*Muslim Women are routinely arrested, detained and threatened for using face veil in OAU, Ife
*Muslim Nursing, Pharmacy students are forbidden from wearing the Hijab
This article was initially titled: Refugees In Their Own Land… A Reflection On Islamophobia In Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife As It Clocks 50 written by Ibrahim Balogun
“I see America through the eyes of a victim. I don’t see any American dream. I see an American nightmare” – Malcolm X
As the Obafemi Awolowo University continues its golden jubilee celebrations amidst pomp and pageantry, there are silent tears being shed somewhere. Strange activities of the security men on OAU campus with respect to persecution of female Muslim students who wear the face-veil is becoming unbearable. They carry out these actions under the pretext of enforcing the provisions of the school dress code. What is however baffling is that these rules have actually been in existence for a couple of years, and it has been known to be exclusively invoked on the Muslim students alone. Now they have transcended all levels of reason, going as far as arresting and detaining these students, seizing their student identity cards, threatening their parents and coercing them to sign vindictive undertakings under duress. Sounds all too familiar! We thought we had done away with the times of the military and their usual way of treating the masses.
It is important to note, that there is a major part of this dress code which prohibits WEARING OF PROVOCATIVE DRESSES. It would be sheer waste of time to start telling you about the situation with those who fall into this category, dresses keep getting smaller as more flesh gets shown. Note the use of the word “provocative”; a very relative word that cannot be morally defined. Interestingly, no such person has ever been accosted or treated the way the Muslim ladies have been treated. Why then do the school security men have to unleash their frustration on students who have decided to protect their dignity, honour and chastity; students who have decided to uphold their Islamic tenets about dressing.
I find it rather offensive to have to put up with naked thighs, cleavage, breasts and buttocks which are flaunted daily on our campus; a direct consequence of the sexualization drive we have taken from the West in direct contrast to our native African values of feminine modesty. I thought there is a university that prides itself on learning and culture located somewhere in Ile-Ife. Why did the school management pay LAGBAJA – a masked musician to entertain at the recently held 50th anniversary celebration? Isn’t it that everyone’s face is supposed to be visible at all times? Why then are these female Muslims who are practicing their religion being subjected to irrational persecution? What a manifestation of deceit and hypocrisy!
Moreso, S of The Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria guarantees freedom of thought, conscience and religion, as well as freedom to propagate one’s religion, practice and observance of its tenets publicly or in private. S of the same Constitution guarantees right to freedom from discrimination inter alia on the basis of religious belief.
With recourse to the above Constitutional provisions, it would be better if the so called school security men could keep away from this dastardly act and any officer or official worth the name should know that religion is too sensitive an issue to mess around with in Nigeria today. This issue must not be known to those outside this campus, because it would be so incredulous to hear that the face veil, an Islamic identity is coming under a ban in a Nigerian university, founded and funded by the joint resource of our fathers. If Muslims are not harassed in Port Harcourt or Enugu, they do not deserve to be harassed in the precincts of a Federal University in Osun State. If the face veil is allowed in the hallowed confines of Harvard, Yale and other institutions known to be well ahead of our Great Ife in all ramifications, I don’t know why OAU has elected to be different by giving body and soul to discrimination. Islamophobia is real and alive in our world, what OAU has done is to only bring it to our shores.
Calling this act an oppressive one is describing it in glowing terms; we can’t continue to suffer the same way we did under the colonial masters. This struggle reminds of the disheartening stories of the slaves that were taken from the shores of the African coasts of Cape in Ghana, Badagry in Lagos and other places along the Gulf of Guinea. They were taken as prisoners, treated with disdain and made to pass through humiliating experiences. They were never broken, and that was the spirit in the Alex Haley movie about Kunta Kinte. The most demoralizing thing done to them according to the survivors was the alienation of their religious identities under forced conversions. We shall refuse to be renamed Tolby Waller, and stick to being Kunta Kinte.
Be informed that no security reports whatsoever has ever been put forward concerning the veil to warrant such iniquitous treatment of these women. While the school management may want to save its face by arguing based on security concerns, it is noteworthy that UNIMAID (Maiduguri), BUK (Kano) and ABU (Zaria); all federal institutions situated in the most volatile regions of the Nigerian nation have not made the disheartening move that OAU has made. And how does the OAU management explain the victimization of Muslim Nursing students who are not allowed to wear capes and Pharmacy students denied the right to wear the hijab that even leaves the face revealed? Muslims are second class citizens in OAU and all that remains to be done by the school authority is to enshrine this in their book of law.
A close friend of mine had this to say when this issue once came up: “I find this extremely depressing. I have been in the UK for 2 years and know women who have come through the UK border security in their face veil without any problems. I have seen (veiled women walk in the University of Leeds campus without harassment.”
The OAU campus remains the only university in the whole of Nigeria where Muslim females are deprived their basic rights even while their payments go into running the affairs of the school. Let the school bring up its arguments for this unwarranted persecution based on religious belief, and the hidden truth shall be revealed. As Malcolm X stated in an interview; “Sitting at the table doesn’t make you a diner, unless you eat some of what’s on that plate. Being here in America doesn’t make you an American.” Being in OAU does not make the school guarantee your rights, especially if you are Muslim.
Firstly, I want to thank the brother from Katsina that brought this article to my notice. Then secondly, I also want to thank the author, Ibrahim Balogun, for his well-articulated summary of the discrimination of Muslimahs by the authority of Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU).
And to add, I remember the day of my Call to Bar in Abuja few years ago, we sadly realized that every Call to Bar Ceremony is also intended to humiliate Muslims. While the atmosphere was filled with celebrations, it was a sad day for every conscious Muslims. Our Sisters whom no man other than their respective fathers, brothers and husbands has seen their hair before were tactically told to choose between their Hijabs and being called to the Nigeria Bar even after passing the Bar Exams. You could see their tears and sadness as the organizers openly violated them before the whole world. They were prevented from wearing even ordinary scarf to cover their hair, let alone use the Hijab.
Note that even in England where our legal system is borrowed from, Muslimahs are not stopped from using the Hijab at Call to Bar ceremonies and in courts room. But here in Nigeria were over half the population are Muslims, we are suffering this discrimination.
Our legal, academic and political establishments are united in their struggle to undermine Islam. We have been shouting discrimination for decades only to be called fundamentalists before being ignored. If we dare lift a finger in protest, we will be called terrorists and extremists and that is when you will see the “bravery” of the Joint Task Force (JTF) and the SSS as they bust the doors of homes where Muslims lives at night, executing Muslims in the street and burning our houses as they have been doing in the North-East in the cause of the past few years.
Today is OAU, yesterday was River State University that bulldozed the only Mosque in the campus along with the laptops and other properties of the Muslim Students. The Students were held at “cutlass point” while a bulldozer leveled their only Mosque and properties. We were told that the Deen of Students came afterwards to inspect level of destruction, apparently satisfied, he smiled and then drove away.
What does tomorrow hold for us as a community?
Unfortunately, in an attempt to remedy the situation, more violent form of resistant may arise like the Boko Haram case. So let those concern take note. This is enough an admonition for you, do not ignite a fire you cannot live with. Live and lets us live.
My advice to Muslims is to brace up to the challenges that confront us as a community. The enemies of Islam will not stop and their antics will most likely escalate. Their aim is to put out the light of Islam and weaken our spirit. No matter how hard they try, their efforts will ان شاء الله amount to nothing. Keep your cool and do not allow them incite you to violence. Only victory awaits us if we are patient.
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