I went to Christian missionary schools with a very healthy Muslim population. It was usually our names that gave away our faiths, not our attire.
We were all forbidden to wear any form of jewelry, and that included crosses and other religious ornaments, no exceptions. You could wear it discreetly under your uniform if you liked but it was certainly not a requirement despite the fact that it was a missionary school. Additionally, only Christians were required to attend Mass but guess what?
Our Muslim friends would frequently attend and go through all the rituals with us OF THEIR OWN ACCORD. The only thing they did not do was take communion. They would even do the stations of the Cross for Pete’s sake (while some Catholics were busy hiding under desks to avoid the sun and just for the heck of being stubborn)!
I remember my school was particularly worried about this trend and would always assure Muslims that it was NOT an obligation for them.
Frankly, I think they did it cause they wanted to be part and parcel of what their friends were doing, maybe also out of curiosity, and then perhaps it helped them pass Christian Religious Studies better! Who knows? It certainly did not keep me awake at night.
Indeed, one of my best friends in secondary school, Hawa, a Muslim would regularly best me at CRS!
Back then, regardless whether you were attending a private or public school, you NEVER wore religious ornaments to school. Except it actually was a missionary school and even those ones had exceptions.
Fast forward to the 21st century, the Lagos state government tries to enforce an already existing law and everybody is up in arms! Are we retrogressing or what? And do PLEASE REMEMBER that Governor Fashola is equally a Muslim. Why is this even an issue? When did Nigeria stop being a SECULAR state?
I do not think the state Government is against people practising whatever faith they choose. They just desire a return to the status quo because something tells me it has not always been so.
Certainly the Government won’t stop people from wearing the Hijab in other circumstances and especially for purposes of worship.
My take on the matter.
The following article is culled from ynaija.com
by Akan Ido
If we say, okay, let’s allow these students begin to wear Hijab to schools, what happens to those who are not members of the religion? One day the children of native doctors would also come to school with horns and charms…
It started in February this year when Mrs. E.C Ukpaka, principal of Kadara Junior Grammar School, Ebute Meta, Lagos Nigeria flogged one of her students, Aisha Alabi, 14, because she stubbornly wore Hijab, a head scarf worn by female Muslims, in the school premises against the rule of education in the state.
Then all hell was let loose as Muslim students under the umbrella of the Muslim Students’ Society of Nigeria (MSSN), Lagos State Area Unit, in protest, barricaded the main entrance of Lagos House which houses the office of the state Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola. For several hours, they remained at the gate observing some of their prayers and vowing to remain at the spot until the state government acted in their favour. A move by the Special Adviser to the Lagos State Governor on Religious Matters, Alhaji Abdul-Hakeem Kosoko, to calm them proved abortive as they remained resolute on seeing the governor who was said to have travelled that day.
Not satisfied, the protesters petitioned the state House of Assembly urging the members of the House to investigate the issue as such an act by the school principal posed a danger to the relative peace that exists among the various religious groups in the state. As expected, the members swung into action setting up a four member committee made of the House Chief Whip, Abdulrazaaq Balogun as the Chairman, Wahab Alawiye-King; Muhibat Rufai Adeyemi and Bimpe Akinsola, as members to look into the allegation and report to the House.
However, as if pre-empting the outcome of the investigation by the committee of the House, the MSSN and some Muslims have begun with threats and condemnation of the members of the committee, the yet to be released report as well as the executive arm of the state government. The new allegation is that the state legislature was in connivance with the executive arm to derail the course of justice.
Even though as reported, Mrs. Oladunjoye had said she had a meeting with stakeholders including the Commissioner for Home Affairs and Culture, Alhaji Oyinlomo Danmole, the Muslim students, and lawyers and that it was agreed at the meeting that students could only use their hijab when they want to go for prayers, when they want to read Qur’an, and when they are going for Jumat prayer on Fridays, the petitioners and other Muslim groups have taken that to mean that the state government had placed a ban on the use of the religious head-tie.
They hinged their argument on the Commissioners declaration that it was also agreed at the meeting that “whoever wish that his daughter should be wearing Hijab while going to school and within the school should send such child to a private Muslim school.”
However, investigations by YNaija has shown that neither has the executive arm of government or the legislative arm banned the use of Hijab as is being speculated. Instead, the government has only urged that the status quo be maintained by those who profess the religious faith and the stakeholders in the education sector of the state.
Few days after the setting up of the committee, its chairman presented a preliminary report to his colleagues explaining that the committee met with the school principal and the petitioners and appealed to them to thread softly while the House looked into the issue. He said the schools, students and the Muslim community have been asked to maintain the status quo.
“The Commissioner had asked that this status quo be maintained by everyone concerned in the case. In this sense, those alleging that the use of Hijab has been banned may not have gotten the right information. What the Commissioner said was that since the issue had not been fully resolved, the students should continue to maintain the standards and rules of education in the state,” Hon. Wahab Alawiye-King explained at the Assembly complex on Monday.
To further stress that the report on the ban on Hijab was mere speculation, the state Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Lateef Ibirogba, has also explained that the state government had not come up with any final declaration on the issue as it was still consulting with stakeholders.
He said the present position was been peddled by people who wanted to heat up issues where there are none adding that it would be premature and pre-emptive to say that government has rejected the use of Hijab in public schools in Lagos.
When contacted, a member of the Committee said the House was not disturbed by the allegation that the members had connived with the executive arm to derail justice.
The lawmaker, who refused to be named, said it was normal for people to pre-empt the outcome of the House investigation as well as that being handled by the Commissioner for Education. He added that the actual report of the Committee had only been laid on the floor of the House and that it had not even been presented and adopted.
“The first thing you should look at is that the Governor is a Muslim, majority of his cabinet members are Muslims, members of the committee of the House are Muslims, majority of the House members are also Muslims. So, it is not like we are doing this thing to favour anybody or any particular sect of people,” the lawmaker explained.
According to him, Lagos state remains one of the most complex in the country where people inter-marry. He added that it whatever the outcome of the investigation was, it should be seen as the best for the continued co-existence of the state.
“If we say, okay, let’s allow these students begin to wear Hijab to schools, what happens to those who are not members of the religion? One day the children of native doctors would also come to school with horns and charms since that is going to be the rule. I see those pushing for this fight as hypocrites.
“For us who are Muslims, our holy book urges us to wear Hijab, but it also urges us to obey constituted authority. In this case, if there are laws of the land, they must be obeyed irrespective of who you are. These same people complaining would travel outside the country and obey simple instructions and regulations without remembering their religions, but when they come back home, they behave as if they are above the law,” another lawmaker told YNaija.
But a member of the MSSN who spoke our correspondent on phone explained that their grouse was that the state government seemed to be playing politics with the Hijab crisis. According to him, the outcome of the stakeholders’ meeting held with the Commissioner was not what reflected in the minutes of the meeting held for that purpose.
Our grouse is that the outcome of the meeting as reflected in the letter head of the government and signed by Gafar Shakiru, Senior Special Assistant to Governor Fashola on Muslim Religion in March 2012, showed that the state had banned the use of Hijab instead of the normal agreement of allowing students to use it when they have religious matters to deal with.
According to him, the anger will only be subdued if the government agrees to play its part of the bargain.
Repeated calls to the state Commissioner for Education Mrs. Olayinka Oladunjoye as remained unanswered and short message services sent to her have come unreplied.