Osun religious face-off: Calm returns as hijab-wearing persists

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Tension was yesterday doused in Osun State after two days of what could have developed into religious crises following an Osogbo High Court judgement which allowed female Muslim students in public schools in the state to wear hijab along with their uniform. Specifically, It was gathered that normalcy has returned to Baptist High School, Adeeke Iwo which for two days was at the centre of attraction as the students of the school attended classes in both hijab and Christian robes.

Members of Muslim Students Society of Nigeria, Lagos State Area Unit, protest victimisation of secondary school students using Hijab by principals at Lagos House, Alausa, Ikeja, yesterday. Photo: Bunmi Azeez.
Members of Muslim Students Society of Nigeria

Meantime, a statement signed by the Deputy Governor, Mrs Grace Titi Laoye-Tomori, denied the report that the school at the centre of the controversy, Baptist High Chool, Iwo was ordered shut by the government.

According to her; ‘’What the Government did was to ensure adequate security of the students and teachers while security men ensured there was no threat to peace while teaching was in progress.’’

The development in the school on Wednesday nearly led to physical assault  between Muslim and Christian leaders at the gate of the school before the intervention of the traditional ruler of the town, Oba AbdulRasheed Akanbi who mediated in the rift. Our usually reliable source told Vanguard that only female Muslim students of the school appeared in their usual hijab yesterday in the school while their Christian colleagues came into the school in the normal uniform.

It was further learned that the Christian body shifted their position after a marathon meeting with security operatives in the state on Wednesday to find away out of the crisis before it snow-balls into religious war between the Muslims and Christians in the state.

According to the source, the meeting which was held at the office of the state Director of Security Services,DSS, Mr. Ike Madagwana  had in attendance the state police commissioner, Mr. Femi Olanipekun, representative of the state government who were the immediate past commissioners for Information and Strategy, Hon. Sunday Akere and that of Justice and Attorney general and commissioner for Justice, Mr Wale Afolabi.

Osun hijab crisis
Osun hijab crisis

Also present at the meeting were representatives of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps NSCDC and other relevant security agencies in the state .

Commenting on the development, the state police Commissioner, Mr. Femi Olanipekun told newsmen that there was a peaceful meeting between the Christian body and the security agencies in the state to restore peace between the Christian and Muslim communities in the state. He stated that the Christian body was also advised to live in harmony with Muslims in the state .

Also,representatives of the All Progressive Congress APC in the state, government officials on Wednesday night held a meeting with the state Chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, on how to resolve the issue of hijab wearing by female Muslim students in public secondary schools in the state.

Government has shut no school in Osun over hijab

The state government’s statement  on whether the school was shut or not reads; ‘’ The attention of the Government of the State of Osun  has been drawn to a publication in the Vanguard edition of today, June 16th, 2016 where it was reported that the Baptist High School, Iwo, had been ordered shut by the Government.

“This, we must state categorically, is false in all respects. ‘’The Government got the report of moves by some people to cause crisis in the school as their own reaction to the judgment of the court which permitted female students to wear hijab as part of accessories to their school uniform. ‘’What the Government did was to ensure adequate security of the students and teachers while security men ensured there was no threat to peace while teaching was in progress.

‘’While investigations are ongoing, we have been briefed by the school Principal who stated that not all those who posed for photos with choir robes were students of the school. ‘’Those who wanted to pose for photos for the media sensation have gone away from the school. That could not have been a reason for the government to shut down the school. ‘’We are miffed by the report in the Vanguard which stated that the school had been shut. Till this moment, students of Baptist High School, Iwo the school where this instigated drama has taken place are in their classrooms.

‘’We are not unaware of the desperate moves by some misguided elements of our society to cause mayhem using the decision of the court on the hijab matter as a tinder box. But we feel that a reputable news organization like yours should be wary of the activities of such people for news is ethically meant to be factual, responsible, and unbiased. ‘’We therefore wish to inform Vanguard Newspaper of the urgent need to correct this misinformation.’’

NSCIA, MSSN declare open support for Osun Muslims

Meantime, the Nigeria Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs and Muslim Students’ Society of Nigeria have expressed disappointment over the reaction of Christian Association of Nigeria after a court judgement granting Muslims the right to wear hijab (Muslims headscarf) in public schools in Osun State.

While the Secretary General of the Nigeria Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA), Prof. Ishaq Oloyede, described the action of CAN as malicious, MSSN National and Lagos State Amirs (Presidents), Mallam Jameel Muhammad and Saheed Ashafa respectively tagged it an attempt to cause violence.

They spoke at the Grand Finale of the 14th Biennial Qur’an Memorisation Competition organised by MSSN, Lagos State Area Unit in honour of late Alhaji AbdulLateef Adegbite in Lagos. Oloyede accused CAN of plotting to make Muslims illiterates in the country by allegedly asking them not to cover their heads. He said: “I do not see how hijab being worn by a Muslim lady is offensive to others. If our sisters in the catholic could go out in their own dress and it is not offensive to Muslims, then they (Christians) should tolerate Muslims too.

“I think we are having anti religion tendency. I am aware that there is a case against National Youth Service Corps by a catholic lady who was asked to wear what was not acceptable to her. So, it is not just Muslims. As far as NSCIA is concerned, we cannot because we are Nigerians be de-islamised.” Oloyede said neither Christians nor Muslims have the right to resort to violence in a bid to get their rights.

On his part, the National Amir of MSSN, Mallam Jameel Muhammad, urged Muslims in Osun State to resist the ‘provocative’ actions of CAN, saying, “We don’t need to be violent with them. As Muslims, we should be law abiding and not be distracted with statements that are capable of causing chaos.” He also faulted the decision of some judges to refer Muslim students in Lagos State to a special court for constitutional interpretation on whether or not Hijab should be allowed in Lagos State public schools.

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