In a multi cultural and multi religious society like Nigeria, violation of basic rights breeds chaos and disobedience.
While discrimination, especially on the basis of religion causes disunity among people, sentiments on the other hand, causes fracture and motivate the feeling of revenge.
This is why every lover of peace and unity must at all times, be sensitive to the basic rights of others and not be seen as obstacle for no just cause.
Following my publication on the hijab controversy at the Nigerian law school few days ago, titled ‘’Nigerian Law School and the need for change’’, several people had reached out to me to give their views on the subject matter. In view of the numerous messages, I feel that i owe them further explanation in the interest of public good. So, this publication is a follow up to the first one, hoping that people might learn to understand the implication of their actions and its effect on peaceful coexistence, which will directly or indirectly have effect on their own living.
Apart from the fact that hijab is a legal right, already upheld in several court in the country, what we are contending with is our level of intolerance, discrimination and sentiments, not for any personal good or benefit, but for the satisfaction of bias.
The idea that people who share different faith, culture or tradition must not be accommodated or their rights not be protected is a fundamental flaw in our reasoning that must not be left unchallenged. This is an archaic reasoning in all ramifications.
For example, in February 2017, the Court of Appeal Lagos Division dismissed an application filed by the Lagos State Government seeking an injunction to suspend Hijab use by Muslim female pupils in public schools. While dismissing the suite, the Judge held that the ban on hijab was discriminatory. The panel upheld the contention that the ban violated their rights to freedom of thought, conscience, religion, dignity of human persons and freedom from discrimination guaranteed by the 1999 Constitution. So, there is no argument on whether or not, hijab is a right. The contention is about our level of intolerance, discrimination and sentiments.
When I see people opposing the use of hijab, I ask myself only one question. On what basis are they opposing it? Does wearing hijab by one person, infringes the right of the other person who don’t want to wear it? If not, how does the person who enjoys the right of not using hijab, justify his or her opposition to those who want to wear it? Only one answer surfaces here and it is intolerance.
Unfortunately, by opposing hijab, you are not fighting for your own right, but instead, fighting against the right of others. This is really a dangerous mindset, not against the people you oppose per se, but against your own self, because the same reasoning you use to justify your opposition to the rights of others will be brought into the quality of decisions you make for yourself.
But here is even a greater danger. When you oppose the right of others for no sane reason or benefits to you, they will also oppose you for no sane reason or benefit to them when the opportunity comes. Both of you would then continue to oppose each other for no sane reason, thereby leading to unnecessary tension, suspicion and even violence. This is what has breed insecurity in our country. The unnecessary suspicion manifest in virtually every aspect of our lives and it continues to escalate and breed tension even in the most unexpected places.
I have observed over the years that most of the conflicts we have in Nigeria are not real conflicts, they are mostly unnecessary conflicts born out of nothing and to achieve nothing. More importantly, they cannot be resolved, because they are nothing. You cannot resolve nothing, when there is nothing. Our conflicts are imaginary, born out of psychological misconception and the need to oppose others for opposition sake. This is why even those who claimed to be human right activists or lawyers fall into this ditch of inconsistency without seeing their bias. From claiming to be proponent of rule of law, they will take a 360 degree U-turn against the right of others and still feel the need to justify their absurdity.
For example, just few months ago, we defended the right of a female Muslim Central Bank Deputy Governor Aisha Ahmad, who chooses not to wear hijab, but today, those who defended her right not to use hijab are the same set of people are opposing the right of another female Muslim, who chooses to wear hijab. How can one lady have the right not wear hijab, and the other won’t have the right to wear it? This is where the inconsistency in activism comes in. It appeared they are not really interested in the law or the rightness of an action, but merely taking a position that is only consistent with their sentiment, interest or affiliation at a particular time.
On a final note, let me remind us all that, if we oppose other peoples right because it infringes on our own right, this is understandable. If we also oppose other people’s practices because it prevents us from practicing ours, this may also be understandable. And even if we oppose the right of others because it affects our own interest, that maybe acceptable as well. But, what could never be understandable is the fact that, we oppose other people’s right, not because it infringes on ours or prevent us from enjoying our own interest, but simply because we do not want others to enjoy their own right. This is a disjointed reasoning that we must expunge from our society if we are to achieve cohesion, stability and tranquility.
Abdulrazaq O Hamzat is a Human Rights Ambassador and Executive Director of Foundation for Peace Professionals. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org