In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful
Press Release: FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, 17 May, 2013
MPAC Expresses Deep Shock Over Lagos State Commissioner for Education’s Comments
(Lagos, 17/05/13) MPAC finds shocking the decision of the Lagos State Ministry of Education to prevent students in public schools in the state from using the hijab (the obligatory female Muslim head covering). The Commissioner for Education Mrs. Olayinka Oladunjoye was reported in a section of the media to have said on Tuesday 14th of May, 2013 at a press briefing in Ikeja that “usage of Hijab and other religious materials in public schools was against government’s policy”. MPAC believes that if such a policy indeed exists, it is in flagrant violation of the religious and civic rights of the pupils. MPAC is shocked that rather than speak on behalf of the Constitution she swore an oath to defend, Mrs. Olayinka Oladunjoye is taking the State in a course of confrontation and down the dead end of religious intolerance. The Lagos State government should have seen the use of hijab in public schools in the state as an opportunity to reinforce common public perception of Lagos State as a melting-pot and a good example where diverse groups and ideas co-exist peacefully, thus upholding the democratic ideals of inclusion and diversity.
This decision is only capable of bringing the observant Muslims who desire to obey the Qur’anic injunction of adorning the hijab in all public places into confrontation with the school authority as the hijab will continue to be used in the schools, and workplaces. One thing is certain, the decision of the Lagos State Ministry of Education, although shocking, will not prevent the use of hijab in public schools, or anywhere else. Rather it will strengthen the resolve to fulfil aspiration to obey the divine injunction, at all costs. Everyone who holds dear the values of freedom and equality that the people of Nigeria have struggled so hard to establish over the years should also find the decision shocking– to witness the Ministry blatantly subscribing to this discriminatory policy and use of state power as a means of implementing tyranny emphasises the need to deepen our democracy through active political participation.
MPAC does not call on the state to impose the headscarf – it only calls on the state to secure the freedom to decide whether or not to wear it and the right to act on that decision. The unwelcome sound bites from the Lagos State Ministry of Education notwithstanding, MPAC awaits the position of the State House of Assembly on this issue, and hope the law makers will show honour and courage to act on the side of justice and fairness. Ultimately, it is the decision at the grassroots level for millions of Muslim women to wear the Hijab in all public schools and places of work which will prove official discriminatory policy not only unnecessary and ignorant, but also simply unworkable. MPAC will intensify campaigns for the rights of female Muslims to freely make their choices concerning hijab and their rights to implement that decision without threat of intimidation or persecution. MPAC will engage all lawful means to frustrate the decision of the Lagos State Ministry of Education in respect to its ban on hijab, and we will continue to actively work with other Islamic organizations and stakeholders towards expanding the coalition to achieve this in the quickest possible time.
MPAC praises and supports the Muslim Students Society's position and legal action on this issue and shall continue to work actively with them to seek robust defence of the rights of the Muslim student constituency.
MPAC will continue to explore all possible avenues of peaceful campaigning in our society against tyranny and erosion of basic rights, in politics and the media, we will continue to implement actions towards building bridges, promoting understanding, empowerment, good citizenship and protection of religious rights for all.
Muslim Public Affairs Centre, MPAC