The Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) has disagreed with Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, on the issue of hijab as part of school uniform.
In a statement on Monday, MURIC Director, Prof. Ishaq Akintola, said hijab on school uniforms should not lead to the annihilation of any culture.
Quoting Soyinka at an event in Abeokuta last week, “There is one other thing going on in my mind. And I think we have the experts here who will talk about it. There are some school children over there. And one wonderful thing about them for me is that they are in uniform. In other words, I cannot tell which one is a Christian, which one is a Muslim, which one is an Orisa worshipper, which one is a Zoroastrian, which one is a Buddhist. They are school children.”
But responding, Akintola said, “We beg to disagree sir. The children may be in uniform, but what type of uniform? That is what the respected Nobel Laureate did not see. He could not see what we see everyday. We see humiliation everyday. We see intimidation everyday. We see stereotyping, stigmatization and harassment everyday. Muslim children come home everyday with tales of derision and ostracization in the hands of school principals and teachers.
“The students Professor Soyinka saw were in Christian uniform but of course Prof did not see that. Anytime female Muslim children are denied the right to use hijab, they are forced to use Christian uniform. Any female Muslim student who wears her uniform without hijab is wearing Christian uniform.
“A school uniform for Muslim female students without hijab is alien to Muslim culture. What Muslims accept as school uniform for their girls is one with a head covering. It is Christians who do not mind uncovering their heads in public. We do, and our value system should be respected if there is tolerance in society. Why are educated Nigerians unwilling to tolerate hijab? Who did this to Nigeria?”
He said that female Muslim students who are demanding hijab are not asking to use uniforms different from what other students are using, as they will wear the same uniform but will add a head cover of the same stuff and colour with the uniform.
He said, “The Nobel Laureate is a widely travelled person. He must be familiar with Liverpool in the United Kingdom. Several Muslim children use Hijab on top of their school uniforms in Archbishop Blanche College (along Smithdan road), King David’s College, Blue Coat in Wavertree Belvedere Girls’ School, Toxteth, St Hildas and Holly Lodge Girls’ School (on Queen’s Drive), all in Liverpool City Council. Ditto in Birmingham, Leeds, Bradford, London, Manchester and Rochdale.
“This is the problem with Nigeria. Our political leaders and scholars take breakfast in London, lunch in Virginia, dinner in Scotland. They see trams, trolleys, subways and other modern systems of transportation. But they never think of replicating it in their own country. They see freedom of religion in form of school children using hijab but they will come to Nigeria and oppose hijab because they think Nigerian Muslims are destined to die in colonial bondage.
“The picture of Barrack Obama sitting with an American school girl wearing hijab went viral during his administration. There were other students in hijab in the same classroom. That picture sent a strong message to the world. It is only in Southern Nigeria that we want to perpetuate French assimilation method. The rest of the world has moved on. But Nigerians, particularly Southerners, remain glued to colonial mentality.”