This week, the story of Hajia Fatimah Bakene, a Niqob (veil) wearing Muslim woman who was allegedly brutalised and beaten by a masquerade at the Adedotun area of Abeokuta, Ogun State took the social media by storm.
Although the news got no mention in the mainstream media, Muslim netizens shared its first report, with the screaming headline, “Masquerade brutalises sister on Niqob in Ogun State”, across all the social media platforms.
The sad story, written by one Abu Bannat, read in part, “A confirmed report reached us that on the 9th of June, 2019, around 2pm along Adedotun area of Abeokuta, a Muslimah named Fatimah Bakene who was dressed in full veil and Niqab was dragged off a motorcycle by a masquerade popularly called ‘Sokoto’ in the area.
“The sister was then brutalised and beaten by the masquerade while his followers merely watched the pathetic scene. Her Niqob was also pulled off by the masquerade and she was humiliated and embarrassed on that very spot, which is a very busy road.”
While the report was gaining momentum on social media with Muslim netizens calling for justice for the victim, with hashtags #IstandWithNiqobiteFatimaahBakene and #IstandAgainstMasqueradeSokotto, another story emerged, which claimed the incident was only a case of harassment.
The President, Rights and Freedom Advocates (RIFA), Mr Soliu Luqman said in a press release which was also shared widely on social media to douse the tension of the earlier report that the victim was never brutalised, neither was she beaten.
He said, “From the reports directly from the sister, Fatimah and her husband, Mr Muhammed Bakene, it was reported that the sister was on a bike at the time the masquerade misbehaved, had her Okada man slow down to allow the masquerade leave the road.
“However, rather than leave the road, the report has it that the masquerade tugged at the sister and hugged her on the bike while his followers hailed him.”
Muslim News’ findings, in conjunction with Ummah World TV, revealed that Hajia Bakene was not brutalised, but was only harassed by the masquerade.
Our investigative team, which arrived at the Adedotun area of Abeokuta in Ogun State on Thursday, June 13, were denied access to the victim and her husband, who according to sources are afraid of granting interviews for the fear of escalating the incident.
Some Muslim brothers who dragged the masquerade to the police station when the incident happened on Sunday, the 9th of June however agreed to speak with our correspondent on the condition of anonymity.
They claimed that the earlier report that she was beaten was twisted, insisting that the masquerade only hugged and tugged the Muslim sister to himself, and thereafter touched her forehead with his three times.
“All the while, she struggled to free herself from the masquerade’s grip, while his followers were hailing him. The embarrassing situation made her to call on one of the Muslim brothers around, who asked her to inform her husband and gave the husband the little courage to report to the police.
Masquerade arrested and detained
The sources said the masquerade’s misconduct was reported to the DPO of the Enugada District Police Station, who swung into action and demanded that the masquerade be presented for questioning.
“Maybe they thought the DPO was joking. He ordered that two of the masquerade’s followers be detained until the masquerade presented himself. With the support of the Muslim brothers in the area, the masquerade was brought to the station and detained.
“The masquerade has since begged for mercy from the brothers and some Muslim leaders in the town. This made the victim’s husband, who was in the first place not interested in taking the matter up legally due to the fear of a potential blowback, opt out on Tuesday, June 11 and request that the masquerade be released and made to sign an undertaking that such would not happen again.
“This was done in conjunction with the masquerade’s leaders, who were also summoned by the DPO,” the sources added.
Concerned Muslims kick
Not satisfied with the settlement, a Muslim social media activist, Abu Bannat, on Wednesday, June 12, published an article with the headline, “Masquerade brutalises sister on Niqob in Ogun State”, in which he alleged that the followers of the masquerade conspired with the DPO to sweep the case under the carpet and bury it.
He also called on Nigerian Muslims to take the case up and get justice not only for the victim, but for the Ummah at large.
There have been a series of coordinated attacks on Muslim girls in the Hijab and their mothers in the Niqab in government-owned schools and public places in Nigeria.
Abu Bannat, in the article, cited a similar incident at the Saje community, where a Muslim lady was also pulled down from a motorcycle, stripped and beaten by thugs while she was trying to raise money to pay for the discharge of the corpse of her dead child from the hospital.
Eventually, the case was merely ‘settled out of court’ and that was the end of the story.
“We the Muslims have had enough and we are not satisfied with that kind of ‘back yard settlement’ between the police and the boys, because it is devoid of justice and fair hearing. It is rather an indirect approval of their actions.
“This is an injustice to Islam and a violation of the rights and freedom of the Muslim woman. Does it mean any masquerade can harass any veiled woman on the streets and merely write a letter at the station and be set free? This method will not deter them at all,” he added.
Sheikh Adenuga and his daughter, Hameedah’s invitation by the police
There were also agitations from a section of the Muslims in the community, who insisted that the culprit should be charged to court and punished for assault.
A respected Muslim scholar, Sheikh Adenuga and his daughter, Hameedah were yesterday, Friday, invited for questioning by the DPO of Enugada Police station for their role in the incident, before the case was later transferred to the Ogun State Police command, Abeokuta.
Muslim News learnt that their invitation was not unconnected to Abu Bannat’s post, which the force claimed was a total misrepresentation of what happened.
The Police also alleged that the controversial article was written by the Sheikh’s daughter, whose name and phone number was coincidentally penned on it.
Shortly after their release on Friday evening, Hameedah spoke exclusively with Muslim News’ correspondent, who was also at the meeting held at the police command, where all parties involved were present and agreed to settle the case amicably.
She said, “My dad and I were summoned to Enugada police station as regards Abu Banaat’s post. I was called because my contact was written in the article. The police claimed I wrote it but my Dad defended me, insisting that I didn’t author it.
“We were later transferred to Elewe-Eran, where the PPRO was waiting for us. We were made to believe that the post indicted the police of not discharging their duty, which we made him know was a mere misunderstanding, as the post was not mean to indict the Police force. The case has been cleared now, anf the victim’s husband has withdrawn the case,” she added.
In a signed withdrawal letter, a copy of which was exclusively forwarded to Muslim News, the victim’s husband accepted the plea of the family of the Sokoto masquerade and the Oloje of Ilugun.
He also agreed to withdraw the charge against the masquerade for assaulting his wife on the condition that such an act will not happen in the future to all Muslim women in Niqob.
The Ogun state police command, which later issued a press release, exonerated the police of any wrongdoing, stating that the case is now settled following the withdrawal by the victim’s husband.
The police urged members of the public to discountenance the social media write-up in totality, as it is mischievous and capable of causing religious unrest.
“Social media should be used in disseminating authentic information and not falsehood, as the end product of social media misuse can be disastrous for all.”
A Muslim lawyer and Director of the Hijab Rights Advocacy Initiative (HRAI), Barrister Mutiat Orolu-Balogun said that, though the incident is a sad development for the Muslim community, it is unfortunate that they cannot go ahead with the case since the victim has dropped it.
“Unfortunately, such harassment could happen to anyone but the Muslim Community cannot go ahead with the case since the complainant herself has dropped it. We might not have a locus standi, but we will continue to sensitise Muslims on the need to conduct themselves peacefully while demanding for their rights,” she said.
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