Controversies have trailed the recent approval of Hijab for female officers in the Nigeria Police Force (NPF). While Muslim individuals and organizations have praised the development, some non-Muslims and organizations disagree. Vanguard, a Nigerian media company took it upon itself to publish an editorial to denounce the approval, refute its premises, and claimed the approval is bigotry.
“Introduction of the Islamic hijab headdress for female police officers by the Inspector General of Police, Usman Baba Alkali, is a display of provocative bigotry and impunity. It must be reversed”
This press release seeks to analyse the premises of the approval, counter-refute Vanguard’s Islamophobic editorial, and drive the reader to an understanding of the prolegomena to the Muslim Woman’s Hijab.
Inclusion, Gender Mainstreaming, and Religious Diversity
Vanguard quoted a part of the statement from the NPF that read:
“The IGP noted that the Nigeria Police workforce has officers from every local government in the country with a variety of ethnic and religious backgrounds, and an increased inclusion of female folks. This, therefore, brings the need to guarantee inclusion, gender mainstreaming, ethnic and religious diversity in the workplace for optimum output and professionalism”.
“This claim by the IGP is empty. It does not prove how the introduction of the Islamic religious headdress improves professionalism or workplace output. Also, the “diversity” claim is unsustainable unless the Police will also allow other kinds of headdresses worn across the various cultures of the country as part of the Nigeria Police uniform. That would make our policewomen look ridiculous.”
Vanguard, like any other Islamophobic organization, has exhibited an irrational hatred for Islam. According to the NPF, the ethnic and religious diversity of a country like Nigeria necessitated adopting a policy in tandem with our contemporary times. There are thousands of Mulsim women who are willing to join the NPF but for their hijab. The question of how the introduction of ” how the Islamic religious headdress improves professionalism or workplace output” should be directed to several countries that have adopted the same policy. The author of the editorial mischievously omitted” the part of the statement that read:
“This has informed the improvement for effective global workforce diversity management. Other countries that have adopted the same dress code include Canada, the United States of America, Sweden, Turkey, Australia, and the United Kingdom amongst others.”
As a developing nation, it is a move in the right direction to adopt inclusive policies given the ethnic and religious diversity of Nigeria as cited by the NPF. These are examples of non-Islamic and yet-to-be-Islamized countries that have adopted the policy before Nigeria
Maha Sukkar made history in November 2004, when she became the first Australian police officer to wear a hijab.
Jane Kemp, 28 years old, is a police officer in Manchester, UK.
Donna Eljammal, a 26-year-old woman, became Sweden’s first police officer in a hijab.
Mona Tabesh is the first woman to wear a hijab in a Toronto Police Service uniform, which represents a token of assurance and a step to encourage other Muslim women to work in the police departments.
Kadra Mohamed is Minnesota’s first hijab-wearing policewoman and the first Somali female officer.
These are examples of non-Muslim countries that have adopted the same policy as the NPF, have they been Islamized?
The fallacy of false equivalence
“Also, the “diversity” claim is unsustainable unless the Police will also allow other kinds of headdresses worn across the various cultures of the country as part of the Nigeria Police uniform. That would make our policewomen look ridiculous.”
The hijab struggle in Nigeria is not new. When Muslims ask for their rights to use the Hijab, Islamophobes start to make incompatible comparisons. Vanguard should know that the fact that potato and tomato rhyme does not make them the same thing.
Some years back, there was a campaign to allow Muslim students in Osun Schools to wear the Hijab. As an act of mischief, Churches and traditional worshippers asked their children to wear their religious apparel to schools. Some wore choir gowns, some belonging to celestial churches wore white robes and others aligning with traditional practices wore theirs as well. It did not take long before they all reverted to their usual school uniforms while the Muslim children continued to wear their Hijab.
Fundamentally, the life of a female Muslim is centered around her Hijab because it is a sign of obedience to her Creator. She practically goes everywhere with it. Even in her home, she does not remove it in the presence of people who are non-mahrams (anyone in and outside of her family that it is Islamically legal to marry). The equivalence of the Hijab to a protestant Christian may be the cross, to the Catholic Nun may be the head covering, and to the Sikh, his turban. If countries that vanguard would consider to be more advanced implement this, why should Nigeria not?
On Nigeria’s secularism
The KnowIslam Project has explained the nature of Nigeria’s secularism many times and will continue to do so as long as people get enlightened. Vanguard wrote:
“The Nigeria Police is one of the constitutional bodies which are not meant to reflect any religion.”
Secularism in Nigeria is not necessarily the same as another country’s secularism, the same way democratic governments do not necessarily employ the same practices. Ekwutosi Offiong (University of Calabar) and Charles Ekpo (Arthur Jarvis University, Akpabuyo, Nigeria) in their publication, “NIGERIA: THE PARADOX OF A SECULAR STATE” asked;
“By its virtue of not declaring any religion as state religion, the Constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria has been adjudged by many to be temporal, and Nigeria, a secular state. However, the level at which religion influences govern-ance and vice versa has begged for the question, is Nigeria really a secular state?”
The question of Nigeria being a secular state has been a subject of discourse. Some have argued that Nigeria is a secular state on paper, but in reality, is a multi-religious state. We think nothing describes Nigeria better than a multi-ethnic and multi-religious state. The influence of the two major religions, Islam and Christianity, in Nigeria’s politics exceeds what is obtainable in an average secular state.
While the definition and implementation of secularism differ in different countries, secularism is itself not anti-religion. In the case of Nigeria which is a multi-religious state, the constitution does not adopt, praise, or reject any religion. Rather, the citizens in the state have the fundamental right to practice any religion of their choice. Vanguard, we think, might have saved themselves from embarrassment by looking at the rationale behind the adoption of Hijab for female police officers in the UK, US, Scotland, etc.
The paradox of political secularism. For a constitution to maintain neutrality in matters pertaining to religion, while at the same time protecting the right to religion calls for considerations that have been discussed many times. An example is William Galston’s, “Liberal Pluralism”. For the Liberal Pluralist, justice has four basic elements;
“(a) the rule of the law, (b) equal citizenship (c) public dialogue for determining the issues of equality, need, choice, etc., and (d) enjoyment of social minimum as far as resources are concerned”
Another recent account about political secularism is Joselyn Maclure’s and Charles Taylor’s “liberal pluralism.” Richard Bellamy (European University Institute, 1999) also discussed, “Liberalism and Pluralism: Towards A Politics of Compromise” while Sebastian Rudus’, “The Paradox of Political Secularism and How to Solve it” critically discussed this topic.
We made these references so that Vanguard and other Nigeria islamophobes may know that Nigeria’s political secularism has nothing to do with Islamization. The claim of Nigeria being a secular state only arises when Muslims make demands for their rights. Nigeria ceases to be a secular state when Christmas lights adore government institutions, or when the cities are painted with Merry Christmas, or what shall we say about the praise and worship sessions in government institutions, especially government-owned hospitals?
Dear Vanguard, it is preposterous that at this age, a media company thinks it is acceptable to wear Hijab as a policewoman in their supposed advanced states but it is Islamization for Nigeria to do so. Let us also add an important part of the NPF’s statement that Vanguard omitted:
“The dress code is optional and senior women police officers have been tasked by the IGP to ensure compliance with the approved standard for women police officers who have opted to adopt the dress code.”
The dress code is said to be optional and not mandatory for anyone. How then does that Islamize anyone? Vanguard also needs to tell us what part of the western world has been Islamized on account of the adoption of this policy.
Vanguard also asked:
“The questions that remain unanswered are: how did the Arabic figurines (ajami in Hausa) become a permanent feature in our currency notes”
Kindly find this article on the KnowIslam website, “The Role of the Ajami Script in African Literacy By Bashir Lucas Samson Lukman “. We have answered the question.
They also asked:
“Why is the motto of the Nigerian Army written in Arabic Islamic text and only interpreted to the rest of us as “Victory Belongs To God”? Who took these decisions, and on what authority?”
Late Retired General David Ejoor, a Christian, gave an insight in his book “Reminiscences (page 16)”. It was he, not a Sheikh that designed it.
Having refuted this Islamophobic media house, we passionately call for conscious Muslims in Nigeria to boycott this media house for their show of disdain, disrespect, and hatred towards Muslims and Islam until they issue an apology and retract their shameless editorial.
We also call on the Federal Government of Nigeria to sanction media houses like this that use their platforms to divide the citizens thereby creating unrest and disorder in the nation.
Bashir Lucas Samson Lukman for KnowIslam Project
…telling the Muslim story!