On completion of the national youth service some years ago, I considered taking up a teaching job in a nearby private school. The school, being on top in the community, would never give in to quackery.
The school administrator was overwhelmed by my performance – that a Yorùbá language graduate could dazzle excellently in English. With immediate alacrity, I was offered provisional employment, not only as English Studies teacher, but also as the school’s guidance counselor. The proprietor, who must have been informed of my amazing performance, addressed me the following week with a pleasant smile on his face.
Without too much in too little, I was handed to the most senior English Studies teacher on assumption of duty for orientation. To my utter dismay and disappointment – on getting to the staff office – in the presence of all teachers, the first utterance she made was to complain and condemn my beard. “You will have to shave off the hairs on your jaw,” she blurted out. I was puzzled – why a subordinate would set a standard not known to her superordinate. All through the process of employing me – from aptitude test to interview sessions – nothing of such was said by the administrator. “What trash is this woman saying?” I soliloquized.
The situation was rescued by a fellow Christian who, on my behalf, gave a suitable, soothing reply. “What has his beard got to do with what he wants to teach? Mrs… (name withheld), allow this man join us in peace o jàre,” she said jovially. I considered the response mine, so I kept mute.
The hairs the Islāmophobic teacher wanted shaved were countable – extremely small then. Aside the black on my forehead and my trousers up above the ankles, such kind of beard wasn’t even enough to conclude that one was a Muslim. So I was sure my beard wasn’t her headache but my religion. Meanwhile, already in the school as a Christian-teacher who was even more bearded than me. I wondered how come same complaint wasn’t extended to him.
There were three English Studies instructors in the school: one (the Islāmophobe) handling SS2 and 3, another teaching SS1 and JS3, and I, the most junior, entrusted with JS2 and 1. Added to my pedagogical and counselling duties was my being SS1 students’ class teacher. I gave the work my all, and in less than a term, I had been the talk of the school and a subject on the lips of parents. I recall that, one day, a parent who was an English language expert and whose daughter had told her a lot about me, visited my boss to appreciate my assiduity with copies of some English language texts. “Mr Kay, the new English Studies teacher, is doing a wonderful job. Please help deliver these books to him to add to his knowledge,” she told my boss.
My infinitesimally grown beard affected nothing. My trousers up above the ankles affected nothing. It’s a school owned by a Christian. Muslim teachers therein were just three. The Islāmic Studies teacher was the third. At Salāh time, I would leave the school for a nearby mosque to accord my Lord His deserved servitude. When, at a point in time, my boss complained, I stood my grounds never to get subdued.
When I left for an Islāmic school where I could be free to be faithful to my faith, the proprietor – not minding his age and status – begged me as though I was irreplaceable.
The degree of hatred for Islām by some Christians is unfathomable, yet on their tongues eternally lives the mantra, “religious tolerance”. And their ill-thoughts about the Muslims too is one thing I equally find unimaginable. They believe and pass it to their children that Muslims aren’t good. So when those gullible kids, acting the brainwashing script, see a brilliant Muslim, they feel surprised.
Indelible was my experience with a pastor’s daughter when I was on practicum in a school in Lagos. The girl obviously liked me. Counselling interpersonal relationship brought her near me. That was how I knew she was motherless. Her father – rich and responsible – was the one taking care of her and the younger ones. I don’t know what she might have told her father, but she would sometimes come to school with gifts presented to me. Allāh used me to help her overcome some academic and psychological problems. That, I think, thickened the likeness.
One day, looking at me straight in the eye and with no word minced, she said I was too brilliant, caring and responsible to be a Muslim. I wasn’t surprised. I knew it was brainwashing that was playing out. I rather laughed it off and had her educated.
What has religion got to do with being cerebral if not mere pathological bigotry. I’ve got a lot of examples that show the high level of hatred some Christians harbour against Islām and the Muslims. Is it a one-time Christian-student of mine who, while going through writing tutelage under me, asked me to accept Jesus as my Lord and personal Saviour. Whereas, the girl knew I was an imām. I can go on and on…
Nigerian Christians (not all of them though), in my debatable opinion, are uncivilized. They continue to live in the shadow of the past. Even America that proclaims Christianity as the religion of the country isn’t being intolerant as done our people. There’s Islāmic Bank of Britain (IBB), and it’s been in existence for years. When Nigerian Muslims requested for same from the government, Christians cried fowl as though they would be forced to bank with the bank(s). They said it was Islāmization agenda. America allows hijāb, even in their public schools. In Nigeria, the Muslims had to go through thick and thin to make that work in some states, even where they are in majority. It’s unfortunate how some Christians are uncivilized.
Sanni Kay Yūsuf