When schools resumed afresh for the 2018/2019 academic session, no one would have expected that a school principal would make the disregard for the Nigerian laws part of her first week duty.
That best describes the action of Mrs S.O. Sadare, the erstwhile principal of Isolo Senior Secondary School when five students were refused entry into the school premises on Wednesday, 18th September, 2018. Her adamant stance when approached by concerned Muslims clearly shows that the teachers who carried out the action were acting on her orders.
The Nigerian laws lay valley for respect of the rights of all citizens especially when it comes to religion. Nigerian citizens are entitled to freedom of religion and not to be a slave to one’s doctrine. Muslims in Nigeria have been dancing to the tune of the Nigerian Government when it comes to Religion. Accepting religious deprivation should not be a norm for Muslims. Rather, there is suppose to be freedom to freely practice one’s religion without any fear of discrimination.
In this context, the table has turned around for Muslims on the issue of wearing of Hijab in Lagos state public schools. Amidst al, different Islamic groups stood against the unconstitutional act of the Mrs Sadare in defense of freedom of religion most especially wearing of Hijab in public schools.
Over the years, public school pupils were being denied to freely practice their religion as it has been commanded by Almighty Allah and as contained in the sunnah. How should our Muslim women on the day of judgement standing in front of Allah reviving judgement on their unconscious attitude to wearing of Hijab? This is a question that should hit every concerned Muslims on issue of Hijab.
It’s so ludicrous that Lagos State government has refused to obey a Court of Appeal judgement since 2016 on the Hijab saga. Ever since that landmark judgement, the government has clearly decided not to ensure compliance, despite not obtaining a stay of execution, meaning that the judgement remains binding.
The Muslim Students’ Society of Nigeria through its Lagos State president, Saheed Ashafa has been in the forefront of pressurising the government to issue a clear directive on this rather than always turning around to resolve fresh controversies caused by insensitive school heads.
The current Lagos hijab saga and actions taken
Last Saturday, the Lagos state government appealed to all stakeholders in the contentious issue of wearing Hijab in public schools urging them to maintain peace, law and order while awaiting Supreme Court ruling on the matter.
It is of no doubt that many students have been deprived of wearing their Hijab into the school premises, the latest is that at Isolo Senior Secondary School, where Sadare also ensured that a female Muslim prefect who was among the five was stripped of her post.
Concerned Muslims have sent series of letters to the state government to withdraw the issue from the court. A lone step towards resolving the matter was the redeployment of Sadare to another office by the Permanent Secretary of Education District VI, Mrs Olufemilayo Onadipe.
The Perm Sec also reportedly absorbed the government of giving approval to Sadare to act as she did. Yet, the students have not been called back to school as at the moment of writing this.
On her part, the Lagos State Deputy Governor who also oversees the education ministry, Dr Idiat Oluranti Adebule assured those concerned that government is working tirelessly to resolve the matter.
While acknowledging letters addressed to her by the Hijab Right Advocacy Initiative, Muslim Students’ Society of Nigeria and Muslim Forum of Isolo over the issue assured that their grievances are being looked into.
She affirmed that a meeting was held with Muslim groups and Tutor General/ permanent Secretary of Education District VI, Mrs. Olufemilayo Onadipe last week, saying she has directed that a wider meeting of all stakeholders be held on this week at the Ministry of Education, where all issues are expected to be addressed.
The Muslim Right Concerned through its director, Professor Ishaq Akintola has called on the State government to have total and unconditional respect for the constitution and allow the use of Hijab by female students.
In his words, “In view of the fact that the constitution of any nation is the font et origo of all laws, codes, ordinances, rules and regulations of that country. Lagos as the centre of excellence in Nigeria should not have allowed the issue of Hijab to become so contentious to the extent that it became a matter of litigation. Lagos should have liberalised the matter and allowed the use of Hijab by female Muslim pupils in its public schools.
“We therefore contend that LASG’s continued restriction on the use of Hijab in public schools particularly after a count of competent jurisdiction has declared Hijab constitutional and the Supreme Council has rejected the state government’s application for stay of execution in illegal, unlawful, illegitimate and unconstitutional. This restriction should be lifted with immediate effect and a circular to that effect should be issued by the Lagos State Ministry of Education. Better still, LASG should withdraw its appeal at the Supreme Court because it is an open attempt at judicial procrastination. We all know that justice delayed is justice denied.”
He also frowned at students that were banned from entering the school premises for wearing Hijab by Christian teachers stating that the actions of the teachers are out of place.
“It is the height of tyranny for Christian teachers to flog female Muslim students for wearing Hijab outside the schools’ premises. These students who wear their Hijab from home could not but remove it at the school’s ate. A teacher has no legitimate authority to punish students seeing them on the street with their Hijab on. It is tyrannical, inhuman and fanatical to find teacher in these attitude,” he added.
It is believed that by the end of the week, all issues pertaining to the suspension or exclusion of the Muslim students standing to protect their constitutional rights would have been given the necessary attention. They don’t deserve to be humiliated.