The Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, Ogun State has insisted that the niqab (veil) remains banned within the school premises, citing peace and security of members of the university community as reasons for such decision.
In a meeting held on Tuesday, December 14, the Senate of the institution said its earlier decision on students’ dress code remains, laying great emphasis on facial identification of all students at all times within the university.
The niqab question came to limelight after Muslims rose against the action of a security official, who denied a niqab-wearing lady from accessing the university gate, with the claim that it is not allowed by the FUNAAB authorities.
The Muslim Student Society of Nigeria (MSSN), FUNAAB Chapter also weighed in on the issue, noting the discrimination against niqab did not just start, as the FUNAAB authorities included niqab as part of ‘indecent dresses’ in their various billboards in the school environment as far back as 2017.
The outcry from various Muslim groups and individuals led FUNAAB authorities to manage the situation by inviting the University Muslim community for a meeting and promising to revisit the niqab ban.
In what appears to be the outcome of its review of the niqab ban, the Senate insisted on its ban of niqab, saying it goes against the institution’s dress code.
“The Senate reiterated the fact that its decision on dress code was taken without prejudice to any religion, race or creed, but for the peace and security of every member of the University Community and to promote teaching and learning in a conducive atmosphere.
“All members of the University Community, particularly students are therefore reminded that NO change has been approved to the Dress Code put in place since 2017 by the Senate and should be strictly adhered to at all times,” a statement by the school’s registrar, Bola Adekola read.
In reaction, the MSSN, FUNAAB Chapter in a statement said the decision is a religious discrimination, infringement on Muslims’ rights to freedom of religion and invitation to religious crisis.
According to the statement jointly signed by Olaiya Abdulmalik, Ameer; Shittu Fadlullah, General Secretary; and Yunus Abideen, Public Relations Officer, “This ban is an attempt to undermine and disregard the supremacy of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution as amended to outlaw a fundamental norm by a domesticated rule, contrary to Section 1 of the constitution as amended.
“The Senate of the University, despite being aware of the spirit and letters of section 38(1) of the constitution which provides Freedom of Religion; to profess and practise one’s faith and belief anywhere in Nigeria, and the fact that it is an Institution of the Federal Government of Nigeria, established through taxpayers’ funds, went ahead to outlaw the provision of the extant law.
“This utter disregard of the constitution and even Muslim members of the University Community in a school that is owned by the public and funded by taxpayers’ money, only proves the Senate has resorted to anarchy and calls for such. The resolution of the senate preaches violence rather than peace, bigotry rather than tolerance and encourages hatred rather than peaceful coexistence,” it added.
Commenting on the security ground on which the ban was hinged, the Muslim group described it as a decoy, while challenging the Senate to provide instances where security of the institution was breached due to the use of niqab.
“It is rather shameful that the school management/Senate have been masking this bigotry-inspired ban with security and facial identification. We challenge the Senate to provide from its records any security breach on grounds of Niqab usage. Even more disappointing is the fact that the University Senate, full of rather reputable academicians were cajoled into falling for this excuse which is only a decoy.
“If the school is being fair and honest with its stance of upholding the fundamental rights of all students, they could have devised a means that would enhance identification of sisters in veils rather than banning the niqab, at least, people veiling their faces with facemask are identified. Yet, the school has records of all students and their identity.
“The use of niqob (veil) is an obtainable practice in public educational institutions across the globe; UI, LAUTECH, FUTA, UNILAG, OAU, UNIOSUN, KWASU, UNILORIN are among the unending list of schools that have and allow veiled Muslims in their respective campuses. Examples can also be found in institutions across the US, UK and other places across the globe. What makes FUNAAB different? Bigotry?
“The entire Muslim students hereby reject the circular as it unjustly and categorically targets the Muslims rights.”
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