Abeokuta, Nigeria – In a recent incident at the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (FUNAAB), Muslim students united to protect their fellow Muslim sister’s right to religious freedom. The incident, which took place during the Formal Opening Event of Jihad Week on September 9th, 2023, highlighted the ongoing issue of religious discrimination against Niqab-wearing students.
In a statement by the Muslim Students’ Society of Nigeria, FUNAAB Branch, and made available to iWitness NG, the society stated that “Niqab is a symbol of modesty for Muslim women, and it is a personal choice for those who choose to wear it. Muslim students who wear Niqab have consistently cooperated with the university’s identification procedures when necessary.”
However, the management of FUNAAB, along with some staff members, has faced allegations of discrimination against Niqab-wearing students. The issue escalated when the university displayed a billboard branding Niqab as indecent dressing, leading to public outrage and the subsequent removal of the billboard.
In response to these allegations, the university management claimed that students who wear Niqab (veil) could easily be identified when needed and even stated that they had provisions for the registration of Niqab-wearing students. Surprisingly, when the Muslim Students’ Society of Nigeria (MSSN) requested clarification on the identification process, the university administration claimed ignorance, contradicting their previous statements.
“The situation worsened during the first-semester examinations when Niqab-wearing students were subjected to undue harassment. Two sisters were forcibly removed from the examination hall, and another sister was denied access to write an examination, leading to her being petitioned to the Department of State Services (DSS) by university staff. This ordeal resulted in her admission to a psychiatric department for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).”
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In another incident, the Chief Security Officer (CSO) of the university denied MSSN access to a requested hall for an event, demanding that they sign an undertaking that Niqab-wearing students would not attend, or face disciplinary action. This proposal was rejected by MSSN, forcing them to use the masjid for the event.
“During the Formal Opening Event of Jihad Week, a Niqab-wearing lady was denied entry at the university gate due to her attire, which adhered to Islamic standards of modesty. Her brother, a panellist at the event, insisted on proper identification in line with security standards, leading to the peaceful demonstration by MSSN members to support her entry.”
MSSN FUNAAB emphasizes that any narrative differing from their account should not be accepted without proof. They remain committed to upholding their faith’s principles of decency and inclusivity while maintaining a safe and secure community.
The MSSN FUNAAB leaders have assured their members that they will continue to protect them against any injustice and urged unity to promote the values of their religion in the face of ongoing intimidation.