The recent Hijab brouhaha generated by the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in Kwara State calls for more concern about how the inhabitants of the “Giant of Africa” are towing the path of retrogression in this age of civility and tolerance across the globe.
In times when several parts of the world are forging ahead, acknowledging and granting the rights of others – including the dress code of Muslim ladies in public places – we seem to have decided to think retrogressively, and do the exact opposite by reverting to the colonial era, where Africans are denied basic rights, their beliefs taken with disdain and citizens forced to adopt foreign norms, civilization and practices.
Our ethnocentrism and intolerance game are at its peak – compared with the pre-Islamic Arab era where only the fittest survived, making one to wonder where our humanity has suddenly disappeared into.
We climb the pulpit every week to preach the “word of God” and throng our places of worship; but, we practially shrug off the imports of the lectures the very moment we step out of the house of worship, as “reality hits harder than our interpretation of whatever has been said or heard”.
In Nigeria, we have two major religions (without discountenancing the minor ones) and both religions certainly preach love for one another. They do encourage tolerance and kind behaviour to the adherents of other faiths. Both the Qur’an and Bible preach this in several verses.
In the Qur’an, Allah says in Surah Ankabut verse 46, “And do not argue with the People of the Scripture (Christians and Jews) except in the best manner possible, except those who do wrong among them. And say (to them), ‘we believe in what has been revealed to us, and what has been revealed to you, our God and your God is One and to Him we have submitted”.
Similarly, Surah Mumtahnah verse 8 says:
“As for those who have not fought against you from your homes, Allah does not prohibit you from dealing with them kindly and equitably. Allah loves the equitable”.
In the same vein, Allah reminded us in Surah Hujuraat verse 13, “O mankind! We have created you as male and female and made you into nations and tribes, so you may know one another. Truly, the most honoured among you in the sight of Allah is the one who is most righteous. Indeed, Allah is All-Knowing, All-Aware”.
Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) was quoted to have said, “Beware! Whoever is cruel and hard on a non-Muslim minority, curtails their rights, burdens them with more than they can bear, or takes anything from them against their will, I will complain against the person on the Day of Judgement”, reported by Abu Dawud.
Many verses in the Bible also promote the spread of love to others, among which is Luke 6:27: “But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you”. Verse 35 of the same chapter continues, “But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great”.
While Matthew 7:12 says, “So, in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you. For this sums up the Law and the Prophets”; 1 Peter 3:8 advised thus: “Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and be humble.”
As much as this essay doesn’t posit to teach us our religions, the recent but needless development in Kwara State regarding the use of hijab by female Muslim students in public schools makes one wonder if some of these verses have eluded those who persist in refusing the girls to exercise their religious right.
But, what exactly will it take us to live peacefully and not trample on the religious rights of others? How do we preach one thing to our congregation then turn around and do the exact opposite? And what exactly is the problem with having Muslim students exercise their religious rights?
Pondering over all these, one is tempted to agree with some parts of NativeDeen’s song, M-U-S-L-I-M that says:
“Everywhere I see, even on TV,
People talking trash about the way I be,
But what they all hate, is if we get great,
Cause they know we’re the only ones with our heads on straight.
And just like NativeDeen also said,
“We’re back on scene
The Number One Deen.”
We’re truly back on scene and we’re ready to proclaim, loud and clear, with our Hijabs, that we’re here to stay and succeed.
▪︎Safiyyah Abdur-Razaq is a journalist, media analyst. She writes from Ilorin, Kwara State
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