Rights group calls UI school hijab crisis ‘religious apartheid’

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The International School, University of Ibadan girls barred from entering their school for wearing hijab on Thursday, 15th November, 2018

A human rights group, Muslim Rights Concerns has condemned the ongoing hijab crisis at the International School, University of Ibadan describing it as “religious apartheid”.

A press statement signed by the Director of the group, Ishaq Akintola alleged a poor handling of the crisis by the principal of the ISI, Mrs Phebean Olowe.

EduCeleb.com had earlier reported that hijab wearing students of the school were on Wednesday barred from their classrooms as they were under close security scrutiny in the school’s library. But on Thursday, the eight students were denied entry into their school.

A meeting of the Parents Teachers Association (PTA) earlier did little to douse tension among members of the school community. Muslim parents were reportedly shouted down from airing their opinions by the majority Christian staff and parents in the school.

These developments were all condemned by Akintola in the statement.

“It is administrative masturbation. We are not novists in management. The school principal has manipulated the PTA executive and exploited the meeting to achieve her hidden agenda which, ab initio, has been the denial of hijab for female Muslim students. Being a die-hard member of the Scriptures Union (SU), this woman characteristically has a pathological hatred for Muslims and their children.

“Why should a matter which affects Muslims only be subjected to the decision of a Christian majority? The likely outcome was already known to the principal. Whoever presided at that PTA meeting also had a preconceived idea. Majority may have their way but the minority should have their say. But that is only in democracy. Incidentally this is not about democracy. It is religion and religion is a sensitive matter. It will not succumb to democratic rules.

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“Also by shouting down the Muslims at that meeting, the chairman has exhibited gross irresponsibility. The chairman of any meeting has a duty to protect all. He must have a listening hear and he should allow common sense to prevail at the end of the day. Common sense in this case should have made the chairman realize that bringing a majority Christian group together with a minority Muslim group in a matter affecting Muslims only in present-day Nigeria will only end up in confusion”.

The International School, University of Ibadan school girls barred from school on Thursday, 15th November, 2018

On the shutting out of the hijab wearing Muslim students, Professor  Akintola alleged that the principal never wanted Muslims to be a part of the school with that “religious apartheid”.

“It is religious apartheid. The principal has just shot herself in the foot. Her real plan is now exposed. She never really wanted Muslim children in that school unless they are prepared to compromise their faith. It is glaring from the way she hobnobs with Muslim officials who have exhibited readiness to compromise. She sees them as ‘liberal’ Muslims. To her a good Muslim is one who is not ready to stand by his or her religion. Yet she knows the rules in her own denomination (SU) where compromise is taboo. Imagine people who claim to be educated willingly denying entrance to schools to school children.

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“It is impunity. It is tyranny of the highest order. We will resist this marginalization with every legitimate arsenal at our disposal. It cannot happen in Ibadanland. UIS authorities have acted ultra vires by shuting those students out. This is not a school where anyone can do what he or she likes. It is a fee-paying institution and the authorities will have to explain why those Muslim students who have duely paid their school fees are shut out of the school gates. The judiciability is not in contention here. A prima facie has been established. If UI itself is not an island, its international school cannot be entire of itself.

“They should look back and ponder. What happened in Osun State when Christian parents engineered their children and wards to wear church garments to school? How long did the church garment culture last in Osun schools? Why do people love to start what they cannot finish? What happened in the Law School when a single female Muslim law graduate challenged the status quo? Or have we forgotten the Amasa Firdaus affair so soon? What happened in Lagos State just two days ago after several years of depriving female Muslim children of their rights? How long will it take this principal to come to her senses?

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“Phebean Olowe will eat her words. So will her cronies. The battle has just begun. We will humble her without firing a single shot and without recourse to violence. It is a battle of wits between the oppressor and the oppressed. Phebean Olowe should stop massaging her ego. She should do the right thing before it is too late.

“We will see who has the backing of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Her rubber-stamp PTA will need to explain to all Nigerians how their school’s laws can over-ride the Nigerian constitution. We hope they know what they are up against.”

The group also called on the University of Ibadan management to wade in into the crisis.

“We advise the management of the University of Ibadan to intervene. The school principal must be called to order. We urge the Muslim parents to send their children and wards to school everyday and to also record treatments meted out to them by the school authorities. Freedom is never given on a platter of gold. Dare to struggle, dare to win. No retreat, no surrender.”

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