The Christian Association of Nigeria and traditionalists had rejected the hijab bill, which has scaled through the second reading in the House of Representatives.
The bill is titled ‘Religious Discrimination (Prohibition, Prevention) Bill 2021’.
CAN’s secretary, Joseph Daramola, in a statement, explained that legislating wearing of hijab in private schools would lead to “trouble that the sponsors of the bill may not be able to handle”.
But the Amir (president) of MSSN in Lagos State, Miftahudeen Thanni, faulted CAN and the traditionalists’ positions, asking members of the House of Representatives to ignore them.
Thanni said, “Muslims have never for once in this country fight against what is due to the Christians and others. Why are they always against Muslims? Why are they always against Muslims. We are not saying hijab should be mandated for everybody but those who choose to wear it should be allowed without any hindrance.
“We are in this country when a governor built a church for Christians and declared Isese Day public holiday. Muslims didn’t raise any false alarm.
“When they started their agitations and protests against waering of hijab by willing Muslims in schools, we approached the court as law-abiding citizens. The bill on hijab is also a non-violence means to get the right thing done. But CAN and others have started instigating violence and tension.
“We are not against the Christians and traditionalists getting their rights. They also have no genuine reason to oppose ours other than to cause disunity in the country.
“The House of Representatives must give all necessary attention to the bill and ignore undue pressure. We will resist any attempt to sweep the bill under the carpet through every legal means.
“Though issues of unemployment, insecurity are paramount, this bill if passed will resolve many legal battles and give room for peace.”
Also, MURIC director, Prof. Ishaq Akintola, described CAN’s opposition to the freedom bill as conservative and reactionary.
He urged lawmakers to go ahead with the bill as it is not designed for hijab rights alone, adding that the bill also aims at liberating Nigerian workers and women from discrimination.
He said, “CAN is not talking about morality, legality and justice in its opposition to the bill. CAN is not interested in whether it is right or wrong. The only thing CAN is interested in is to impose its own whims and caprices on the lawmakers by threatening fire and brimstone.
“CAN refers to missionnary schools which were taken over by the Gowon decree of 1974 as ‘our schools’. That is a misnomer. It should be noted that both the Christians and Muslims were fully compensated when government took over their schools.
“CAN is trying to scare the lawmakers. Its statement is full of threats. But we are not bothered. The process must take its due course. Today Britain allows hijab in its schools. Go to Britain and see freedom. American schools allow hijab. Canada, Latin America and the rest of Europe have seen the light. Baptist College in Australia changed its school uniform to accommodate hijab-wearing students in 2019.
“But here in Nigeria, CAN, an ultra-conservative body, wants to drag Nigerians back into darkness after we have seen the light. The hijab bill must go ahead. It is the selfish wish of CAN to monopolise everything, including legislation.”