NACOMYO, MURIC, MMWG slam CAN over opposition to religious discrimination bill

THE National Council of Muslim Youth Organisations (NACOMYO) has condemned the opposition of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) to a bill before the National Assembly seeking to end religious discrimination in Nigeria.

The bill is tagged Religious Discrimination (Prohibition, Prevention) Bill 2021.

NACOMYO, in a statement signed by its national president, Malam Sani Suleiman Maigoro, and national secretary general, Alhaj Mas’ud Akintola, described CAN’s call on the National Assembly to suspend the bill before the House of Representatives which might put an end to hijab discrimination in academic institutions and other public and private establishments in the country.

The organisation expressed displeasure at “CAN’s consistent agitation against anything Islamic,” saying such attitude might sound a death knell for the Nigerian Inter-Religious Council (NIREC) which seeks to promote peaceful coexistence, understanding and harmony in the country.

The statement reads in part: “Despite the fact that the use of hijab by any willing Muslim woman or girl is their fundamental right, bigots under the cover of CAN hate Islam with passion, not minding the unprecedented benefits of hijab to its users and Islamic banking and finance to the country as in sukuk which has been used to fund several road projects in Nigeria. One then wonders if CAN will urge its members not to ply those roads.

“The latest attitude shows that the Christians have been uncomfortable being neighbours to Muslims who don hijab in our communities and other places.

“Religion should promote decency, modesty and morality, not the opposite, but with CAN, it is the other way. We therefore wish to ask the Christian body what it will lose if the hijab bill is passed.

“We want to admonish the antagonists of hijab to imbibe the teachings of love your neighbour as yourself and therefore take a leaf from the Baptist College of Australia which in September 2019 changed its dress code to accommodate the hijab-wearing students.”

Also, the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) described CAN’s opposition to the bill as conservative and reactionary and urged lawmakers to go ahead with the bill as it is not designed for hijab rights alone.

According to the Muslim rights advocacy organisation, the bill also aims at liberating Nigerian workers and women from discrimination.

MURIC, in a statement by its director, Professor Ishaq Akintola, accused CAN of being interested in imposing its own whims and caprices on the lawmakers by threatening fire and brimstone.

The statement party reads: “We note the use of the highly combustible word ‘trouble’ at the end of CAN’s sentence. Why must it be about ‘trouble’? Why not about the law? Why not about fairness? Why not about equity? Why not about justice? Its statement is full of threats but we are not bothered. The process must take its due course.

“The world is changing but CAN is averse to change. Democracy has gone digital but CAN still sees it with analogue eyes. Even colonialist Britain recognised the need to let people go. It granted independence to countries within its empire decades ago. 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 wants to drag Nigerians back into darkness after we have seen the light. It had better not be. CAN is the most conservative and reactionary organisation in Nigeria today. CAN is neck deep in gymnastic religiousity. The hijab bill must go ahead. The people’s representatives must boldly march forward.”

In the same vein, the Muslim Media Watch Group of Nigeria (MMWG) condemned CAN’s position and urged the House of Representatives to continue its debate on the bill, which has scaled the second reading.

In a statement in Kano on Thursday by its national coordinator, Alhaji Ibrahim Abdullahi, the MMWG described the call by CAN for the bill to be stepped down as “myopic, insensitive and irrational.”

It argued that beneficiaries of the bill, if passed into law, would cut across religious, ethnic and geographical boundaries.

The organisation wondered why CAN had continuously been discriminatory in its approach to issues, citing the ongoing controversy on hijab and ownership of schools in Kwara State.

The Muslim group said while the state government was toeing the path of unity, rationality and rule of law, the Christian body in the state continued to exhibit opposition and discrimination “which has no basis in Nigerian law, international jurispudence and modern practice.”

It described “the threat” over the use of hijab in schools, which it said was contained in CAN’s statement, as irreligious, laughable and condemnable, saying: “It is antithetical to peaceful coexistence of Nigerians. It is not a language of men of God as it is misleading, erroneous and confrontational.”

The group described the present Nigerian constitution as deficient and lacking enforcement, saying that the current debate of freedom bill in the lower chamber of the National Assembly wais a “giant stride meant to correct the errors made in the evolution and amendment of our constitution.”

The MMWG appealed to CAN to join “patriotic Nigerians” in promoting peace and unity “instead of intimidating peace-loving people of the country by saying ‘there will be trouble’ over issues that have been settled by court pronouncements.”

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