A rejoinder on Lagos Schools, Hijab and the sovereignty of the State

(By Semiu A. Akanmu)

To start with, I believe it is sheer blackmail to bring Theocracy here, with the argument that since the state is a non-theocratic state; she must not legislate on religious wear. This argument is the same narrative of anti- Muslims’ right advocate, forgetting so quickly that Nigeria as an entity is neither a secular state nor a theocratic state. I hope Mr Adeolu will not endeavour to disagree that the Common law, that is the English law which is the legal structure in Nigeria is grounded in Judeo-Christians’ tenet. It is devastating that a public intellectual whose country sits on elements of Judeo-Christian ethos as legal instrument will be mentioning non-theocratic state.

Since the Principal of Kadara Junior Grammar School, Ebute Metta, Lagos mal-handled one Aishat Alabi; a student of the school, who was accused of wearing Hijab after official hour, there have been a lot of reactions and counter reactions to arbitrate or adjudicate the insensibility of such teacher. This incidence that earned the Muslim girl 43 strokes of cane has stimulated the Muslim Students’ Society of Nigeria (Lagos State Branch) to seek court redress, and ultimately advocate for the Muslim girls’ rights to put on Hijab even during schools hours. The case according to the Muslims Students’ body is still in court.

As usual, public commentators, social analysts and the fifth columnists in view of discharging their social engineering obligations have been putting the issues in perspective. Some are linking it with the unfortunate Boko Haram dreadfulness that is almost collapsing the entity called Nigeria, some are accusing the Muslims’ advocates of fanaticism and extremism, and some believe it is a political agenda. In as much as, individuals are entitled to their opinions no matter how illogical or otherwise it might be, it is the responsibility of the pro-Hijab advocates to continue to educate the discerning masses, and re-orientate the prejudiced writers why religious tolerance and imbibing the spirit of co-existence are the only antidotes to prevent fracture in our social fabrics. It is on this important note that I was compelled to re-orientate Adeolu Ademoyo and his ilks, and pinpoint the incongruence and inconsistency that characterised his essay titled: Lagos Schools, Hijab and the Sovereignty of the State (published by Premium Times on May 26, 2013), then putting his mis-applied constructs in their right perspectives.

In his first paragraph, Adeolu says “The news that the Lagos state government is examining the wearing of hijab by female students in Lagos state public schools has generated considerable interest among citizens. Such interest is justified in view of the social roots and origins of terrorism in our nation and the commercialization, fetishization and mystification of the female body which often leads to its re-constitution and capture”, he further tried to bring Freud’s psychoanalytical explanation to capture human’s heart and at the third paragraph submitted that “However, the so-called sensitive nature of religion needs open scrutiny. This is because the invisible, phobic and neurotic fear of the “other” locked in the human heart is often part of the psychological origins of terrorism in the land”.

I am of the strong opinion that Mr Ademoyo needs to be more explicit in his correlational assertion and causal link between Hijab (female body coverage); an agitation that is religiously-induced and the terrorism in the land. I was disappointed looking at the resume of the writer; it is unexpected that his write-up could not survive simple logical test, neither deductive (broad to specific) nor inductive (specific to broad) method of reasoning could fetch such stereotypic submission. It is of utmost importance at this juncture to clarify that the Hijab, being advocated by the Muslims students is not expected to be worn by all; it is the choice of those who feel to do so. When there is no compulsion, I find it ridiculous to see terrorism being introduced into the discourse.

Also, conceptualizing the nature of Hijab being advocated, it must be told that this is not face cover but a piece of clothing to cover their head and extended to their chests. This will not in any way compromise the function of the conventional school uniform, it will only add to its beauty. When the colour of the school uniform is green, the Hijab with the size described above is expected to be green so as to be colour harmonious and visual appealing.

If the above description and explanation does not satisfy Mr Ademoyo, I challenge him to be more plain in his words and practically inform us about the public or personal havoc that using Hijab by these willing students will bring to Lagos state in specific, and Nigeria in generally.

After all the irrelevant citations of the Woolwich terrorist case and Asari Dokubo’s political ranting and incongruent explanation from Freud’s psychological analysis, Mr Ademoyo asked that: “So will legislation against religious uniforms in public schools by a state, which has legislated that a uniform is the appropriate dress code, be right?”, he hurriedly without fact recall says that: “My answer rests on the rational and that in a 21st century modern state you cannot have two sources of sovereignty….This means that if we are interested in preserving the Nigerian state as one indivisible sovereign, then a state has the right to legislate on the wearing of religious uniform(s) if the state has legislated that uniforms are the acceptable mode of dress in its public schools. We need to begin to engage issues more rationally. This way, no one is “targeted” or feels that he is “targeted”.

His response as given above in italics brought a key word to the fore for dialectical examination and intellectual engagement. The word is Sovereignty, while at the eighth paragraph, he says “So based on a rational criterion, my answer is: if a state is not a theocratic state, and if the state, through the wisdom of its multiple, plural and diverse tax payers has legislated that wearing a designated uniform is the appropriate dress for students in its public elementary and high schools, then such non-theocratic state ought to stand by its decision that a/the designated uniform is the appropriate dress”. This furnishes us again with Theocracy and Pluralism, and they are used to argue all over his article till its conclusion. This then makes: Sovereignty, Theocracy and Pluralism the argumentative and dialectical tools employed by Mr Adeolu to push away the genuine agitation of the Muslims students.

To avoid over-burdening the readers, I will exempt discussing the non-absolutism of rationalism as he falsely tried to use in his statement, but rather concentrate on the counter-productivity of Sovereignty, Theocracy and Pluralism as employed by him. If he had endeavour to research well as a researcher, he would have known that these constructs used by him cannot sell his idea, they are counter-productive to his arguement.

To start with, I believe it is sheer blackmail to bring Theocracy here, with the argument that since the state is a non-theocratic state; she must not legislate on religious wear. This argument is the same narrative of anti- Muslims’ right advocate, forgetting so quickly that Nigeria as an entity is neither a secular state nor a theocratic state. I hope Mr Adeolu will not endeavour to disagree that the Common law, that is the English law which is the legal structure in Nigeria is grounded in Judeo-Christians’ tenet. It is devastating that a public intellectual whose country sits on elements of Judeo-Christian ethos as legal instrument will be mentioning non-theocratic state.

Despite the obvious religious-imbalance of the country’s legal structure, I will not also agree to call Nigeria a fully-blown Judeo-Christian State. My position is borne out of the considerable allowance that the constitution gives to other faith practice, and the multi-cultural nature of the country has instituted conventions that have relatively accommodated all the religions. This is the clear cut social blunder made by Mr. Adeolu, Nigeria is neither a secular state nor a theocratic state.

To further show that Adeolu is intentionally being dishonest intellectually, he said as quoted above: “…….through the wisdom of its multiple, plural and diverse tax payers has legislated that wearing a designated uniform is the appropriate dress for students in its public elementary and high schools…”. He needs to tell us when precisely did the state legislate on how the school uniform will be, based on the wisdom of its multiple, plural and diverse tax payers. If it is ignorance, may I remind him that the present school uniform is not a legislation of the pluralistic society that the state governs; instead it is a residue of the Christian ethos being practiced by the original owners of the schools who were the Christians missionary. What we are experiencing now is De-christianization and not Islamization.

It is the introduction of “..plural and diverse tax payers…” by Mr Adeolu that finally signified a clear shooting of one’s leg. May I drop the position of Donald Potter in his referred paper titled State Responsibility, Sovereignty, and Failed States, presented in October 2004, page 8?

Donald asserts that “Sovereignty is deeply embedded in world affairs as it provides an arrangement that is conductive to upholding certain values that are considered to be of fundamental importance. These include international order among states, membership and participation in the society of states, co-existence of political systems, legal equality of states, political freedom of states, and pluralism or respect for the diversity of ways of life of different groups of people around the world”. This shows that Adeolu Ademoyo’s application of sovereignty was out rightly out of context and his writing was unguided with social consciousness. It is explicit and deductible from Donald’s position as quoted above that it is the responsibility of the state in exercising her sovereignty to ensure that the respect for the diversity of peoples’ ways of life is of paramount importance. This is the same spirit of pluralism, the consideration of the interest of plural tax payers that the rights of Muslims’ students must be entrenched.

It is easy to say as a mischievous response that what about other religion’s needs. I put it back to you that where were the Tunde Fagbenles, the Adeolu Ademoyos and other social commentators and writers when Osun state government approved the introduction of Ifa religious study into the school curriculum? Why did you always subvert your conscience when it is about Muslims? Are we really serious about our sermon peaceful co-existence?

Semiu A. Akanmu is a PhD Student of Information Technology in Universiti Utara Malaysia.

(Source: The Daily Post)

“Opinion pieces of this sort published on RISE Networks are those of the original authors and do not in anyway represent the thoughts, beliefs and ideas of RISE Networks.”

RISE NETWORKS

"Nigeria's Leading Private Sector and Donor funded Social Enterprise with deliberate interest in Technology and its relevance to Youth and Education Development across Africa. Our Strategic focus is on vital human capital Development issues and their relationship to economic growth and democratic consolidation." Twitter: @risenetworks || Facebook - RISE GROUP || Google Plus - Rise Networks