this is a design to provoke Muslims into civil disobedience capable of aborting the registration exercise in this part of the country. If it is true that we are all one, if it is true that there is religious tolerance, if we all must coexist peacefully, why are Southern Muslims always marginalised and oppressed? It is this kind of hatred and intolerance which is responsible for the violence in Jos.
We charge INEC to quickly make a statement to clarify the situation before it degenerates into an unpalatable development. Muslims in the South have been subjected to similar embarrassments and dehumanisation in the past. They have bourne the brunt with great patience. This is going too far. Religious apartheid in Southern Nigeria must stop. Nigerians must be allowed to enjoy the dividends of democracy anywhere in the country. Democracy is a sham without equal right, equal access and equal participation.
MURIC appeals to Muslim youths to remain calm and alert while they await further directives. Dialogue is more civilised than violence: one builds, the other destroys. The reaction or inaction of the authorities will determine our next line of action.
Dr. Is-haq Akintola,
Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC)