General Secretary of Christian Association of Nigeria, Joseph Daramola, has said the Armed Forces and para-military organisations in the country can permit Muslim female officers to wear the Islamic veil, commonly known as hijab if it will protect them from bullets at the battlefield.
The body was responding to a reported bill tagged Religious Discrimination (Prohibition, Prevention) Bill, 2020, before the House of Representatives seeking to compel the Armed Forces and para-military organisations to permit female officers to wear hijab.
Article 13(2) of the bill stated that “Any person employed in the security sector, whether within the military or paramilitary or otherwise, shall not be discriminated against on the ground of the exercise of his right to the manifestation of his religion in worship, teaching, practice and observance such as wearing religious emblem, head cover, or hijab in concomitant with the common uniform code or code of conduct in relation to the choice of colour, type, or design of such religious emblem, religious headcover or hijab.”
But speaking with Punch, Daramola said CAN remains unmoved by the move, explaining that there are other issues such as governance, security as well as economy affecting the country to focus on.
According to him, in a country like Afghanistan, military women put on the hijab, hence, Nigerian female Muslim officers can wear whatever they want as long as it helps them deflect bullets on the battlefield.
Daramola said, “If they like, they can wear skirt or agbada (flowing gown). If you go to Afghanistan, their military women wear hijab. That is not an issue. If hijab will help them deflect bullets at the battlefield, let them wear it, if that is what they want. Let us not worry ourselves about unnecessary matters.”
Meanwhile, the Christian body had earlier urged the leadership of the National Assembly to suspend a bill before the House of Representatives, which seeks to establish the use of hijab in the country, saying the proposed law is wrongly-timed and uncalled for.
“The bill titled ‘Religious Discrimination (Prohibition, Prevention) Bill, 2021’ was seeking to provide a mechanism for enforcing certain provisions of the Constitution and other international laws that recognise the right of a female to adorn hijab in both public and private establishments in Nigeria.”
“We wonder what the sponsors of the Bill seek to gain from it other than to compound the security problem and the wearing of hijab in public and Christian schools.”
“According to the 1999 Constitution (as amended), the ‘National Assembly shall have the power to make laws for the peace, order and good government of the Federation or any part thereof with respect to any matter included in the Exclusive Legislative List set out in Part 1 of the Second Schedule to this Constitution.”
“To what extent does this controversial bill seek to promote peace, order and good governance? Has the dress code become part of the Exclusive Legislative List?”
“While the citizens are expecting the National Assembly to make laws that will address the lopsided appointments, insecurity, unemployment and economic predicament, our lawmakers are interested in making laws that seek to promote one religion. This is unacceptable in a country with multiple religions.”
“Honestly speaking, it is not the wearing of hijab that is our problem, it is the legislation of the wearing of it in private schools, especially of the schools whose proprietors have a different culture to that of wearing of the hijab. If anyone travels to Rome, it is common saying that he or she should do as the Romans do since he was not forced to come!”
“If any Christian pupil goes to a Muslim school, he or she should abide by their practices there and vice versa. Why should a Muslim student come to a Christian school which operates under different dressing culture and insist on her own culture? That appears provocative and disrespectful!”
“Legislating the wearing of hijab in private schools would lead to the trouble that those who started it may not be able to handle. Abandoning school uniform for religious dressing is going to divide the students along religious lines and further polarise our society.”
“Should the children of Ifa worshippers (god of divination) wear Ifa costume to the school as well, etc? Is that not going to bring confusion? Will the wearing of the religious dress make one student brighter in class than the other? What are we legislating for?”
“CAN has been consistently calling on some state governments that are enforcing the wearing of hijab in the public schools to exempt the Christian schools where hijab culture is alien.”
“We are not against the wearing of hijab in public and Islamic schools but our schools should not be included unless those states are looking for trouble.”
“We have resolved to close down our schools and colleges to protest against this ungodly and disrespectful policy. We should return to the status quo ante where we were before the politicisation of hijab. Let those who want to be wearing hijab go to schools where it is allowed.”
“Alternatively, let those state governments return our schools and stop funding them. We can manage them.”
“We did not beg the government to partner with us. It was the government that couldn’t provide enough school that came in subtly to partner with us but now going another mile to take over completely. Can the government own what they did not spend their money to build?”
“Those who took over our schools did not tell us that our religious traditions and culture would be eradicated.”
CAN urged Christians in both federal and state legislative houses to rise and speak for the Church if they have not compromised their faith for political reasons.
“If they failed to do so, God Himself will ask them of their stewardship one day and equally fight for His Church,” the statement added.