The assumptions on Hijab matter in Nigeria,a must read epistle.

*In Re: Chief Malcolm Omirhobo, Concerning Assumptions on the Hijab Matter*

– Rev (Dr)John Adebayo Abolarin, PhD Law.

Dear Dr Abegunde,

Bros, e kú ojó meta.

I hope you are keeping well. Sorry that it has taken a while before my coming back to you on your response to my earlier post in the above stated matter. I have been extremely busy lately.

I noticed that there are more people on the social media and in the formal news media that are still writing on the issue of Hijab wearing to the school.

Several of my Christian friends and senior Church leaders even up to the leadership of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) said that they are not happy with the decision of the Supreme Court in the matter.

Some of these friends contacted me and expressed the reasons for their disapproval of the court’s decision in the matter.

Apart from the need to respond to your comments, l am writing this message to appeal to the aggrieved Christian brothers and sisters in general not to take the issue to heart. As well, part of my aims is to highlight why l think that this issue is not as difficult as it may appear. I am of the view that there should be no reason to riot over the issue as it happened in Ilorin and at Ijagbo not too long ago.

I carefully read through your submissions on the issue of Hijab and studied the activities of the lawyer that wore traditionalists’ attire into a court room in an attempt to drive home his point.

It is not feasible to respond to each comment made by everyone, so, l chose to use some of your comments as a template to respond to everyone’s query since your concerns are basically the same in nature as the other people.

This is not an issue about you as a person, but a matter of general concern across Nigeria between Christians, Muslims and social policy makers in the government.

Historically, in Nigeria, it was the Muslims in the North that first embraced the concept of monotheism (The notion about the existence of only one God and no one else). The Muslims in the North were the first to become conscious of the “Light” and received civilization induced by external influences.

Except for the predominantly Muslim North, down South, our forefathers were pagans, animists, traditions that many of our people still rejoice in keeping till this very day.

Arguably, the system of western education in general and the physical infrastructures that came with it were some of the best gifts given to us in Nigeria by Christian missionaries that came to us from Europe. They built schools and
hospitals for the benefit of all without any discrimination.

In spite of our pagans’ belief system and cultural practices that included human rituals, the missionaries did not stop to provide the social amenities that our forefathers needed. The missionaries never refused anyone the benefits of their services on the account of a belief system or lack of it.

When the term of the missionaries’ came to an end, they left all, not holding back any strings on any of the gifts they left behind for us. If they had wanted, they could have retained some levels of control over their projects and properties, but they did none of those.

By some twist of fate, the Muslim North and Muslim populated Southern states including Ibadan municipality, Oshogbo district and to some extent Ilorin were reticent about accepting Western Education.

For example, as far back as 1850s to the 1900s, Lagos, the West and Southern regions of Nigeria were already producing doctors, lawyers, teachers, engineers etc. Thus, the first indigenous lawyer that came from the West (Ijesha) was Mr Sapara Williams who was called to the English Bar in London in 1879.

It took about 75 years thereafter before Muslims in the Northern part of Nigeria produced their first lawyer in 1955. This person was Alhaji Abdulganiyu Folorunsho AbdulRasaq, the father of the current Kwara State governor.

The advantages that Alhaji AbdulRasaq had was that he was born and schooled in Onitsha. If he was born in Ilorin and remained there at that time, his story may have been different.

As of 1955 and before independence, the whole of Northern Nigeria from Sokoto to Maiduguri to Jos including Kwara State did not have as much as ten university graduates.

Why is this background history important to the judgement given by the Supreme Court in Nigeria?

Lately, it was reported that about 11 million children of school age are not in education in Nigeria. The point l am making is that the vast majority of these children are more likely to be female Muslim children from predominantly Muslim backgrounds in Oshogbo district, Ibadan municipality and the core north starting from Ilorin through to Sokoto and Maiduguri.

The fact of the matter is that there are many parents in those parts of Nigeria who with presumably good reasons believe that western education has a corrupting influence. Some people abhor western ways of life often seen through the windows of the Hollywood films.

It is not the education per se that corrupts, but education brings some level of freedom and can potentially take away superstition, ignorance and deseases.

Rather than allowing their female children to go to school to take up immodest dressing habits and objectionable lifestyle, many parents would rather give out their children in marriage in the early years.

So therefore, if giving some allowances to female Muslim children to wear Hijab to school would in some ways assuage the fears of their parents thereby leading to the children being allowed to go to Christian founded schools, would that sacrifice be too much for Christians to bear?

Would it be too much to ask the Christian Churches to tolerate Muslim children by allowing them to come to “Christian” schools in the way that they are?

The real question is, “If Muslim children go to school in Hijab, who would be offended? Is it the missionaries that founded the schools, or Jesus Christ the Head of the Church or Christians of today?” I personally do not believe that Jesus Christ would be offended by it.

Please, how would Hijab wearing by a female child be detrimental to the education of their Christian peers in the same class? Is anything that is particularly wrong with wearing Hijab? Why is it offensive to anyone?

Are we not making a mountain out of nothing here?

Freely we received, are we not called to give freely as well?

The resources used in building the schools given to us by the missionaries came from the pockets of ordinary Church goers in Europe at that time. Even if we have since contributed to the school funding, why should it be difficult for us to share with others without complaining?

With all due respect, most of the arguments you put forward in your write-up are either logical fallacies or they are mere unsubstantiated assertions.

In a short while we can go through each of them so that you can see why they don’t hold water nor are they able to stand up to scrutiny.

Foremost, you said you have been in the UK for almost 20 years and you have never seen where Muslims and Christians attended the same school and the Muslims were allowed to wear Hijab.

I was very surprised to see that assertion. Be it as it may, in the UK there are no schools that are kept exclusively for any religion. Regardless, of race, nationality and colour of the skin, every child of school age in the UK is allowed to attend any school or college that he/she is qualified to attend.

I am aware that you are very familiar with Liverpool city so l will use it as an example. If you go to the schools in Toxteth, including St Hildas, Belvedere Girls’ School, Archbishop Blanche College along Smithdan road, King David’s College and the Blue Coat in Wavertree, Holly Lodge Girls’ School on Queen’s Drive, all in Liverpool City Council, you will see several Muslim children dressed in Hijab in those schools.

This is the same as in Manchester, Rochdale, Leeds, Bradford, Birmingham and in London.

Anyone that usually travels to the UK and visits London frequently (even without taking up residency in the UK) will attest to the fact that the UK is a liberal democratic nation that allows Muslim children to wear Hijab to school if they choose to do so. In more than five years the mayor of London is a Muslim.

Some years back when my wife had our last baby in Whiston Hospital, the doctor that attended to my wife was a Pakistani lady. She came into the delivery suite in Hijab. She was a very young lady in her mid 20s. The British nurses that were on duty that night were old enough to be the age mate of the mother of the Pakistani lady, but the nurses were very professional. They took the instructions of the doctor with due respect and carried out what they were told to do without any hesitation.

I can entirely understand why many people are very angry over the Supreme Court’s decision whether Christian or Muslim.

Starting with Kwara State, there are already age long animosity and contentions between the Christian population in the state and the political class that are predominantly Muslims, more especially the leaders from Kwara Central.

The vexing issues include a perceived domination by that region over others such that other parts of the state are believed to have been marginalised or excluded from mainstream governance in the state for a very long time.

Coupled with that is a contention that Muslims in the State are usually given preferential treatments above their Christian counterparts when allocating resources and key posts. (Thanks be to God, many people will agree that the current governor, Mallam AbdulRasaq AbdulRaman is addressing that issue of imbalance in resources allocation).

Worse still, it is increasingly believed that there is a systemic Islamisation of Nigeria and a planned takeover of Nigeria by a few minority Fulanis that are violently grabbing landed properties across Nigeria.

Many people are angry due to the perception that the issue of Hijab is part of that Islamisation process in Nigeria.

You may or may not agree with me that the issue about whether Hijab should be allowed in schools in Kwara State predates the current kidnapping and terrorists’ attacks by the Fulanis in Nigeria.

My argument is that there are no links between the two. Most certainly, Kwara State Government is not complicit in the atrocities being committed by the Fulanis in Nigeria.

The Kwara State Government is only trying to protect the interest of Muslim children in the state who may be favourably disposed to wearing Hijab to school. The Kwara State Government is not in any way a party to the alleged planned take over of Nigeria whether through Islamisation or fulanisation of Nigeria.

It is important to separate the two because they are mutually exclusive of each other. It is important to separate what the Kwara State Government is doing from the perceived injustice of the past including the alleged intentions of the terrorist Fulanis.

The was part of Prince Feyi’s mistakes last week when he exploded in anger and came up mixing these issues. Unfortunately, there are still many people with that same frame of mind.

Part of the difficulties with that mindset is that, whilst it may be true that past and present administration may have allegedly offended Christians in some matters previously, but it is inappropriate to transfer the aggression on those issues to matters relating to Hijab wearing.

We have to deal with each case separately so that we don’t lose out on both.

Now, let us come back to the decision of the Supreme Court. Not all cases are suitable to go to the Supreme Court. There are filter systems in place to ensure that no one takes frivolous cases to the Court of Appeal or the Supreme Court so that these apex courts are not inundated with worthless cases and frivolous arguments.

A litigant cannot just say l am going to the Court of Appeal or the Supreme Court on a matter only because he is not happy with the decision of the lower Court.

To successfully take a matter to the Supreme Court, among other factors you need to demonstrate that your case has a realistic prospect of success, you need to establish that the Judge in the lower Court erred in law or that he grossly misstated a material fact of the case in such a way that if the facts of the case were stated accurately it would have influenced the outcome of the case in favour of the appellant. It would also be important to demonstrate that the matter brought to the Supreme Court is of sufficient interest to the public.

Clearly, the issue in the case of Hijab wearing to the school is of utmost interest to Nigerians and so it merited the intervention of the Supreme Court.

As l stated in my previous review, the Supreme Court made a valid and logical decision going by international standards.

In my view, it is not a decision that the Supreme Court took lightly neither will they reverse that decision anytime soon.

Let us take a look at the merits, if any, in Chief Malcolm Omirhobo’s activities that has gone viral on the social media in the past few days.

Malcolm claimed that since the Supreme Court gave a relief to Muslim children to wear Hijab to the school, the Supreme Court has by extension impliedly granted leave to members of all shades of religions to dress to work in their religious garment and as such, he will now continue to attend court sessions in his traditional regalia.

You don’t need to be a lawyer to see the hollowness of that argument. Foremost, a specific matter was brought before the Supreme Court relating to attendance of children at school and which the court ruled on.

The ruling did not say that every Muslim child should wear Hijab. It is only those who want to do so. The insinuation that all Christian founded schools and colleges will now be flooded with Hijab is only an exaggeration.

You may then wish to argue that after all the ruling is still a matter relating to religion and so the court should not rule in favour of one religion and then rule differently in a matter affecting another religion.

So why is this case different?

Malcolm claimed to be a traditionalist. Please, go through the following questions and answer yes or no to each of the questions.

1. Before the issue of Hijab came up, and before the decision was made by the Supreme Court on the matter, has Malcolm always dressed in traditional costume whenever he visited Ikoyi Club in the evening to unwind after work?

2. Whenever Malcolm took his wife and children out for some leisure activities, does he normally dress up in that way?

3. The last time he traveled from Lagos to his home village or home town, did he travel down there wearing the costume?

4. Whenever he took his children to school, has he always driven to school dressed in that traditional garment?

5. Whenever he went to visit his friends and relatives in Lagos where presumably he lives, does he always visit them dressed in that way?

6. Since his name is Malcolm, he is probably a Christian as well, does he usually dress up that way to go to the Church?

7. Specifically, are there demands on him by his traditional religion practices to dress in his religious garment all the time and to wherever he went?

I am sure, the answer to each of these questions would be a capital *No!*

Let us take it further.

8. When members of the Celestial Church of Christ and other White garment Churches are going to the market purposely to either sell or buy goods, do they travel to the market in their Sutana and walk there barefooted?

9. When members of these groups are going to occasions or to “Ówànbe” parties, do they normally go in their Church garments?

We can repeat all the questions asked Malcolm in the circumstances of the members of the white garment Churches.

Again, if we are going to be truthful to ourselves you will find out that the response to each of those questions will be another emphatic NO!

If we then ask our Muslim sisters the same set of questions as we asked the traditionalists and the members of the White Garment Churches you will find out that the answer to each of those questions would be an emphatic capital *Yes*

The point is that all these religious people only wear their costumes to their places of worship and never to any other place.

That being the case, why would the Supreme Court consider granting to other religions the concessions that they don’t actually need? Why should the court deny a Muslim child a right to practice her religion only because other people would insist that they must be granted a similar relief even when they don’t really need it?

I noticed in your submission an allegation that l favoured Muslims’ causes but biased against traditionalists and Christians.

There is no single shred of credible evidence to demonstrate that I am biased against anyone. Your accusation is a logical fallacy. I am a Christian and a Pastor for that matter. If l am a biased person, logically I should favour the cause of Christians.

I have only given professional legal opinion based on facts, evidence and law which happens to favour Muslims on this occasion.

In my personal experience I have in the past taken up cases for homosexual people and won several of their cases for them. I diligently prosecuted their cases to the best of my ability. God granted us success. My first instinct is that they are human beings even if l don’t agree with what they do.

Several years ago when our Church ran a Youth Club and Community Development Projects, among the full-time staff was a young white British lady who was a lesbian. At the time of her employment we were not aware of this.

She was with us for several years without any of us in the Church knowing her status. She came to the Church almost every Sunday and heard me preach.

One day, the lady called me and said she wanted to talk with me. She then said she was a lesbian. The following Sunday she stood up in the Church and announced to everyone in the Church that she was a lesbian. She phoned her father in London, the father also happened to be a pastor. She confessed to her father that she was a lesbian.

The lady thought that I was going to sack her immediately, but l never did. To my mind, why should I fire her? Regardless of her circumstances, she is a human being, she deserved to eat and live.

The point is that by allowing her to keep her job does not me that l accepted the practice of homosexuals.

I may never accept the practices of traditionalists, but I love people even if l reject their doings. If l see anyone attempting to cheat or trample on the rights of traditionalists l will to the best of my ability defend them. I don’t discriminate against anyone. I give room, time and allowances to people to find God at their own time. Meanwhile, at every opportunity I take time to gently let people know the harm in what they may be doing wrong.

Rev John Adebayo Abolarin, PhD Law.

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