10 March, 2013
The Honourable Commissioner,
Ministry of Education,
Dear Honourable Commissioner,
Upholding the Religious and Human Rights of Students in Lagos State Public Schools
I am writing on behalf of the Muslim Public Affairs Centre (MPAC) – an incorporated organization working for Muslim Defence, Muslim Empowerment and promoting individual liberties, religious, civil and political rights of Muslims- to urge you and your ministry to protect the religious and civil rights of the citizens and residents of Lagos State in public schools.
The MPAC, along with numerous Islamic organizations in the country was utterly shocked and outraged at the humiliating and abusive treatments of pupils in Lagos State simply for using hijab, the female Muslim head covering. Example of this abuse was the recent case of the principal of Kadara Junior Grammar School, Ebute Metta, Mrs. Ukpaka, who was alleged to have personally administered 43 strokes of the cane on a JSS 2D student by name Aisha Alabi on 5th February, 2013. The student’s only “crime” was that Aisha wore the Muslim head cover, the hijab. This is one case too many!
Our democracy does not need bigots who prey on defenseless kids, and our society should not tolerate fanatics who taunt and humiliate young school girls or severely punish them due to misguided belief that religious intolerance implies commitment to one’s own religious beliefs. It is time now to do the right thing with regard to the plight of students using the hijab in public schools. Their rights should be protected and a formal policy decision/action is from your office. I truly believe that it is up to you, and the Lagos State government, to stop the abuse and grave injustice of assault on school kids for putting a piece of cloth on their heads. I urge you to stand up for their religious and human rights.
No citizen of this country deserves to endure the humiliation and aggravated assault suffered by those pupils whose care and protection while at school squarely rest with your ministry. Every child deserves to be included in the educational programme of Lagos State government irrespective of his/her religious or ethnic background, and every Muslim child deserves a learning environment that is free from Islamophobia and discrimination. I am confident that you will not allow this case go without due attention and fair judgement. The Nigerian legal system already secures the right to decide whether or not to wear hijab, all we need to see now is your ministry’s urgent action to secure the freedom of citizens to act on that decision in public life.
MPAC offers to work with your ministry, at our own costs, to provide more information on the place and significance of hijab in Islam and run awareness sessions to key staffs of your ministry that are and will continue to be in contact with students in hijab. This will offer an opportunity for people dealing with day-to-day affairs of our students to hear more about it first-hand and also prevent potential conflict.
Muslim Public Affairs Centre, MPAC
Executive Governor of Lagos State
Speaker, Lagos State House of Assembly
SSP to Lagos State Government on Islamic Religion Affairs