FRIDAY SERMON: Nigerian Law School and Islamophobia, by Abdullah Musa Abdul

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Arc. Abdullah Musa Abdul (PenAbdul)

I begin with the Name of Allaah, the Entirely Merciful, the Especially Merciful.

“Never will the Jews nor the Christians be pleased with you till you follow their religion. Say: “Verily, the Guidance of Allaah (Islamic Monotheism) that is the (only) Guidance. And if you were to follow their desires after what you have received of Knowledge (Qur’an), then you would have against Allaah neither any Wali (protector or guardian) nor any helper.” Qur’an 2:120

From time immemorial, Muslims that understood the real teachings of their religion are peace loving people because their religious teachings foster peace, justice and unity. Undoubtedly, they have the highest level of tolerance and this stems from one of the commonest verses of the Glorious Qur’an where Allaah may He be Exalted says: “There is no compulsion in religion. Verily, the Right Path has become distinct from the wrong path. Whoever disbelieves in Taghut (anything worshipped besides Allaah) and believes in Allaah, then he has grasped the most trustworthy handhold that will never break. And Allaah is All-Hearer, All-Knower.” Qur’an 2:256. Ironically, the propagandists have deployed their propaganda machines vis-a-vis media outlets to promote the narrative that Islam is the most intolerant religion and that Muslims are the worst of people.

This started even before the inception of the modern media. It began almost 1450 years ago when the Prophet of Islam began his mission. But it failed even before it started because the Prophet’s mission was the most successful in the history of humanity. Oppression against the Muslims in the eyes of those championing the cause of justice and human rights is the loudest irony of all times. From Palestine to Chechnya, from Afghanistan to Syria, from Myanmar to Kashmir, it is the case of Muslims facing persecution. The case of France banning the burqa is still fresh in our mind. And now the Nigerian Law Dinner and Call to Bar ceremony where Muslim women are denied their fundamental right to express their religious values in form of donning the Hijab and the list is endless. Everywhere it is the oppressors versus the oppressed Muslims.

Let us flip the coin and put the spotlight on Nigeria. For decades now, there has been a political propaganda that successive governments headed by Muslims have the agenda of Islamizing Nigeria. This is common news which needs not to be debated. But it is actually a case of being bitten then prevented from crying. From camping during the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) where the atmosphere has been designed with absolute disregard for the modesty of a Muslim woman who has been nurtured to appear in her Hijab, to the military, the Police force, Customs, Immigration and most uniform jobs, where Muslim men are not allowed to wear their beards (which also is a religious injunction and not a thing of choice), to Muslim women being discriminated against in work places such schools, hospitals. For example, 3 years ago the Management of the National Orthopaedic Hospital in Igbobi, Lagos relieved two female nurses of their duties for wearing Hijab at work. Similarly, one Justice Grace Onyeabo once ruled against the use of hijab in schools, claiming it would affect the secular nature of Lagos State.

Furthermore, talking about the beards, the fact that Muslims cannot keep their religiously ordered beard in the military or the police force has seen a lot of intelligent Muslims opting out of those services even though we believe in the legal maxim that states: “Necessity dictates permissibility” which explains why we have a lot of Muslims in the service today. Countries more advanced than Nigeria have since allowed their military personnel to maintain and express their religious values and identities. In India (that has more than 2000 ethnic groups with many religions), Sikhs are allowed to wear full beards in the armed forces (and police) as their religion expressly requires followers to do so. In December 2003, the Supreme Court of India ruled that Muslims in uniform can grow beards. Even the Belgian army permits moustaches and beards, so also Austria, Denmark, Italy, the British Royal navy. In an article entitled “U.S. military giving troops more leeway for religious clothing, beards,” written by David Alexander published by Reuters in 2014, it states that effective 22 January 2014, the US military expanded its policies on religious accommodation and allowed all officer and enlisted personnel to request permission to wear beards and articles of clothing for religious reasons.

It is the Muslims that have to go to work on Friday despite the status of Friday in their religion while Sundays are for holidays yet they want to Islamize Nigeria? Every day a lot of conferences on peace and unity, religious tolerance are being held with many “intellectuals” and religious personnel in attendance yet nothing out of these conferences except flowery speeches and hypocritical applauds. If (as was informed) there is a Court of Appeal and a Supreme Court ruling on Hijab in Nigeria, then why the discrimination against it? Also, if Sections 38 and 39 of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) gave every Nigerian the right to practice and express his or religious beliefs without being infringed upon, then the case of a Muslim lady who wants to put on Hijab and the Muslim man who wants to wear the beard regardless of what profession should be amplified. And it is equally her right as a Muslim woman to oppose any rule that will coerce her to appear immodestly though to some, morality is relative.

Finally, Muslims (in the true sense of the word) do not choose and pick which Laws of Allaah to obey and which not to, rather they try their best to see that they are the best Muslims they ought to be. We still have some Muslims doubting the obligation of a Muslim woman wearing the Hijab, Alas! they are far from the teachings of the Qur’an because Qur’an states that: “O Prophet! Tell your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers to draw their cloaks (veils) all over their bodies (i.e. screen themselves completely)). That will be better, that they should be known (as free respectable women) so as not to be annoyed. And Allaah is Ever Oft‑Forgiving, Most Merciful” Qur’an 33:59

If there is real meaning to the words being echoed by our “intellectuals” on religious tolerance, then Muslims should be allowed to uphold their religious values without any form of discrimination which seems to have been institutionalized. Justice and respect for the rule of law breeds peace and harmony.

Twitter: @Penabdull Instagram: @Penabdul