The International School in Ibadan, Oyo State on Thursday barred students who came to school in hijab from gaining entry to its premises.
The decision to bar the students comes a day after the Parents Teachers Association resolved that since hijab was not a part of the dress code of the school, it should not be worn by the students.
Trouble started on Monday when some Muslim parents dressed their wards in hijab and insisted on their entering into the school.
The school was hurriedly shut that day and a PTA meeting called, where it was resolved that Muslim students should not come to school in hijab again.
However, the Muslim Rights Concern has described the decision of the school to bar those wearing hijab from entering into the school as provocative.
It said the PTA meeting convened to resolve the matter ended in a stalemate as Muslim parents who attended the meeting were alleged not allowed to express their grievances.
MURIC said instead, they were shouted down by Christian parents and teachers who constituted the majority at the meeting.
The Muslim parents therefore decided to stage a walkout.
Commenting on this development, MURIC lamented the poor handling of the crisis by the school Principal, Phebean Olowe.
In a statement by its Convener, Prof. Ishaq Akintola, MURIC said: “It is administrative masturbation. We are not novice in management. The school principal has manipulated the PTA executive and exploited the meeting to achieve her hidden agenda which, ab initio, has been the denial of hijab for female Muslim students. Being a die-hard member of the Scriptures Union (SU), this woman characteristically has a pathological hatred for Muslims and their children.
“Why should a matter which affects Muslims only be subjected to the decision of a Christian majority? The likely outcome was already known to the principal. Whoever presided at that PTA meeting also had a preconceived idea. Majority may have their way but the minority should have their say. But that is only in democracy. Incidentally this is not about democracy. It is religion and religion is a sensitive matter. It will not succumb to democratic rules.
“Also by shouting down the Muslims at that meeting, the chairman has exhibited gross irresponsibility. The chairman of any meeting has a duty to protect all. He must have a listening hear and he should allow common sense to prevail at the end of the day. Common sense in this case should have made the chairman realize that bringing a majority Christian group together with a minority Muslim group in a matter affecting Muslims only in present-day Nigeria will only end up in confusion.”
Professor Akintola, who signed the statement, also condemned the shutting out of Muslim students from the school premises this morning.
He said: “It is religious apartheid. The principal has just shot herself in the foot. Her real plan is now exposed. She never really wanted Muslim children in that school unless they are prepared to compromise their faith. It is glaring from the way she hobnobs with Muslim officials who have exhibited readiness to compromise. She sees them as ‘liberal’ Muslims. To her a good Muslim is one who is not ready to stand by his or her religion. Yet she knows the rules in her own denomination (SU) where compromise is taboo. Imagine people who claim to be educated willingly denying entrance to schools to school children.
“It is impunity. It is tyranny of the highest order. We will resist this marginalization with every legitimate arsenal at our disposal. It cannot happen in Ibadanland. UIS authorities have acted ultra vires by shutting those students out. This is not a school where anyone can do what he or she likes. It is a fee-paying institution and the authorities will have to explain why those Muslim students who have duely paid their school fees are shut out of the school gates. The judiciability is not in contention here. A prima facie has been established. If UI itself is not an island, its international school cannot be entire of itself.
“They should look back and ponder. What happened in Osun State when Christian parents engineered their children and wards to wear church garments to school? How long did the church garment culture last in Osun schools? Why do people love to start what they cannot finish? What happened in the Law School when a single female Muslim law graduate challenged the status quo? Or have we forgotten the Amasa Firdaus affair so soon? What happened in Lagos State just two days ago after several years of depriving female Muslim children of their rights? How long will it take this principal to come to her senses?
“Phebean Olowe will eat her words. So will her cronies. The battle has just begun. We will humble her without firing a single shot and without recourse to violence. It is a battle of wits between the oppressor and the oppressed. Phebean Olowe should stop massaging her ego. She should do the right thing before it is too late.
“We will see who has the backing of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Her rubber-stamp PTA will need to explain to all Nigerians how their school’s laws can over-ride the Nigerian constitution. We hope they know what they are up against.
“Before we have a break, we advise the management of the University of Ibadan to intervene. The school principal must be called to order. We urge the Muslim parents to send their children and wards to school everyday and to also record treatments meted out to them by the school authorities. Freedom is never given on a platter of gold. Dare to struggle, dare to win. No retreat, no surrender.”