On Kwara’s Hijab crisis

Mustapha Kemal, founder of the Republic of Turkey, a Muslim General in the Ottoman Empire’s Army, also the most efficient and most decorated Ottoman commander during World War I and former Honourable Aide-de-Camp to the last Caliph (Khalifat-ul al Rashidun) of the Islamic world banned religious signs in public institutions. The ratio of Muslims to other faith was 8:2 on a scale of 10. A civil rebellion broke out. Sheikhs, now out of jobs, lead the revolt demanding the restoration of the Khilafat. Mustapha Kemal refused. Instead, he faced down the rebellion. In the process, a million(+) died but Turkey was secularized. Today, Turkey is the strongest Muslim country in the world.

All Turks refer to the 1924 secularization policy as the reason for the absence of terror unlike the rest of the Islamic world. Mustapha Kemal was nicknamed “Atatürk” – the father of the Turks. I do not engage in faith-based discussions. I did when I was younger. We did online debates on faiths. But now as an adult, I am too busy for it. I am unable to quip at the great faith of Islam. I myself am from a family with deep roots in the faith. My maternal great-grandfather was the first Chief Imam of Iganna-Ile. I have close blood relatives who are Muslims. So we can’t discriminate. When I started following Halima around, no eyebrows were raised.

The only problem was that Kano is far. Believe me when I tell you I have no leaning towards any form of radicalism. I am too educated for that. You can easily be misled by blind devotion to any religion. However, I am not afraid to have such discussions anywhere. You see anything that is beyond reasoning. Leave it. Let it lie. I believe in Jesus Christ as the Lord and saviour. Beyond all of that, I do not challenge secular authorities. Once I can pray, fast, read the Bible and have equal rights with the people of other faiths I am content. It is the mark of an educated mind. The world is more at peace when the faiths are put in their place – private space. Secularism is a stage of human development that has proven to be the most efficient existential stage for humans to meet and coexist.

The United States was established on strict Christian ideals. Today it is secular because psychopathic behaviours were creeping up. Remember the Salem trials of the 1600s? Alleged witches were being slaughtered and burned. The madness reached insane proportions until the wives of prominent people were fingered as witches. For decades, Egypt was Muslim dominated secular state. Fundamentalists tried to infiltrate the system but were repelled. When Gammel Nasser became president, the radicals asked him to impose Islamic laws on the country. He scuffed at them. There is a video on his Wikipedia page where he read the request in a public speech and bursts into derisive laughter. Anwar Sadat succeeded him. When Sadat needed political support, he empowered the radicals. The first thing they did was to insist on Hijab wearing in public institutions, followed by gender segregation. When Sadat realized his folly, he had been assassinated by the radicals in the Egyptian Army. The fight against Islamic radicalism continued for decades.

In 2017, Egypt’s national government shut down 27,000 mosques. You read it right. 27,000. Simply to diffuse an impending religious crisis. It worked. El Rufai closed down 700 churches. The Federal Government recently put up regulatory laws for churches. I believe if the West had supported the more liberal Arab nationalist Sheikh Hussein Ali against Sheikh Al Saud (founder of Saudi Arabia who for political reasons allied himself with the Wahabi sects) the influence of the literalists and radical Salafism on global Islam would never have reached this crescendo height. Maybe. The State of Israel, predominantly Jewish, was wise enough not to revert back to biblical times. They embraced secularism and stamped out all forms of Jewish extremism. Religious countries always have retarded growth or grapple with terrorism.

Check well. Tuning the heads of our kids to a beyond-normal level of religiosity is unwise. I personally do not see why parents neglect a more productive position on proper education for Hijab. It sounds like a joke. It has become political, as always. All religions have demands on public life but they must be put in their place. It should never subdue secular standards. Never! That uniforms have to be altered for religious purposes is a tendency towards the political superiority of faith. It is wrong. It reduces the authority in their education. They must be made to conform to the standard of the institution training them at this stage of their lives. Our children should be taught coexistence on a neutral basis. When I was at Government College Ibadan we prayed on the assembly ground with respect to God.

You could add your own extensions but all prayers ended with “may the Lord hear our prayers”, in response we said, “and let our prayers come unto thee”. Such enlightenment made our cultural perspective make sense of the diversity in the world quite easily. Each time I moderate an event I start with the prayers in the second stanza of the national anthem to the God of Creation. I commend those who have taken a bold secular stance on the matter, especially Muslims. We should encourage godliness, not impose our version of it on society. I propose with all conviction that whenever religious tendencies collide with secularism, that religious tendency must bow.

Ojo, Aderemi Ibadan, Nigeria. @realOjoAderemi ojderemi@gmail.com


Ojo, Aderemi is a Historian, teacher, public speaker, writer, politician, and community organiser. He was trained at the University of Ibadan and was President of the Students Union.

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