Two Muslim bodies, Muslims Rights Concern and Muslim Students’ Society of Nigeria have urged the House of Representatives to ignore the opposition by Christians and traditionalists to a bill on legalising hijab.
Christian Association of Nigeria and traditionalists had urged the lawmakers to drop the hijab bill, which recently scaled through second reading in the House of Representatives.
The bill is titled ‘Religious Discrimination (Prohibition, Prevention) Bill 2021’.
In a statement, CAN General Secretary Joseph Daramola, had warned that legislating wearing of hijab in private schools would lead to “trouble that the sponsors of the bill may not be able to handle”.
But President (Amir) of MSSN in Lagos State, Miftahudeen Thanni, picked holes in CAN and the traditionalists’ positions, urging the lawmakers to ignore them.
According to Thanni, “Muslims have never for once in this country fought against what is due to the Christians and others. Why are they always against Muslims? Why are they always against Muslims. We are not saying hijab should be mandated for everybody but those who choose to wear it should be allowed without any hindrance.
“We are in this country when a governor built a church for Christians and declared Isese Day public holiday. Muslims didn’t raise any false alarm.
“When they started their agitations and protests against wearing of hijab by willing Muslims in schools, we approached the court as law-abiding citizens. The bill on hijab is also a non-violent means to get the right thing done. But CAN and others have started instigating violence and tension.
“We are not against the Christians and traditionalists getting their rights. They also have no genuine reason to oppose ours other than to cause disunity in the country.
“The House of Representatives must give all necessary attention to the bill and ignore undue pressure. We will resist any attempt to sweep the bill under the carpet through every legal means.
“Though issues of unemployment, insecurity are paramount, this bill if passed will resolve many legal battles and give room for peace.”
In the same vein, MURIC Director, Prof Ishaq Akintola, said CAN’s opposition to the freedom bill was conservative and reactionary.
Akintola urged the lawmakers not to allow anyone to discourage or intimidate them from going ahead with the bill, saying it was not designed for hijab rights alone.
He added that the bill would also liberate Nigerian workers and women from discrimination.
The MURIC director said, “CAN is not talking about morality, legality and justice in its opposition to the bill. CAN is not interested in whether it is right or wrong. The only thing CAN is interested in is to impose its own whims and caprices on the lawmakers by threatening fire and brimstone.
“CAN refers to missionnary schools which were taken over by the Gowon decree of 1974 as ‘our schools’. That is a misnomer. It should be noted that both the Christians and Muslims were fully compensated when government took over their schools.
“CAN is trying to scare the lawmakers. Its statement is full of threats. But we are not bothered. The process must take its due course. Today Britain allows hijab in its schools. Go to Britain and see freedom. American schools allow hijab. Canada, Latin America and the rest of Europe have seen the light. Baptist College in Australia changed its school uniform to accommodate hijab-wearing students in 2019.
“But here in Nigeria, CAN, an ultra-conservative body, wants to drag Nigerians back into darkness after we have seen the light. The hijab bill must go ahead. It is the selfish wish of CAN to monopolise everything, including legislation.”