Officials of the International School Ibadan (ISI) on Wednesday July 3rd and Thursday July 4th 2019 forced female Muslim students in hijab to remove them about 100 meters from the school’s gate. A video showcasing this incident has since gone viral on social media.
Wading into the recent development in ISI, the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) has described the incident as the height of religious apartheid, a show of shame and the mother of all apartheid. The human rights body made this known in a press statement issued and signed by its Founder and Director, Professor Ishaq Akintola, on Sunday, 7th July, 2019.
The statement reads, “The video of officials of ISI recently trending on social media is not only provocative, it is nauseating,unethical, repugnant and barbaric. It is nothing short of the height of religious intolerance, a show of shame and the mother of all apartheid.
“We find it difficult to believe this is happening under the watch of an internationally recognized higher institution and premier university in Nigeria. This incident diminishes the reputation of the University of Ibadan as a citadel of learning and a center of excellence. It takes the institution back to the Stone Age. Academic culture demands openness, moderation and liberal disposition particularly on matters of religion.
“The action of officials of ISI is a flagrant violation of Section 38 (i) & (ii) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which stipulates that every Nigerian citizen has the right to ‘practice and manifest’ his or her faith. In addition, by causing open embarrassment to the parents and the victims, the school has openly contravened the right to the dignity of the human person as entrenched in Section 34 (b) & (c) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended (2011).
“This stereotyping of female Muslim students at ISI constitutes an assault on the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Article 4, Clause 1 & 2 which says, ‘Human beings are inviolable. Every human being shall be entitled to respect for his life and the integrity of his person.’
“ISI school’s show of shame also exposes the school’s lack of respect for the religious feelings of those female Muslim students, their parents and the sensitivities of Nigerian Muslims in general. It therefore infringed uponArticle 9 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights & Fundamental Freedoms which contains a call to have ‘respect for the religious feelings of believers…’
“That is not all. Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Right, (ICCPR) guarantees the right to freedom of religion unconditionally. The UN HRC General Comment No. 22 on article 18 of ICCPR reveals a strong support for religious freedom, particularly the use of hijab.
“The relevant provision of the General Comment goes thus: ‘The right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion in article 18 is far reaching and profound…the fundamental character of these freedoms is also reflected in the fact that this provision cannot be derogated from, even in time of public emergency…The freedom to manifest religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching encompasses a broad range of acts…may include the wearing of distinctive clothing or head covering…’
“Article 16 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights also lays emphasis on ‘Right to freedom from Discrimination on grounds of race, nationality or religion …’
“All the above international legal instruments empower us to externalize the struggle if the authorities fail to act. MURIC will have no option than to drag the Nigerian government, the National Assembly, authorities of the University of Ibadan, its Council and Senate Mrs. Phebean Olowe as well as the governments of all South Western states that allow the persecution of female Muslim students using hijab or disallows the latter from using hijab to the United Nations for actively persecuting and profiling the girl-child in Nigeria. We will expose the hypocrisy of South West leaders who pretend to support education for the girl-child but discreetly encourage those who lock school gates against female Muslim children.
“We demand the immediate sack of the school principal, Mrs. Phebean Olowe. She is a huge disgrace to motherhood, an unmitigated disaster in the pursuit of education for all, an established Muslim-hater and a tyrant in academic garb. Our call for action to be taken against Mrs. Olowe is based on the provisions ofSection 42 of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria which says:
(1) A citizen of Nigeria of a particular community, ethnic group, place of origin, sex, religion or political opinion shall not, by reason only that he is such a person:-
(a) be subjected either expressly by, or in the practical application of, any law in force in Nigeria or any executive oradministrative action of the government (or its agencies-addition ours), to disabilities or restrictions to which citizens of Nigeria of other communities, ethnic groups, places of origin, sex, religion or political opinions are not made subject;
“Also under the school principal’s watch, female Muslim students have been publicly stigmatized, publicly embarrassed and traumatised. Her actions therefore constitute a deliberate and calculated disregard for Section 13 of the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act (1991) which provides ‘A public officer shall not do or direct to be done, in abuse of his office, any act prejudicial to the rights of any person knowing that such act is unlawful or contrary to any government policy’
“ISI belongs to UI and UI belongs to the Federal Government (FG). This implies that Mrs. Olowe is a public officer of the Federal Republic of Nigeria who has blatantly abused her office. FG must therefore call her to order through UI, her employer.
“The problem with Nigeria is not a dearth of effective laws. Our problem is lack of the necessary political will to enforce those laws. Nigeria will therefore be in constant crisis until we all call a spade a spade. The buck stops on Mrs. Olowe’s table as far as ISI is concerned. She is one of those public officers who abuse their power due to personal interest.
“MURIC has received a barrage of telephone calls, text messages, etc, from several parts of the country since the video went viral. This is capable of precipitating religious crisis unless higher authorities wade in immediately. We therefore call on the Honourable Minister of Education and the National Assembly to immediately institute a probe into the matter. Failure to act immediately will be an open invitation to chaos.
“We are convinced that the ISI imbroglio, like other similar hijab fracas in the South West, may not necessarily require legal intervention. It must be settled by high authorities desirable of implementing and enforcing the laws of the land. The law is an ass and tyrants are known to have manipulated it to satisfy their whims and caprices.
“That is why Muslims of the South West must change their strategy. The recent trend showing a proliferation of assaults on hijab in the sub-region calls for a change in strategy. The era of restricted dialogue is over. We are entering a period of extended-interface.
“Our people say human beings remain quiet when flies perch on a man’s wound but they scream in consternation at the owner of the wound when he starts eating the flies (Omo araiye ko ni soro nigbati esinsin ba nje elegbo, o di igba ti elegbo ba nje esinsin ki araiye to bere si pariwo).
“The whole world has seen how all our statements, petitions and appeals on the violation of Allah-given fundamental rights of Muslims have fallen on deaf ears. The records are there. The period of restricted dialogue lasted more than ten years. Yet our oppressors and Muslim-haters in the South West will not relent. From Ogbomosho to Abeokuta, from Lagos to Ibadan, Muslims have become endangered species.
“MURIC hereby declares the extension of dialogue. We will no longer limit our intervention to ordinary press statements. We will no longer watch in silence and agony as our daughters and mothers are defiled and disgraced in public. All those schools where our daughters are being denied their Allah-given fundamental human rights were built with public funds. They are our common patrimony because Muslims are also tax-payers. There is no Christian Central Bank of Nigeria just as there is no Muslim Central Bank. Public schools belong to all.
“You will see us on the streets from now on albeit for non-violent expression of our rights. With this statement, we are directing the Oyo State chapter of MURIC to join forces with the Muslim Parents Forum (MPF) of ISI under the leadership of Alhaji Abdul Rahman Balogun, Ibadan Muslim Community under the leadership of renowned Muslim activist and dynamic leader, Alhaji Kunle Sanni and the Muslim Students Society (MSS) Zone 2. We must #occupy ISI, UI and South West state assemblies until they do the needful.
To cap the edifice, MURIC calls on Muslims in all cities, villages and hamlets of Yorubaland to join their brothers and sisters in Ibadan for the peaceful mass protests. This is intellectual jihad. Every Muslim must partake in this. Any Muslim who fails to do so is living in a state between the states (fi manzilatin baynal manzilatayn) unless he or she is constrained by old age, health challenge, etc. In the same vein, we warn against violent disposition during the protests. Islam is a religion of peace and violence is antithetical to the true teachings of Islam. Violence is not the answer to religious intolerance in the South West.
“The Qur’an asks Muslims,‘Why should you not rise in the cause of Allah to defend men, women and children who are oppressed due to their weakness? The weak ones cry out, ‘Our Lord! rescue us from this city (ISI?) whose people are oppressors; and raise for us from Thee one who will protect us, and send to us a helper!’ (Qur’an 4:75-76).
و ما لكم لا تقاتلون في سبيل الله و المستضعفين من الرجال و النساء و الولدان الدين يقولون
ربنا اخرجنا من هده القرية الظالم اهلها و اجعل لنا من لدنك وليا و اجعل لنا من لدنك نصيرا
“UI has remained tacitly endorsed the unjust treatment of Muslim girls in its international school and unleashed its security staff to molest our daughters. We therefore call for the commencement of sustained yet peaceful demonstrations around UI and its environs. We call out all Islamic organisations in Ibadan and Oyo State in general to mobilise their members. The Federation of Muslim Women Associations of Nigeria (FOMWAN) cannot afford to close its eyes to the molestation, harassment, intimidation and coercion of its daughters and future members.
“#ourmumudondo. Rights anywhere in the world are never given on platters of gold. They are demanded and struggled for. Enough of Muslim docility. We must act now or never! Yoruba Muslims have been pushed to the wall. Fingers have been poked in our eyes because we elected to be civil and tolerant. Now we are in pain. Our hearts are bleeding. Our daughters are crying. The parents are angry. Muslim youths are emotionally charged. The elders are torn between Chillan and Charybdis. Olowe has murdered sleep. She shall sleep no more.
“We ask NASFAT, QAREEB, Ansarud-Deen, Nawairu-Deen, etc, are you not touched? You must not allow Nigerians to see you as sleeping giants. We have the number. Unfortunately we are too docile. MURIC is using the extant laws of the land to challenge the status quo. There is nothing illegal in what we are doing.
“We therefore call on the security agents to desist from being overzealous over this. The police should consider this statement as a notification of coming mass protests. Don’t hound MURIC. Don’t harass Muslim leaders. What you should do is to call those violating Allah-given fundamental rights of our daughters to order. The security agents should even invite Mrs. Olowe to explain the legality, lawfulness and constitutionality of her actions. Does she have the right to take actions capable of disturbing the peace?
“On a final note, we demand the immediate sack of the school principal, Mrs. Phebean Olowe. We call on the Honourable Minister of Education, the NASS and the UI authorities to do the needful on the ISI imbroglio. Olowe must go. Hijab must be allowed in the school. Not because MURIC wants it but because that is what the law says and ISI, UI and others must obey the rule of law.
With the present security challenges all over the country, FG must see the need to nip this crisis in the bud. A single overzealous school principal must not be allowed to set the sub-region on fire. She must be called to order.
To douse tension, we call for a policy statement emanating from the presidency, the Federal Ministry of Education the NASS and the state governments of the South West specifically on the boiling matter of hijab. This will be a wholistic approach to the hijab saga in the South West. Only these steps can make MURIC withdraw its call for peaceful mass protests in all South West cities.
The struggle must be sustained even if security agents arrest MURIC’s leaders. No surrender, no retreat until all our daughters suffering humiliation in Abeokuta, Ogbomosho, Lagos and Ibadan are granted full, comprehensive and irreversible permission to use hijab in all schools. We do not issue threats but we repeat, No retreat, No surrender.
Professor Ishaq Akintola,
Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC)