An Islamic human rights organisation, the Muslim Rights Concern, has appealed to the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress for the 2023 elections and former Governor of Lagos State, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, to intervene in the hijab issue in Lagos State.
The Islamic organisation made the appeal in a statement by its Founder, Prof. Ishaq Akintola, in a statement on Sunday.
It will be recalled that the Supreme Court ruled in favour of the use of hijab in all Lagos State schools on July 17, 2022, with MURIC worried that the Lagos State Government has not made any statement since the ruling.
Speaking in the statement on Sunday, Akintola said: “We are deeply worried that the Lagos State Government (LASG) has not passed any comment on the landmark judgement of the Supreme Court which ruled in favour of hijab on Friday, 17th July, 2022. The ruling sealed a ten-year judicial tussle between the Muslims of Lagos State and LASG.
“Justice Modupe Onyeabor had ruled against the hijab on 17th October, 2014 claiming that it was against the policy of LASG. But in a unanimous decision, the five-man panel of the Appeal Court sitting in Lagos set the high court judgement aside on Thursday, 21st July, 2016. The five-man panel headed by Justice A. B. Gumel held that hijab was a fundamental human right and a religious duty for female Muslims.
“LASG challenged the Appeal Court’s ruling at the Supreme Court and the latter gave its final pronouncement on the matter on Friday, 17th July, 2022, six years after the ruling of the Appeal Court.
“Strangely enough, the government of Lagos State is yet to say a single word since the judgement of the Supreme Court in favour of hijab. Meanwhile repression of female Muslim students continue as school principals and teachers claim ignorance of the Supreme Court judgement. They insist on disallowing hijab until we can produce a circular issued by LASG.
“Islamic organisations and Muslim leaders who were involved in the matter ran into a cul de sac as LASG is not forthcoming on issuing the circular. All efforts made to persuade LASG to release a circular failed.
“On the part of MURIC, we wrote the Commissioner for Education, Mrs. Folasade Adefisayo, seeking audience with her and she met us on Tuesday, 13th September, 2022. MURIC coopted other Islamic organisations like the Muslim Lawyers Association (MULAN), Muslim Students Society of Nigeria (MSSN), Federation of Muslim Women Societies of Nigeria (FOMWAN) and Coalition For Hijab for the meeting.
“Although the Commissioner promised to issue the circular this did not happen to date. As the pressure mounted from the Muslim public who were eager to know why female Muslim children who use hijab to school were still facing persecution, we initiated a text message to the Commissioner as a reminder. This was on Monday, 17th October, 2022, more than one month after she had promised to issue the circular.
“But responding to the text message a week later on 23rd October, 2022, the Commissioner simply said the circular would now be issued by the Head of Service. We began to see delay tactics on the part of LASG as represented by the Commissioner. Or should we be tossed around like ping-pong?
“We are explaining all these so that Nigerians can see how we have waited patiently all this while. We approached the court since 2012 instead of going on protests because protests can be easily hijacked.
“Unlike the #EndSARS children of multiple anger who came with the diabolical motive to destroy Lagos (may Allah never allow that to happen), Islamic organisations in Lagos submitted themselves to the rule of law and refused to tow the path of violent struggle. The court case lasted ten years from 2012 to 2022. Haven’t we been patient enough? Haven’t we been law-abiding?
“LASG appears not to know that its silence over the Supreme Court judgement can be misinterpreted as a deliberate attempt to undermine the rule of law and it may fall foul of contempt of the highest court in the land.
“Perhaps the calculation of the Ministry of Education in particular and LASG in general is that everyone would forget about the hijab issue in the excitement of the ongoing electioneering campaign and so it should be business as usual.
“But those who feel the pain of rejection and the agony of stigmatization have not forgotten. Tears are still rolling down the cheeks of the Muslim girl-child who face daily harassment, intimidation and dehumanization for wearing hijab. Muslim parents at home are devastated by sheer fear of what is going to happen to their hijab-wearing children at school on a daily basis. We will not abandon them.
“It should be noted that MURIC opted to arrange a meeting between the Commissioner for Education in keeping with our avowed motto, ‘Dialogue, No Violence’, but whether or not this move was appreciated by the authorities is another matter entirely. It will not compel us to abandon the noble path of dialogue.
“We still have another option of dialogue. We have resolved to take the case of hijab and the reluctance of LASG to implement the Supreme Court judgement to the architect of Lagos superstructure, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, APC presidential candidate and former governor of Lagos State whose presidential project is our project, to wade into the issue.
“The legal angle of hijab is over. The Supreme Court has blown the final whistle. But LASG has refused to announce the final result of this game. This is the political angle and Asiwaju can resolve this at this material time.
“Justice delayed is justice denied and procrastination is the thief of time. As a major and special stakeholder in the Lagos project, we have decided to take our case to him. What happens when a government refuses to obey a court ruling? Is this the Lagos of his dream?
“We call on Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu to intervene. MURIC does not issue threats. We have never done it before and we will not do it now. Neither do we issue ultimatum. But whatever LASG does with the hijab case on which the highest court in the land has made a pronouncement will send a strong message to Nigerians particularly at this crucial period.
“If any state government must disobey Supreme Court ruling, it should not be Lagos State, the centre of excellence. LASG has taken the lead in several areas. Other states emulate Lagos. LASG should not reverse this trend particularly as it affects respect for the rule of law, implementation of court decisions and recognition of Allah-given fundamental rights of Lagos Muslims.
“LASG should not put our backs against the wall. Where can a people go after securing a court ruling? This is where we want Tinubu to come in. Lagos is his terra cognito.
“This matter should naturally be of interest to leaders of the ruling party, the APC, in Lagos State. A stitch in time saves nine. This is not the time to allow the opposition to accuse the ruling party of taking actions capable of undermining justice, equity, rule of law and democratic principles.
“The Lagos State House of Assembly should equally be interested in a matter of this magnitude. Lagos Muslims constitute a large chunk of tax payers in the state and the House should show interest in anything that may affect them. MURIC has spoken.”