Our attention has been drawn to yet another sad reaction by the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) Lagos State chapter over the recent Court of Appeal pronouncement affirming the right of Muslim female students to wear the hijab on top of their school uniforms in all public schools. The reaction was contained in a press release issued by the Secretary to its Lagos state chapter, Mr. Israel Akinadewo It is sad that rather than see the judgment as an affirmation of the true position of the law and allow our society to move on, various levels of CAN have been huffing and puffing, and threatening to blow down the roof that shelters every one of us.  To our surprise and displeasure, the parent body of CAN – the leadership at the national level has not deem it fit to rein in these rash reactions of their lower chapters: a silence that can be described as consent to fanning the embers of chaos and disorder.

Arguments put forward by these rancorous lots not only stand logic on its head, they insult the collective intelligence of all, including that of the Judiciary which gave the judgment. The most puerile of these arguments is that of Lagos being a cosmopolitan state where implementing a court decision (in this case, the judgment in favor of the hijab) by the government will be tantamount to destroying the ‘mega-city’ vision for Lagos through religious extremism. We ask: how does a judgment given by a court of competent jurisdiction, whose judgment is in tandem with earlier pronouncements by other courts of law before now, become a recipe for the destruction of any vision of a mega city? How does affirming the right of citizens enshrined in the constitution of Nigeria become described as counter- productive to peace and development?  Does it not occur to CAN and its warlords that the extremism they alluded to lies in the intolerance so far displayed by them which drives them against every grain of logic and law? And what is CAN’s idea of a ‘mega-city’? Cities already in the status of mega entities around the world are not only multi-cultural, embracing the various cultures of our diverse world, thereby serving as cultural melting pots; they also have specific provisions for the cultural/religious needs of the various visitors especially for Muslims. They have their institutions, structures and processes expanded to accommodate cultural/religious demands that cannot be traded off either for business or leisure. It is therefore obvious that this obstinacy in continuously opposing the religious rights of fellow citizens enshrined in our laws is not only borne out of a deep pathological intolerance, but has developed into a penchant for disrespecting and denying the rights of others – the very recipe for, and product of religious extremism
We are also at a loss with regard to one of CAN’s ‘prayers’ in the reaction asking the Lagos State Government ‘to take all ‘legal steps’ immediately in reversing this judgment…’, Does CAN intend that the state government go on further appeal on its behalf wasting tax payers’ monies on a fruitless exercise? What more legal steps’ is there to take other than obeying the decision of the court and putting in place the needful? Or does CAN intend to hoodwink the government into doing its bidding? Is this what the clamor and threats were all about back then in 2015 for a CHRISTIAN GOVERNOR?

CAN is advised to look into its till, draw from its flow of tithes and offerings to pursue its moribund agenda, and not wish that state money be diverted into an enterprise in bigotry
For the avoidance of doubt, Nigeria is a multi-cultural, multi-religious reality with our motto being ‘UNITY IN DIVERSITY’ If CAN continues to treat the hijab as ‘Islamization’, shall we then begin to see the multitude of Christo-British legacies and remnants in our society as Christianization? The logo of the ‘cross’ in our hospitals; the Christian hymns at schools’ morning assemblies (Monday through Thursday); our membership of the Common Wealth of Nations whose head is the Crown which also doubles as the head of the Church of England? The list will be endless, including the current format of ‘school uniforms.

In the final analysis, CAN is enjoined to change the prism through which it views Islamic injunctions to afford itself of a fresh, broad and global perspective on people and their culture. Many among adherents of the Christian faith around the world are boldly acknowledging the similarities between what Islam preaches and some of what their scripture says. They are curious as to why the Muslim woman mode of dressing mirrors that of Mary the mother of Jesus and all women of faith portrayed in their scriptures. How long will CAN continue to bury its head in the sand like the ostrich?

Yekinni S. A.
ED: Center for Global Peace Initiatives [CGPI] Tel: 08026134942

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