Thursday, May 16, 2013


بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
Motto: Dialogue, Not Violence
Teledawah Plaza, Zone 'E', GRA, Iba Estate, Iba, P.O. Box 10211, LASU Post Office, HO 102 101, Ojo,
Lagos State. Tel. 08033464974, 08182119714, 08032175974
E-mail:  Website: 16th May, 2013
The Lagos State Commissioner for Education, Mrs. Olayinka Oladunjoye, in a press conference addressed on Tuesday, 14th May, 2013 placed a ban on the use of hijab and head scarf by female Muslim pupils in public schools in Lagos State. She stated that such Islamic attires would only be allowed during "… prayers, when they want to read the Qur'an and when they want to go for Jumat prayers."
We of the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) reject this position. It is a product of intolerance, tyranny, oppression, persecution and stigmatization. The rejection of the use of hijab in public schools reveals the pitiable human rights condition to which Muslims in the South-West have been subjected both in colonial and post-colonial days. It also stands in contradistinction to the democratic principles of freedom, equal rights, justice and fair play.
Instead of allowing free dialogue, the Lagos State Government is pushing Muslims in the state to the wall. We reject the claim made by the Commissioner for Education that the issue was discussed at length and that "We reached certain agreements". Concerned and well-informed Muslims and Islamic organizations were either deliberately ignored or edged out of purported discussions while handpicked surrogates of the commissioner and uninformed few were picked. MURIC petitioned the ministry in a letter dated 25th February 2013. Though the ministry acknowledged the letter, we were not invited for dialogue at any point in time.
We challenge the Commissioner for Education to tell the world who she discussed with. She should also tell Nigerians what happened to all the memoranda submitted on the issue by several Islamic organizations in the state. What became of the 8-page memorandum dated 26th March, 2013 and submitted by MURIC to the State's House of Assembly? It is our contention that a neo-colonial mindset is at play in the Lagos State Ministry of Education.
We also challenge the Commissioner for Education to tell the world what her ministry has done to the principal of Kadara Junior Grammar School, Ebute Metta, Mrs. Ukpaka, who personally administered 43 strokes of the cane on a female Muslim student by name Aisha Alabi, a JSS 2D pupil, whose only offence was wearing hijab. Is this not child abuse? Is this not the height of Islamophobia and religious intolerance tainted with sadism? Instead of taking the law into their hands, the Muslims in the state petitioned the ministry of education. What has the ministry done about this?
The Commissioner's pronouncement that Muslims who want their children to use hijab should take their children to Muslim private schools is a reckless, arrogant and irresponsible statement. It is a declaration of war on Lagos Muslims. Is the commissioner saying that Muslims are not part of the citizenry in Lagos State? Are the Muslims not paying tax? Or is the commissioner telling Lagosians that Lagos public schools are designed only for Christian pupils? This commissioner has no iota of respect for the dignity of the Muslim person. She has casted aspersion on the collective body of the Muslim Ummah in Lagos State.
The Commissioner should simply resign if she can no longer play the role assigned her in the ministry. She has demonstrated enough hatred for and arrogance towards Muslims. No public officer worth the salt should make such an insensitive, provocative, outrageous and preposterous statement. It is an insult on Islamdom in Lagos State. It is also a ploy to uproot all vestiges and landmarks of Islam from Lagos State. It is therefore unacceptable.
For the avoidance of doubt, the provisions of Article 18 of the United Nations Charter and Articles 9 and 14 of the European Treaty of Human Rights and Articles 18 and 19 of the Treaty of Civil and Political Rights all of which Nigeria is a signatory support the position of Muslims clamouring for the use of hijab. Denial of this agitation also constitutes a breach of Section 38 (i) & (ii) of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution.
We challenge the Commissioner to tell the world why the hijab is acceptable on school uniforms for Muslims in the North and an anathema in the South-West when Nigeria is just one country? MURIC warns that Lagos State Government is provoking Muslims in the state. The recent position of the LASG has merely worsened relationship between the Muslims and the state government. We have no problem with our Christian neighbours and people of other faith. We oppose violent reactions. MURIC's motto, as stated above, is 'Dialogue, Not Violence'. We believe that religion should promote tolerance, forgiveness and love. The name of the religion does not matter. No religion from God preaches hatred or violence. But relationship between the adherents of different faiths must be based on mutual respect and equal rights in order to achieve such cohesion in society.
What the Muslims are demanding on the issue of hijab is their Allah-given and fundamental right. They are not asking anyone to put hijab on Christian pupils. They want to dress the way the Qur'an commands them. Freedom of religion is one of the civil liberties enjoyed in a civilized society. Lagos should not deny this religious right. Hijab is used on school uniform in Britain and Ireland. Female Muslim police use hijab on their uniform. That is true liberalism and advanced democracy. It is stigma for anyone to hate the sight of Muslims or to claim that the sight of Muslim pupils in hijab is capable of causing religious crisis. The fact of the matter is that the current uniform used in schools is Christian uniform imposed on Nigerians by Christian colonial masters. It suits Christian culture and that is why Christians are not complaining. But it constitutes a violent assault on the psyche of true and practicing Muslims. That is why Muslims are complaining. But will LASG want to be seen as imposing Christian culture on Muslims and denying the latter of their well-deserved dividend of democracy?
Therefore nobody should tag us as trouble-makers. Our thesis comes from a mature and balanced mind. We want peace in Lagos and in Nigeria as a whole. We appeal to all and sundry not to allow the demand for hijab to be hijacked by politicians and religious extremists. Violence or terrorism is mere smoke and there can be no smoke without fire. The fire which often ignites violence or terrorism is injustice, marginalization and stigmatization. We assert that justice is the soul of peace. It is difficult to deny one and enjoy the other. This is the cause-effect theory as in the law of Karma. We appeal to all well-meaning Lagosians, particularly elders, to intervene in this matter. We have great respect for the leadership of the Lagos administration. We therefore call on LASG to open another door of genuine dialogue where all proactive Islamic organizations and human rights groups will be represented. This is not too much in the interest of durable peace. The last exercise was selective, parochial and undemocratic.
MURIC however affirms that the Muslims will continue to explore all constitutional means to challenge this outrageous declaration on hijab. In spite of the Commissioner's attempt to provoke Muslims in Lagos, we remain committed to the maintenance of law and order in the state. We appeal to Muslims in the state to ignore this provocation and to remain calm and law abiding.
Professor Is-haq Akintola,
Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC),

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Be just Justice is the soul of peace
No one can deny one and have the other
Neither can violence or naked force bring lasting peace

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