Tuesday, June 28, 2016


29th June, 2016,

Professor Wole Soyinka on Sunday 26th June 2016 waded into the hijab controversy in the State of Osun. In an article titled ‘To Everything, Its Place’, the much respected Nobel Laureate descended heavily on Muslims for daring to seek approval for the use of hijab.

The Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) is fully aware of Soyinka’s great contribution to the attainment of democratic rule which we are all enjoying in Nigeria today. We also acknowledge his role in the uplifting of Nigeria’s image particularly in the circle of intellectuals worldwide.

Nonetheless, we are amused that our intellectual guru deployed all the Weapons of Faith Destruction (WFD) in his arsenal to his Islam-bashing combat field but saw nothing wrong with the way leaders of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) Osun chapter incited Christian students in their rejection of the court judgemnet which was favourable to the Muslims.   

Nothing was said about CAN’s gross disrespect for the rule of law. Could he have forgotten that CAN’s attitude constitutes serious threat to democracy and the rule of law which Soyinka himself fought hard to enthrone?

Professor  Soyinka contended that the issue of hijab was never raised “for several decades” after independence and assumed that the Christian uniform is the conventional or, in his own words ‘common dress code’. We beg to disagree sir. We assert that the revered Nobel Laureate is not only taking too much for granted but also taking liberty for license.

MURIC affirms that Professor Soyinka still needs to do his homework very well before going to press. Contrary to his claim that hijab was not mentioned for decades, Muslims in Yorubaland have been agitating for civil rights right from independence and the files of governments at both federal and state levels are full of petitions forwarded on issues of the Allah-given fundamental rights of Muslims.

Those petitions were repeatedly submitted on a regular basis by Muslim communities and Islamic organizations. Of course Soyinka is not expected to know this but it goes to show the limitations of human knowledge even among nobel laureates.

To assume that the current school uniform used in public schools should be the dress code is to commit gross injustice to a large section of the populace. We have heard activists complaining that the authors of the Nigerian constitution did not consult the Nigerian people before writing it yet they ‘fraudulently’ claimed that “We, the Nigerian people…”

The colonialists committed the same fraud against Nigerian Muslims when they replaced Islamic landmarks with Christo-British practices and this includes the school uniform. Islam was in Nigeria for 800 years and in Yorubaland for 200 years before the advent of Christianity but British sense of fairness could not go beyond uprooting what it met on ground.

Islamic schools in Lagos alone were more than fifty by the year 1775 and they used hijab as part of their uniform. This was long before the arrival of the British in Nigeria and the advent of Western schools with their Christian school uniform. What was imposed by colonial fiat cannot be called ‘common dress code’ by any common sense.      

Let us reiterate for the umpteenth time and for the avoidance of doubts that to us as Muslims the present uniform is Christian uniform unless Soyinka can convince us that the British were not Christians. Justice, equity and fairness demands that this should have been revisited immediately after independence.

Yet what the Muslims are asking for is not more than a slight adjustment from the head to the bosom to be made of the same stuff and colour with the school uniform. We are not asking for any different uniform for Muslim students who are males. It is only for the girls.

Professor Wole Soyinka sir, with all due respect, you are well known for your atheistic propensities and you do not hide it. We respect you for that. But you cannot sit in judgement over religious matters since you do not believe in religion. You cannot give what you do not have. We even expected that you would ask both Christians and Muslims in Yorubaland to go back to their culture thereby using ‘buba, sokoto, iro, gele and iborun’. MURIC would have welcomed such a suggestion because all we want is decent dresses for our daughters. 

Soyinka’s vilification of Nigerian Muslims is legendary. It would have been normal if he had once taken up the Christian folks but we cannot remember when last he did that. We also cannot forget so soon how he lampooned the late Dr. Lateef Adegbite (leader of Yoruba Muslims) severally during his life time. This lopsided trend is quite disturbing because we see it as deliberate. A little balancing will give more credibility to our revered Nobel Laureate. 

It is high time Professor Soyinka picked another pastime instead of bullying Muslims. The way Soyinka and Femi Falana took up the Ese Oruru brouhaha earlier this year was astounding. The prejudice was crystal clear. Whereas CAN was the first to raise the issue of religion in the matter by pointing accusing fingers at Nigerian Muslims and MURIC merely reacted, Soyinka and Falana called a press conference just because of MURIC. It was an unprecedented albeit unnecessary bullying. They lambasted MURIC for “turning a personal issue into a religious one”. We simply ignored the duo at the time to avoid heating up the polity.  

On a final note, we assure Professor Wole Soyinka of our greatest regard for his person. However, we advise him to commence a balancing reengineering of his views about Muslims. We are not asking him not to criticize us, but he needs to balance it sometimes if not all the time. His credibility will be greatly shaken if he continues to bully and vilify Muslims. If Soyinka really believes in his ‘To Everything, Its Place’, we most respectfully remind him that ‘To every group, its due.’

Professor Ishaq Akintola,
Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC)

Monday, June 27, 2016


27th June, 2016,

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)

Sunday, June 19, 2016


20th June, 2016,

Sequel to the court judgment permitting female Muslim students to use hijab with their school uniforms, Christian students in the State of Osun went to school in church regalia as instructed by the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Osun chapter.       

While a voluminous hue and cry from various quarters has followed this development, we wish to advise Osun CAN to fall back on doctrinal teachings, model influence as well as precedence in Christendom.  

For doctrinal teaching, Osun CAN should allow the Bible to guide its action on the matter. The Bible enjoins Christian females to cover their heads with a veil (I Corinthians 11:4-13).

As a model for Christian women, Mary the mother of Jesus (peace be upon him) provided the practical example of how a Christian woman should dress. Mary uses veils in all her pictures that we have seen and she should be a model for all Christian women.

Christendom has a precedent in the use of veils by Catholic nuns. There is little or no difference between the Muslim hijab and the Catholic nun’s veil. Osun CAN and indeed all Christian women can adopt this.

So instead of this rancor, we advise synergy between Christian and Muslim doctrinal teachings. The root of religious crisis can be traced to the lacuna between scriptural teachings and the practice among adherents of Christianity and Islam. Although both religions teach love and peaceful coexistence, the practitioners do the opposite.

In this hijab controversy, however, the Muslims have proved more faithful to the teaching of their scripture. They wished to use the hijab with the school uniform but school authorities disallowed them. Instead of taking the law into their hands, they petitioned the state government.

Although Ogbeni Aregbesola is a Muslim he did not give them the permission to use it. Still exercising restraint, they went to court. Afterall the court should always be the final arbiter in a democratic setting. However, the reaction of Osun CAN to the court’s pronouncement leaves much to be desired.

In the present circumstance, we of the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) are of the opinion that the way forward is for Osun CAN to dig into Christian archives, design a Christian veil that matches both the colour and stuff of the school uniforms just as the Muslims have done and direct Christian students in the state to use them. 

But nobody should expect female Muslim students of Osun to stop using their hijab after this landmark judgment. The only logical option left is for Osun CAN to seek parity for female Christian students in the state to use the Christian veil on their school uniforms. Osun CAN will be playing dog in the manger if it fails to do this but insists that Muslims should not use their hijab. If someone does not need something, he has no moral right to stop others from using it. 

This is where the Osun police command must be on alert. The police must not abdicate its responsibility. MURIC warned not too long ago that the so-called peaceful coexistence that exists in the South West is a very thin veneer. The cord holding Christians and Muslims together in the sub-region can be likened to a single thread of a spider’s web. It is too fragile and it exists because the Muslims have chosen to remain quiet on the issue of religious freedom. We can all see how it is playing out now.

To cement our position, we can trace the origin of the two religions because today was born from the wombs of yesterday. Islam came to Nigeria in 1085. Christianity came in 1842. Islam was in Yorubaland as early as the 17th century, about 200 years before Christianity. But on arrival, the British colonialists enslaved the Muslims by imposing Christian culture on all facets of life in the land at the expense of Islamic landmarks. This should have been addressed after independence but it was not done.

Each time the Muslims ask for their rights, they were told to go and live in Kano or Sokoto if they want to enjoy their rights. We cannot take this discrimination any more. We demand the right to religious freedom. Our right is our right. This is why we support those clamouring for restructuring in Nigeria. The whole gamut of our coexistence must be revisited. They will be surprised that it cannot be about oil alone. South West Muslims demand religious emancipation.

The hijab saga in the State of Osun is informed by the reluctance of Osun CAN to set the Muslims free. CAN has long been promoting a neo-colonial agenda. MURIC advises CAN to let the Muslims go. There is no need for bickering. We can eat together and work together so long as no group lords it on the other. CAN can use its Christian veil. We are already using our hijab.

We could have ignored the church garments which Osun CAN ordered Christian students to wear but it is not even in the interest of Christian children or that of their parents. For how long can the ridiculous show continue? The Muslim hijab is cheap and small. Church regalia is costly and cumbersome. Can the parents afford it all the time? Osun CAN is cutting its nose to spite its face.

Unlike the church garment, hijab is not too conspicuous on a school uniform. The church garment covers up a school uniform whereas hijab leaves the uniform uncovered. It is about head and bosom cover, not about a garment that covers the whole body. CAN missed this point.

Again we have no serious grouse against the use of church garments in school, afterall it is more decent that the short, tight and provocative skirts we call school uniform, except that it elicits public ridicule and promotes indiscipline in schools.

MURIC invites Osun CAN to join hands with us in the fight against indecent dressing and immorality. Nigeria cannot be pretending to fight HIV and AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases as well as premarital sex and teenage pregnancy when school uniforms are designed to seduce the opposite sex. We must be serious for once.

In our concluding remark, we remind Osun CAN that Nigeria has experienced enough religious crises. We have lost thousands of our compatriots including properties worth billions of dollars. Neither economic growth nor political stability can be achieved without peace. We therefore urge Osun CAN to tow the path of dialogue in resolving this impasse.

Professor Ishaq Akintola,
Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC)

Wednesday, June 15, 2016


15th June, 2016,

Christian students of Baptist High School, Adeeke and those of Salvation Army Middle School, Alekuwodo, Iwo, State of Osun, yesterday attended school in church garments.

The Osun State chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria had earlier vowed to order Christian students in public schools to wear church garments to school if Governor Rauf Aregbesola goes ahead to implement the judgement of the state’s High Court giving legal backing to the wearing of hijab to school. Justice Oyedeji Falola of the Osun State High Court, Oshogbo, gave the ruling on 3rd June, 2016.

The Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) condemns this hocus pocus. It is a manifestation of impunity of the highest order. Osun chapter of CAN has turned the judiciary into a laughing stock.

It is rather unfortunate that a religious body of the caliber of CAN has disrespected the judgement of a high court granting Allah-given fundamental human right to female Muslim students to use hijab. Nigerians can now see the true face of religious fanaticism. Something is fishy if Muslims take a case to court instead of going violent or even demonstrating and Christians now take the law into their hands. This is highly provocative.

MURIC has always maintained that violence and terrorism must be traced to provocation simply because there can never be smoke without fire. The cause-effect theory must be properly examined before apportioning blames.

Hijab is used freely in all public schools in the North because the Nigerian law allows its use. But the picture is different in the South where school authorities act a script written by CAN. But to be or not to be? That is the question. The court has made a pronouncement. We must decide who calls the shots: Osun CAN or the judiciary.

This is a very dicey situation and we call on the government of the State of Osun and the state’s police command to do the needful. The Muslims have obtained a favourable judgement and anyone who stands in the way of its implementation must be thoroughly dealt with.

Osun CAN executive is guilty of child abuse. They are using innocent children to commit illegalities. Those underaged children are being goaded to lawlessness by those old enough to be their grandfathers. What kind of legacy are those elders leaving behind? How can thuggery, hooliganism and impunity of such magnitude be encouraged among secondary school students?

Have we found any solution to cultism in schools yet? We should not be surprised if those children who wore church garments to school beat up their teachers in future. Neither should we look too far for their sponsors. At least it is now on record that CAN executive have ordered indiscipline in public schools.

But we will not lose our heads in spite of this provocation. We call on Muslim students, Muslim youths in general and Muslim parents to remain calm. They should allow Nigerians to watch and fully enjoy this theater of the absurd without being dragged into the list of the dramatis personae.

Professor Ishaq Akintola,
Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC)