By AUSTIN OWOICHO, Abuja
Miss Ikhlas Olasubomi Badiru, an hijab-wearing student of International School (ISI) of the University of Ibadan (UI) was last week suspended on account of her hijab.
The suspension order was handed down by the school principal, Mrs. Phebean Olowe. The letter of suspension was dated 26th September and signed by the school principal.
Reacting to the school’s action, the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC), an Islamic human rights organization, has described it as superfluous, preposterous and provocative. MURIC spoke through its Director, Professor Ishaq Akintola, on Monday, 7th October, 2019.
“This suspension is one too many. It is superfluous, preposterous and provocative. The authorities of International School Ibadan are overdoing it. The suspension smarks of kindergarten intellect. It is as clear as daylight that the school principal has very poor crisis management skill and she manifests desertification of damage control techniques.
“We call on Nigerians to note what is happening in ISI. Muslim children are being stigmatized just for wearing an ordinary head scarf, not for engaging in cultism or for cheating in examinations. This same hijab is allowed in British schools. It is used in Sweden, Finland and all over Europe, America embraced it long ago. Interestingly these are countries where the percentage of Muslim population is infinitesimally low.
“Yet in Nigeria where Muslim population is higher and Muslims cannot be said to be a minority, Muslim children are being tyrannically profiled. Islamophobia is the order of the day. Surprisingly, Muslims have not reacted in anger. They are exhibiting civilized behavior to deal with the situation.
“MURIC is watching the unfolding scenario with keen interest. Here is the peak of hypocrisy as those who claim to be defending the girl child against abuse, those who claim to be promoting girl-child education are the same people locking out the girl-child from educational institutions simply because they are Muslims.
“We affirm clearly, emphatically and categorically that a girl-child is a girl-child no matter her religion. Her creed does not change her sex. Neither does it change her age. The hijab on her head preserves the dignity of her human person and any attempt to force her to remove it constitutes a criminal assault on her honour and an infringement on Section 38 (i) and (ii) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“We warn that the criminalisation of hijab has reached its crescendo and the bubble may burst any moment from now. We call on UI authorities to take full charge of the situation before it is too late. UI cannot abdicate its responsibilities and still remain a citadel of learning and a center of excellence. It is the height of religious intolerance. Both UI and ISI are swarming with Christian fanatics and Muslim haters at management level. It is nauseating and that is to say the least.
“Does it not amount to contempt of court for the principal to hand down a suspension order while the case is in a court of competent jurisdiction? Is this not another act of impunity? Olowe has crossed the red line. Like Macbeth, Olowe has murdered sleep. She shall sleep no more.
“Olowe has goaded us to take the hijab saga in ISI to the next level. We must move beyond mere rhetorics. From this moment, MURIC is charging all Muslim students in UI to embark on non-violent civil disobedience actions in defence of their sister, Ikhlas.
“We hereby declare Friday, 11th September, 2019, Ikhlas Day. The slogan of the day is ‘Suspend One, Suspend All. ‘I am Ikhlas’. That day is for peaceful demonstrations in and around UI in solidarity with our sister, Ikhlas Olasubomi Badiru. All members of the Muslim Students Society of Nigeria (MSSN) in and around Ibadan and the Oyo State chapter of MURIC are hereby mobilized to join their brothers and sisters in UI on that day. It is now or never. It is just a warning shot and we hope those who have ears will hear.
The human rights organization also hailed Muslim lecturers and administrative staff of UI for supporting the female Muslim students of ISI.
“MURIC strongly commends Muslim lecturers and other Muslim staff of UI for condemning the university’s Islamophobic stance. We urge them to continue to exhibit solidarity in loco parentis to the oppressed female Muslim students of ISI. They must register their strong opposition to the attempt to rename UI as Christian University, Ibadan (CUI). We assert that UI must remain UI, not CUI.
“As we round off, we warn ISI to stop escalating the crisis. The suspension of Ikhlas must be lifted. UI authorities must stop all Islamophobic actions and move against the persecution of innocent female Muslim students of ISI. We can only know the beginning of crisis, no one can predict its features or its end. Even without using violence, the hijab imbroglio in ISI is capable of shuting down UI and enveloping the city of Ibadan. MURIC does not issue threats but nobody has the monopoly of impunity.”