“Muskan Khan might have gained international recognition and succeeded in speaking up for the millions of defenceless Indian Muslim women, but that will not change the status of protest as haram (unlawful) in Islam”. The above statement was written by a commentator on a WhatsApp platform in reaction to the story, originally published by Al-Jazeera, but republished by Muslim News, with the title, Outrage after hijab-wearing woman heckled by Hindu mob in India.
To him and probably few other Muslims, protest against hijab persecution in a democratic state like India is against the teaching of Islam, but what would have happened if the fearless and courageous Muslim student hadn’t taken the bold step to resist oppression of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, RSS – a hindu far-right thug, who heckled her in a video that has now gone viral?
The whole world wouldn’t have heard her cry for freedom, justice, right? Fine! She didn’t only speak on behalf of millions of defenceless Muslim women in hijab in India, the college student from the Indian state of Karnataka has become the face of Muslim women’s resistance for taking on a crowd shouting Hindu slogans as she fought to protect the right to wear the hijab in school.
It’s important to note that their struggle did not start with protests, I guess we all know? There had been series of dialogues between the Muslim community and the radical Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi over rights of the Muslims, yet they turned deaf ears to their cries.
I believe all remember the controversies that trailed India Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) which discriminated against Indian Muslims in 2019. Of course, the illegal law was first challenged in court by the Indian Union Muslim League, but the anti-Muslim government said ‘no going back’, due to their clandestine plot to flush out Muslims from India. What did they do thereafter? Neither did they rebel nor revolt against the constituted authority despite clear evidence that Modi is promoting anti-Muslim policies. They held protests, which eventually put pressure on Modi’s government not to implement the CAA two years after it was passed.
Hence, this brave lady took the courage to protest against the hijab ban peacefully and today, the world is talking about her. Several other students in colleges across India have joined the protests, seeking their rights to use hijab as firmly established in their constitution. The incident is coming at a time when there are coordinated attacks on women using hijab globally, Nigeria inclusive.
However, unlike India where Muslims are in the minority – about 10.9% despite their 210 millions population (as at 2020), Muslims are the majority in Nigeria, yet their female folks cannot wear hijab peacefully. Sadly, there is a constitutional provision, but the overzealous officers, who always claim to be ‘tolerant’ will not allow them to adorn the hijab without hassles.
Interestingly, there are also Appeal Court verdicts in favour of the hijab, which allow students to use hijab anywhere in Nigeria. While the Lagos Appeal Court case (which also favours Muslims) is awaiting the Supreme Court judgement, Muslims’ so-called peace loving neighbours have declared war against our wards/children over hijab.
Series of dialogues and negotiations had been held with Christian leaders with no fruitful results, and now that those children embarked on peaceful protests, some are calling for their heads.
So, how can this peaceful expression of religious freedom amounts to haram? Didn’t our beloved Prophet Muhammad, SAW, say, the best jihad is to say the truth even in the face of a tyrant? Should the over 210 million Indian Muslims fold their hands in the face of tyranny and oppression just because of a politically warped view (of a school of thought) the advocates want to impose on others; whereas there are many opposing views (other schools of thought) on the same issue?
If Muskan Khan’s peaceful protest had turned violent, some insensitive Muslims would have blamed her, just as the late Habeeb Idris was blamed by the wicked ‘holier than thou’ brethren for participating in a similar peaceful hijab protest in Oyun Local Government, Kwara State, Nigeria.
In fact, those brethren lashed out at the innocent children and their parents for demanding their rights to use the hijab, terming it haram. They said, in their ignorance, while trying to mock Habeeb Idris and other protesters, “shame! this is the result of your peaceful protest! Subhanallah! Alas, they forgot so soon, or pretend to have forgotten that the Nigerian Muslim Ummah had on several occasions staged successful peaceful protests, online or offline, such as the Firdaus Amasa hijab saga with the Nigerian Law School.
By now, if it were to be abroad, hashtag #justiceforHabeebIdris would have rocked social media because that young man was killed unjustly and from available information, no arrest has been made a week after his gruesome murder by thugs allegedly hired by the Christian Association of Nigeria and the management of the school.
Surprisingly, the Nigerian Islamophobic media and the so-called human rights activists have kept criminal silence because the victim is a Muslim, and the alleged culprits were members of the Christian body. Indeed, he who pays the piper, dictates its tune.
Apart from the media bias, Nigerian Muslims lack coordinated advocacy culture. The Nigerian anti-hijab ban campaign would have been more impactful and attracted the attention of international media if after the killing of Habeeb Idris in Oyun LG, secondary school coordinators across the country (under the aegis of Muslim Students’ Society of Nigeria) had staged a peaceful protest in their respective schools or localities and posted the images, videos on social media with the same coordinated hashtag – demanding justice for the victim and calling for an end against hijab persecution!
But the Muslim Students’ body had been hijacked in many of the states where hijab discrimination persist by the holier-than-though external forces who do not believe in protests and would never join the advocacy, same way they haven’t joined World Hijab Day even ten years after its commencement, claiming it is a form of celebration, even when the organisers have on several occasions debunked such uninformed claim.
Protest, otherwise known as peaceful opposition is a potent tool to demand for one’s right, especially in a democratic setup where the law of the land permits such. According to the Shari’ah, it falls under ‘mas’alatun khilafiyah‘, the issue where scholars of Islam differ and where differences of opinions are allowed. While some claim it’s haram with their evidence, others disagree, citing relevant examples even among the Salaf (early righteous Muslims) endorsing criticism or protest against the leaders in the public and in their absence. I hold the latter view, yet, I’ll not condemn the advocates of the former position, despite their destructive criticism, with the ‘might is always right’ mentality. Read more HERE
It must therefore be stated that while protest is not the only step used in demanding justice, it became necessary, especially when dialogue and litigation appeared to have failed – like the Lagos hijab case, where students are still being victimised despite the Appeal Court verdict.
There shouldn’t be a fuss any longer over hijab in Nigeria after the Appeal Court judgement, but the hatred the Christians have for anything that has the semblance of Islam in this country is indeed despicable. They intend to extinguish the light of Allah (Islam) with everything in their possession – strength, influence and connections, even when they claim to be part of an inter-faith organisation which preaches peace, freedom and tolerance.
In my own view, the Kwara hijab protest is not primarily staged against the constituted authorities. Unlike Lagos, Gov. AbdulRahman Abdurrazaq has issued a circular for any willing student to adorn Hijab in all public and grant-aided schools. Hence, it is primarily targeted against the overzealous non-Muslim officers and fanatics in public and private establishments who defied government order and took laws into their own hands.
The use of hijab is likewise allowed and respected in all federal institutions. In fact, the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu recently reaffirmed at the Abuja World Hijab Day 2022 that the Nigerian constitution allows women to wear hijab anywhere in Nigeria. Yet, hijab-wearing Muslim women are being harassed and publicly ridiculed at the federal government-owned School of Nursing in many Southwestern states. Thus, the protest was against the overzealous school management, who denied Muslim students right, not the FG.
It is not out of place, however, if protest or World Hijab Day event is therefore staged to hold government accountable for all the atrocities its officers are inflicting on innocent students and demand for justice – after all, the primary functions of government are to protect the basic human rights which include right to life, religion, association and to possess property. Ibn Al -Jawzi reported that in 458AH, Muslims gathered at the palace of the Khalifah in Baghdad to protest against one of his policies; the leader later reconciled with them. This testifies that such a peaceful assembly is never a sign of rebellion. However, the only exception to this is the protest that leads to revolution and armed struggle against the constituted authority. Allah knows best.
© Muslim News Nigeria (2022)
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