Kwara Hijab Saga: As your Lord Pleases – By Ibrahim Muhammed

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The blackmail and outright mischief being relayed in Kwara State over the use of Hijab by Muslim female Students is a repetition of what others have attempted and fail – blacklisting and blackmailing anything Islam.

 

The template for the local Islamaphobia as spearheaded by CAN continues to defy any legal or logical stance. Wait a second: If a Muslim lady wears Hijab, what effect or how does it affect the Christians in those Schools? If Muslim girls decides not to wear Hijab in those School, then what impacts does such act has on the Christians therein.

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Let’s interrogate further: If we take it that wearing Hijab is a sign of Islam religion, we can as well posit that leaving your head naked or refusal to wear Hijab is a sign of Christianity as insinuated by CAN. This is the problem. If CAN insists that the Muslim Girls must not wear Hijab, then CAN is Christianizing Muslims in Kwara State. If A has the right to dress naked or wear wig to School, B should also enjoy the same right to cover her head.

 

As stated earlier, logic behinds their arguments comes flat in the face scrutiny likewise the legal positions.  This issue has been tested before in the Court of Law and the Judgement of High Court and Appeal Court support the decision of the Government of Kwara State to allow Muslims girls wear Hijab in Government School if they so wish.

 

The Judgement of Court of Appeal delivered on 20th September, 2019 still stands as at the time of writing this piece. Neither Chrsitians Association of Nigeria nor any other interested party has Appeal the said Judgement

 

The case with file numbers CA/IL/108/2016 was an appeal against the two decisions delivered at the High Court of Justice of Kwara State via suit No. KWS/178/2014 in which the appellants herein were the plaintiffs or claimants and the respondents, the defendants before that court.

 

The case was presided by the following Justices of Appeal Court :MOJEED ADEKUNLE OWOADE, SA’IDU TANKO HUSSEIN, HAMMA AKAWU BARKA, MISITURA OMODERE BOLAJI-YUSUF,  BOLOUKUROMO MOSES UGO with the lead Judgment delivered by HUSSEIN, J.C.A.

 

Extract from the judgement on the contending issues are as follows:

…In any case all the hullaballoo surrounding the question whether the identified schools are “public schools” has been laid to rest by the definition of that term at section 41 of the Kwara State Compulsory Free Universal Basic Education Law to mean “A school which is assisted out of funds provided by the Federal or State or Local Government”,

…Section 38 guarantees the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. A person or all persons are free to practice their religion without let or hindrance either in the public or private. This freedom of worship includes freedom of the individual to change his religion if he so desires. The person reserves the right to manifest and propagate his religion or belief in worship, teaching, practice and observance.

The provision, particularly provision of subsection 1 of section 38, guarantees freedom therein contained to the appellants and all students admitted to schools under focus. Every person has a right to conduct himself in a manner permitted by his religious calling, but the provision does not permit any person under the guise of propagating his religion to impose his beliefs on another person who does not belong to the same religious calling with him.

The appellants have by no means alleged the restriction of Christian students from the practice of their religion or that Christian students were prohibited by 1st – 3rd respondents from the practice of their religion by reason of the control exerted by them in the management of the affairs of those schools. If that were the case, their grievance would have been understood as genuine. This is not the case. Rather it is the appellants, who are not happy to see the 1st – 3rd respondents continue to allow certain policies being introduced to those schools. They failed to realise that the schools under focus, some of which are co-educational, multi-ethnic and co-religious institutions, have been run or managed as such public institutions for well over a period of 40 years.

The control and management of those identified schools, in their own way, by the appellants in line with their Christian beliefs and value, not minding the heterogeneous nature of those schools, smacks discriminatory.

The constitution under S. 42(1) prohibits those tendencies which the appellants want to bring to bear. Section 38(2) also forbids it. It sounds rather ironic to me that the appellants who cry foul and shouted to high heavens that their rights to freedom of thought, conscience and religion had been violated, are the same group who are hell bent to unleash their own practices on other people who are not of the same religious inclination.

The appellants see the wearing of Hijab by students of the schools under focus as provoking enough and an insult in school or institution established to practice Christian religious doctrines.

There is no evidence coming from them on record as would suggest that Christian female students were compelled to wear the Hijab. The Hijab, the practice, where Moslem female cover their heads with veil or head cover, is an act of Ibada or worship as recognized in the Islamic religious worship. This act or practice is also in tune with the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended).

The appellants thus have no right to complain of acts which do not impugn on them.

The submission made on behalf of the appellants that section 38(3) of the Constitution allow them or give them the exclusive right to make Christianity the only norm in the schools under focus is only wishful thinking. Such is not tenable in a heterogeneous set-up such as the schools under focus where students and pupils alike do not belong to the same religious community or denomination. Students and pupils of those schools came from different backgrounds and so there is no semblance of homogeneity amongst these students as to permit the imposition of the practice, the appellants have in mind over those schools.

In Esabunor v. Faweya (2008) 12 NWLR (Pt. 1102) 794, 870 the court held that every student must be given the right to choose the course of his/her life fashioned on what he/she believes in and reserve the right not to be coerced into acting contrary to one’s religious beliefs. There is no evidence on the printed record that the1st – 3rd respondents have coerced the appellants or students of the schools in focus into acting contrary to their religious beliefs.

The issue raised by the appellants pertaining to compensation, not having been paid to them, as required under S. 44(1) of the Constitution, meant that they are still the owners of all the schools under focus. This does not arise. Since there is no evidence of compulsory takeover of the schools in dispute, the issue of compensation cannot arise. On the contrary, facts and evidence do indicate that the takeover of the schools in focus were in line with due process, the Kwara State Education Law No.6 of 2006, the Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended),and the National Policy on Education. Accordingly, issue Nos. 3and 4 are also resolved in favour of the 1st – 3rd respondents and against the appellants.

On the whole, the appeal was dismissed and the ruling of the lower Court was affirmed.

With the above Judgement of the Appeal Court, I sees no reason why Christians Association of Nigeria will be beating the drum of war in a case that has no directs or indirect bearing on how Christian in Kwara school conduct their academic or moral life.

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