CAN Limp In, PUNCH Limped Out: A rejoinder to The Punch Editorial on the Hijab Bill – Idris Olabode Badiru

punch Newspaper against hijab Bill

The Yorubas have a way with words, just like so many other tribes and ethnic groups. They will say ‘eegun atro wole, eeyan atiro jade’ which can be literally translated as ‘a limping individual exited an abode that a limping masquerade entered’. This simply means that the observer can see through the antics of a mischief-maker despite his/her disguise.

This actually summarises one’s observation of The Punch Editorial team’s standing of logic on its head to satisfy their religious patrons – Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), in their inglorious and non-scriptural fight against the use of Hijab in Nigeria.

Inglorious, simply because it is petty and diminishing of a body representing the body of Christ, a persona who is highly revered by Muslims all over the world. Non-scriptural, because they have no basis in their scripture to hate or disparage the Hijab.

I grew up reading The Punch, along with other newspapers, like many others of my generation and its words were like the gospel truth to many of us, while growing up. However, along the line, the paper started derailing from the path of truth and some individuals, who had other agenda apart from projecting the truth, or at least, a balanced view of issues, seem to have taken over the once worthy paper and turned it into an unabashed mouthpiece of CAN.

Analysing the contents of their spiteful piece on the Hijab Bill, paragraph by paragraph, one can easily see right from the first sentence that the writer had a wrong idea of the spirit with which the constitution was written. Is non adopting of a state religion same as preventing adherents of a religion from manifesting their religion as enshrined in the constitution? If the courts of the land, at least up to the Appeal Court had sanctioned the use of Hijab by any Muslim woman willing to do so in public places, how will giving the judgements and relevant sections of the constitution further clarity be seen as provocative?

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The board’s position in the second paragraph is even more worrisome. Who is being intolerant of the other in this case? A Muslim lady decides to wear the Hijab on her head in the midst of so many others who decided to leave their heads bare. How does it affect others negatively? If this law-abiding lady is now being prevented from dressing as her religion commands, who then is the intolerant here, if according to the writer, “adherence or non-adherence to faith is an individual choice”? Why can’t the writer see the proposed Bill as an enabler of the diversity he/she talked about in the paragraph?

The writer’sattempt at trivializing the Hijab is well noted in the third paragraph. It is the usual method adopted by those benefiting from a devilish status quo. The board tried to blindfold us with the argument on the importance of education as if education is all about sitting in the class to receive lectures. What of the learning environment? What of the state of mind of the learner? If a Christian lady feels comfortable learning with her head uncovered, does a Muslim lady feel the same way? Doesn’t her own state of mind matter in the teaching-learning situation? Moreover, are the Muslims wrong to insist on the rule of law since a court had ruled in their favour? Why can’t the Christians obey the court ruling?

The argument in the fourth paragraph is quite unfortunate. Why is it not right to conclude that the schools have been taken over by the government when the State laws say so and the courts have affirmed it? In the case of Osun, where the writer pointed to a situation where pupils wore dresses of their different faiths to school, the board forgot to note that those misguided pupils were unable to sustain their misguidance because their religious dresses are not like the Hijab! The Hijab is not an occasional wear. It is worn by a Muslim all the time, except when they are in the comfort of their homes. The writer also failed to appreciate the law abiding nature of the Muslims as exemplified by the Lagos Muslims cited in the inconsistent editorial, who decided to approach the courts instead of instigating a stone-throwing battle like the barbaric members of CAN did in Kwara.

The list of ‘pressing’ issues highlighted in paragraph five is well noted. However, nothing stops the House from treating the Hijab issue along with those listed. The last time I checked, the Bills were at different stages of enactment, so why make it appear as if they are not getting the right attention? Moreover, if the Hijab was not significant, it wouldn’t have attracted the kind of attention it got from The Punch Editorial board, which made them leave other ‘pressing’ issues for it.

The import of paragraph six is carefully disguised.  However, the intention could not be more manifest than as stated in the opening sentence. Stating that the Hijab has caused serious division across the globe is an attempt at framing the Hijab in a negative light. We can by extension say the Muslim women putting the Hijab on promote division. Should we now cleanse the earth of all Muslim women in order to attain unity? Moving on, the writer, like a dead clock which is usually correct twice in every 24 hours is right in his/her submission by saying that Nigeria has a lot to learn from Britain.

Historically, Nigeria imported Christianity from the West. If the West is gradually accepting the use of Hijab as part of its unavoidable diversity, why should Nigerian Christians continue to close their eyes to our national reality. Adherents of one faith cannot leave this space called Nigeria for the other. We just have to coexist willy-nilly.

The writer is guilty of the extremism being spoken against in paragraph seven. If he/she actually wanted to condemn extremism, he/she should have started with his/her patrons who decided to close the schools to Muslims for manifesting their faith in accordance with the provisions of the constitution. The argument that extremism was being promoted by a section of the population has no bearing on the issue at hand and innocent Muslim girls seeking education need not suffer for some perceived wrongs of some unrelated groups of people living miles away from them. If the writer felt wronged by Hisbah or the Shariah law, he/she should head to the courts and stop disturbing the airwaves.

The Asking all faiths and non-faiths to be treated equally in the last paragraph is a failed attempt at being fair to all. In addition, talking about the wisdom behind school take-over without recourse to historical antecedents is insincere, but what else should one expect from an advocate of Christian value domination at all cost?  Moreover, crying over spilt milk is a waste of time. The schools have long been taken over. Tax payers’ monies were spent on them, some have even lost every trace of what they looked like in the beginning, except their names. It is true that some were handed back to the original owners based on certain agreements reached between these so called owners and the governments, but some state governments felt otherwise. Saying one government is right or wrong depends on which side of the divide one belongs. Meanwhile, many missions have decided to move on by establishing new schools with varying degrees of success. Moreover, many of the lands on which these schools are located belong to the communities and were given free of charge. In the case of Kwara, the landowners can equally decide to retrieve their lands from the missions.

Finally, the board needs to understand that school uniforms like other uniforms can always be amended to accommodate diversity and changing culture. Federal Government Colleges in Nigeria started with a type of uniform before the need for inclusion led to redesigning it to accommodate the Hijab. Will the writer not consider the types of uniform currently being worn in these schools as uniforms? Are the current students of these unity schools not having a sense of equality or have they lost a feeling of community? The answers are obvious to the sincere. Instead of using the medium provided by The Punch to promote hatred for the Hijab under some unwise guise, the editorial board should rather use the medium to promote tolerance and understanding.

The Hijab is a phenomenon that has come to stay in the global space and there is nothing anybody can do about it. Nigerian Christians should rather move closer to their scripture and live according to its teachings, rather than blindly following some haters who only hate the Hijab without any recourse to what the Bible says. If one may ask, wherein the Bible is it stated that covering the head by a woman is offensive to God? If the evidence cannot be provided, why then is the Hijab hated this much?

Dr. Idris Olabode Badiru is a versatile Lecturer at the University of Ibadan, Ibadan, Nigeria. Badiru is a rural Development Communicator. His main area of focus is Media use for agricultural and Rural Development. He is also an Islamic Activist who is not tired of exposing Discrimination against Muslims and Hijab.


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