Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) and other Muslim bodies in Nigeria have condemned the attack on students in Ijagbo, Kwara State over the use of hijab in government-aided schools.
Some of the victims were injured and one reportedly killed while exercising their constitutionally right to peaceful protest over the decision of Oyun Baptist High School, Ijagbo, to deny female Muslim students entry to the school premises on account of their use of hijab.
In a statement released by NSCIA’s Director of Administration, Zubairu Haruna Usman-Ugwu, the council noted that the level of savagery meted on innocent students through the connivance and inaction of those who were supposed to protect them is highly worrisome and deeply regrettable.
“This is another proof of the morbid hatred for Islam and Muslims by those whose identities will soon be unmasked by security agencies investigating the matter.
“Nevertheless, it is in the public domain that the incident was not unconnected with the recent statement of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in which the body vowed to reject any ‘imposition’ of the use of hijab in the so-called mission schools in the state. That is why the leadership of the association has been incoherent while struggling to validate the gross violation of the fundamental rights of the female Muslim students of Oyun Baptist High School on the use of hijab.”
The Council noted that Oyun Baptist High School is one of many missionary schools that were taken over by government decree of 1974. By the said decree, missionary schools including Muslim-owned ones, acquired a new status of public schools.
“The fact that the Government of Kwara State decided to retain the names of these schools is purely to respect the founding fathers’ contributions of the founding fathers of the schools to educational development.
The Supreme Council appealed to the Muslims to remain calm and law-abiding in the face of violence unjustly visited upon them in Kwara State.
“That Muslims have decided to allow the security agencies to handle the matter should not be construed as weakness.”
The Council also commended Kwara State government on the various interventions made so far, saying
“The Council would love to advise the government to be more proactive in handling issues like this in future. The ominous signs of this tragedy had been there since the management of the school violated the directive of government on January 17, 2022 when it illegally decreed that female Muslim students should not wear hijab to the school again. The government ought to have called the school and the civil servants who are running the school to order.
“The Government of Kwara State, as a matter of urgency, to commence the process of changing the names of all the grant-aided public schools in line with the state Education Law CAP E1, which made them public schools.”
Also, Islamic Welfare Foundation’s (IWF) called on governments at all levels, especially the state governments, particularly in the South West,to stop treating Muslim students as second class citizens in their states.
The group condemned the current controversies trailing the use of hijab in schools, saying female children in schools are constitutionally entitled to practice their faith.
In a statement signed by National Coordinator, Dr. H. Kalejaiye and National Secretary, Dr. Abdulkarim Oloyede, respectively, the group condemned the action, noting that it in very strong terms as an affront on the constitution and would resist it with all legal means available as citizens of this great country.
“It is no longer news that some state governments and grant-aided schools have taken it upon themselves to create a needless and baseless controversy on the use of hijab in public schools.
“We want to place it on record that virtually all the hierarchies of courts in Nigeria have put judicial imprimatur on the rights of the girl child to use hijab anywhere in Nigeria including the schools. We are bold to say that these court decisions did not give a distinction between public, private or grant aided schools. It is important to stress that the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is clear and unequivocal on the rights of citizens to practice their religion irrespective of where they find themselves.”
The National Body of the Federation of Muslim Women’s Associations in Nigeria (FOMWAN) equally described the action as religious intolerance. “ the opening of fire on the innocent Muslim protesters by suspected hired criminals which led to the death of one Habeeb Idris and the injuring of four others is capable of igniting religious conflagration in the state.”
In a statement issued by the National Amirah of the association, Hajia Rofiah Idowu Sanni, noted that the attack evidently showed a semblance of a premeditated action orchestrated by those who are disinclined to the use of hijab by students in Government schools.
She called on security agents to engage in a thorough investigation in order to arrest, prosecute and punish the criminal elements responsible for the act and their sponsors.
The group appealed to the Kwara State Muslim community to continue to toe the path of peace and dialogue through the court to avoid aggravating the already tensed situation.
Also, Sanni raised concerns over the continuous persecution, oppression, victimisation and molestation of Muslim girls and women adorning the hijab, not only in Kwara state, but across the Southwest region of Nigeria, calling on the relevant authorities to put a stop forthwith.
“Let me use this medium to also call our attention to several other cases of hijab persecution in Oyo, Lagos and Ogun States. Muslim students are not only denied their divine and constitutional rights, they are being locked out from schools because they choose to adorn the hijab.,” she said.
The Director of Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC), Professor Ishaq Akintola, also accused the police, of foot-dragging over the killing, in a statement
In a statement he issued, Akintola condemned the lackadaisical attitude exhibited by the police in Kwara State.
“Why are the police developing cold feet in this case? This is culpable homicide for crying out loud. Habeeb must not die in vain. The police must produce his killers,” Akintola said.
“This case cannot be swept under the carpet. There must be consequences for thuggery and hooliganism and the use of dangerous weapons against innocent students.”