Nigeria: Hijab Controversy - Peace Talk Between Kwara, Religious Leaders End in Deadlock

22 February 2021

Ilorin — A peace meeting convened by the Kwara State Government with religious leaders to resolve the controversy surrounding the wearing of hijab by female students in some secondary schools in the state at the weekend ended in a deadlock.

The state government last Friday ordered the closure of 10 secondary schools in Ilorin over the mass protest that greeted the turning back of the female students who wore hijab to the schools.

The affected schools closed by the state government are C&S College Sabo Oke; St Anthony College, Offa Road; ECWA School, Oja Iya; Surulere Baptist Secondary School, and Bishop Smith Secondary School, Agba Dam.

Others are CAC Secondary School, Asa Dam; St. Barnabas Secondary School Sabo Oke; St. John School Maraba, and St. Williams Secondary School in Taiwo Isale; St. James Secondary School, Maraba, all in Ilorin, the state capital.

The closure of the affected schools, it was gathered, was due to the protest that marred the turning back of the Muslim female students who wore hijab to their schools.

It was further learnt that the state government felt that if the closure of schools was not done, it may likely lead to religious crisis in the state.

The Muslims leaders in the state at a press conference in Ilorin last Tuesday appealed to the state government to prevail on former owners of public schools in the state to allow female Muslim students to wear hijab.

The spokesman of the group, Alhaji Ishaq Abdulkareem, said since the state government had taken over such schools, the former missionary owners no longer have control over the grant-aided schools in the state.

Abdulkareem also said: "Allowing Muslim female students to wear hijab will be in conformity with the judgment of the Kwara State High Court of 2016 and that of the Court of Appeal of 2019."

The development, however, prompted the state Governor, Alhaji AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq, to call a peace meeting with the religious leaders for last Friday in Ilorin so as to resolve the issue.The governor, who was represented by his Deputy, Mr. Lekan Alabi.

The meeting, which included both Muslim and Christian leaders, would allow them to take positions and offer opinions on how to resolve the differences on the hijab usage in grant-aided schools.

However, at the peace meeting, according to THISDAY investigations, the two religious bodies stocked to their demands at the meeting.

Sources at the meeting, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the Muslims leaders insisted that the female students would continue to wear their hijab to schools in line with the Court of Appeal ruling on the issue.

The sources also stated that the Christian leaders were said to have kicked against it, saying: "We will not allow the wearing of hijab in our missionary schools except head cap."

It was learnt that the Christian leaders were said to have told Muslims leaders at the meeting that: "If the Muslim females children cannot abide with their rules, they may take them to the Muslim schools in the state, so that they can be putting on their hijab."

Sources close to the meeting added that the peace meeting could not yielded positive results as there was no communique on the peace talk.

The development, it was further gathered, didn't go down well with the state government on the comments from the two religious bodies in the state, and that the government may issue proclamation on the issue this week.

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