February 2022 started on a good note for many Muslim women across the world, Nigeria inclusive, as they staged the yearly World Hijab Day, WHD, on the 1st day of the month to create awareness about the continuous victimization of Muslim ladies, especially school girls adorning hijab in both public and private institutions.
The Nigerian Muslim women also joined their counterparts in the world to mark the day with a series of educative and informative activities which started with a press conference where they called on various government agencies and private institutions to accommodate the use of hijab, the Muslim attire, and see it as users’ divine and constitutional rights.
1. Pupils of Oyun Baptist High School Kwara State this morning staged a peaceful protest in front of the school to demand their right to use #Hijab on uniform in accordance to the Nigerian constitution and Kwara State circular but Christian body #CAN shun them, saying NO TO HIJAB pic.twitter.com/orq30wjnlH
— Muslim News Nigeria (@muslimnews_NG) February 3, 2022
As the awareness continues to gather momentum, an unfortunate incident broke out. On February 3, some Muslim students who were protesting for their rights to use the hijab in Oyun local government area of Kwara State were attacked by hoodlums allegedly sponsored by the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and the management of Oyun Baptist School who were hellbent on preventing the students from entering the school with their shoulders-length hijab.
Muslim News was reliably informed that the students were following the circular of the state government that instructed all categories of government-owned schools to allow willing Muslim schoolgirls to wear the hijab, including grant-aided schools.
Despite attacks on their members, Muslim students of Oyun Baptist High School have arrived at the Kwara State government house to inform @RealAARahman about the non-compliance of their school management to his directive on #Hijab. The Gov. had earlier reaffirmed the use of #Hijab pic.twitter.com/1q6O2yOWBx
— Muslim News Nigeria (@muslimnews_NG) February 3, 2022
The state Commissioner for Education and Human Capital Development, Hajia Sa’adatu Modibbo Kawu, said, “The policy statement of the Kwara State government in allowing willing Muslim schoolgirls to wear hijab in all public schools including grant-aided ones is binding.
“This confirms the pronouncements of the courts of law and the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,” she added.
The school management in collaboration with the Christian body, however, defied a government order and made a banner mounted at the entrance of the school indicating that no student would be allowed to enter the school with hijab.
The inscription on the banner as seen by Muslim News Correspondence who visited the school on February 3, read; “Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, Kwara State chapter says NO TO USE OF HIJAB IN OYUN BAPTIST HIGH SCHOOL AND ALL CHRISTIAN MISSIONARY SCHOOLS IN KWARA STATE. This is our stand…”
To carry out their threat and go in contrary to the Kwara State government directive, the school management locked out schoolgirls in hijab, starting from Monday, January 31 to Wednesday, February 2, before the students staged a peaceful protest on Thursday, February 3, to demand their rights to use the hijab.
During the protest, multiple sources told Muslim News that sponsored thugs allegedly hired by CAN and the school management penetrated the scene with guns, machetes, and other dangerous weapons, leaving several protesters with varying degrees of injury.
Habeeb Idris, a carpenter and member of the Muslim community present at the protest, was later pronounced dead due to a gunshot injury. He was immediately transferred to UITH for a postmortem analysis, Muslim News findings have revealed.
Four Muslims have been shot during a peaceful protest staged by pupils of Oyun Baptist School to demand their right to use #Hijab. The protesters said the school hired thugs and security agents to disperse them violently. In the process, one person reportedly died, others injured pic.twitter.com/qkJX77TOuz
— Muslim News Nigeria (@muslimnews_NG) February 3, 2022
Despite the assault, the students who were unwavering in their commitment moved to the Kwara State Government House in Ilorin to press home their demand on the right of hijab. They held a peaceful demonstration, notifying Governor AbdurRahman Abdurrazaq about the non-compliance of the school management to his directive.
Back in Oyun, the murder of Habeeb Idris triggered an angry reaction from protesting Muslims, who were demanding justice. However, normalcy had since been returned with the intervention of a combined team of police and Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC).
This is totally unacceptable – Kwara Gov’t
The Kwara state government talked tough on the flagrant discrimination by the school management and their co-travellers, CAN, saying the act will not be tolerated.
Hajia Modibbo Kawu totally condemned the resort to violence in the government-owned Oyun Baptist High School, Ijagbo, saying, “This is totally unacceptable.”
According to her, “The Kwara State Government unreservedly condemns the flagrant act of discrimination against anyone, especially children, on religious grounds. Such discrimination will not be tolerated in any public-owned institution in the state,”
She added that, “While the government and security agencies continue to work with leaders on all sides, it hereby directs the immediate shutdown of the school pending resolution of the issue.
“The government commends the security agencies for their prompt action that has restored calm in the area. The government calls on them to investigate and bring to book anyone linked to the violence as a deterrence to others. The government appeals for calm as violence brings nothing good.”
MURIC accuses police of complicity
The Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) has accused the Kwara State Police Command of foot-dragging over the killing for failing to effect any arrest 48 hours after the ugly incident.
According to the human rights organisation, the struggle for hijab has entered another phase with the killing of a Muslim protester, Habeeb Idris, who was later buried on Friday, February 4, in his home town, Lafiagi area of Kwara State,
The director of the faith-based human rights advocacy group, Professor Ishaq Akintola, made the allegation in a statement in Lagos on Saturday, February 5, demanding justice for the deceased.
While some media reported that no one died, others used the term 'feared dead'. We didn't only confirm but attended the burial of Habeeb Idris, who was killed unjustly by thugs allegedly hired by @cannigeria and mgt. of Oyun Baptist High School to disrupt peaceful #Hijab protest. pic.twitter.com/KqO0Dm5Pn6
— Muslim News Nigeria (@muslimnews_NG) February 5, 2022
“We are greatly disappointed by the lackadaisical attitude exhibited by the police in Kwara State. Why is the police developing cold feet on this case? This is culpable homicide for crying out loud. Habeeb must not die in vain. The police must produce his killers. This case cannot be swept under the carpet. There must be consequences for thuggery and hooliganism and the use of dangerous weapons against innocent students.
“Habeeb Idris paid the supreme sacrifice in the struggle for the actualisation of Allah-given fundamental human rights of female Muslim students to use hijab. His death signals another landmark in the history of the civil rights struggles by Yoruba Muslims. Ours is a long struggle against the tyranny of agents of neo-imperialism. We have been politically marginalised, economically oppressed and socially downpressed,” he added.
MMPN urges KWSG to bring perpetrators to book
Another Muslim body, Muslim Media Practitioners of Nigeria, MMPN, Kwara State Chapter, condemned in totality the renewed hostility over the use of hijab in the school, which claimed one life and left many with various degrees of injuries.
MMPN in a statement by its Coordinator, Dr. AbdulRazaq Laaro and Secretary Ahmed Ajiboye, described the incident as disturbing and intolerance taken too far.
The body recalled that the state government had in 2021 through a circular insisted that willing schoolgirls with the approved (uniform) hijab shall have the right to wear same in public schools.
According to the statement, “We are perturbed that individuals or group will find it difficult to respect subsisting judicial pronouncements of the courts of law and the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which favours the use of hijab. How does the wearing of hijab affect anyone who chooses to move around naked whether in schools or outside the school premises?”
MMPN urged the police and other security agencies to be thorough in their investigation to bring perpetrators of the heinous act to book to serve as deterent to others.
It also charged the Kwara State Government to be firm and decisive in taking actions that could prevent further breakdown of law and order in the state.
Court judgment favours Gov’t as owner of the school
A Non-Governmental Organisation, the Muslim Media Watch Group of Nigeria has called for the arrest of all perpetrators of violence leading to the killing and wounding of some Muslims in the community.
In a press statement released by the group and jointly signed by its National Coordinator, Alhaji Abdullahi Ibrahim, and Chief Missioner, Sheikh Abu Sheriff, MWG called on the Kwara State Commissioner of Police Mr. Tuesday Assayamoh to ensure that criminals involved in the crisis are arrested and prosecuted accordingly.
The statement recalled the two judgments delivered so far on hijab and ownership of Schools formerly owned by the Muslim and Christian Missions in Kwara State which favoured the Kwara State Government as owners of Schools and use of hijab as a fundamental human right and called on Security Agencies to deal with anyone fomenting trouble.
The group remarked that since April last year when the matter was amicably settled between KWSG and Kwara CAN, using Ijagbo as the fresh location of attack by some misguided elements is irreligious, unpatriotic, and condemnable.
On the Appeal of the two judgments at the Supreme Court, the Media Watch Group noted that trouble-makers have no regard for the rule-of-law, that was why they went to Ijagbo to launch fresh attacks on Muslim students and their parents.
The group, therefore, called Kwara State Government to enforce its orders as contained in the circular released last year which is being obeyed in all Public Schools in the interest of peace and that maintenance of peace, law, and order is the responsibility of any responsible Government, failure of which will lead to anarchy.
We won’t allow hijab in Kwara mission schools, CAN insists
The Kwara State chapter of CAN however insisted that it will not allow the use of hijab in grant-aided mission schools in the state.
Addressing reporters in Oyun local government area, Rev Samuel Ajayi, who spoke on behalf of the local chapter of CAN, blamed “some suspected Muslim fundamentalists” for the attack during the peaceful hijab protest.
According to him, “it has been said times without number that we cannot and will not allow the use of hijab in our mission schools. We have since asked the state government to return our schools to us.
“We want to inform the general public that whatever happens in our schools on hijab issue, should be dropped at the doorsteps of the state government.
“The aim and mission of those that went to Oyun Baptist High School to foment trouble on the issue of hijab will fail. CAN in the state will resist their move, even with the last ounce of our blood. We, therefore, demand that the hoodlums be fished out and appropriately prosecuted.
“We implore the state government to as a matter of urgency return our schools back to us. Christians are bonafide citizens of this state and we own it together. If the state government refuses we will use all constitutional means to get our schools back.”
Some of the victims of the thugs attacks on Muslim protesters
1. Ajani Abdulazeez (– Cut on the right and sutured) -CHL Health Care Center, Lamodi Offa.
2. Abdulkareem Abdul-Wasiu (-Pelet at upper limbs) -CHL Health Care Center, Lamodi Offa
3. Muftahudeen Luqman (-Pellets removed forehead) -CHL Health Care Center, Lamodi Offa.
4. Abdulwahab Abdulhafeez (–Machet cut superior right ear) -CHL Health Care Center, Lamodi Offa
5. Taofeeq Mustapha (-Eye brow injury from pelet) -CHL Health Care Center, Lamodi Offa.
6. Tajudeen Nurudeen (–lower limbs pellets) -CHL Health Care Center, Lamodi Offa.
7. Habeeb Idris (-Bullet lodged in the skull /brain dead) -CHL Health Care Center, Lamodi Offa.
8. Kareem Ibrahim (-back injury)-CHL Health Care Center, Lamodi Offa
9. Rafiu Garba (–back injury) -CHL Health Care Center, Lamodi Offa.
10. Adeshina Mas’ ud (–deep cut with a matchet in the inner surface of the palm cutting tendon, vessel, nerve and bones) – Kojusola Medical Center (Orthopaedic treatments)
11. xxxxx. xxxxxxx
(-Bullet in the left forearm) – Giwa Hospital, Offa.
— Muslim News Nigeria (@muslimnews_NG) February 1, 2022
The 2022 World Hijab Day might have come to an end with the last event, held in Abuja on Sunday, February 6, by the Coalition of Nigerian Muslim women, the struggle for the use of Hijab in government and private institutions in Nigeria continues, with many cases of rights violation already in court.
“We call on the Nigerian Muslim community, especially those who participated in the World Hijab Day activities, and those who called it bidi’ah (innovation), to all rally round and support the Hijab advocacy in any of the court sittings close to them. I believe that in unity there is strength,” Rasheed Abubakar, Publisher, Muslim News, Nigeria’s most authoritative Islamic Newspaper, noted.
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