On Wednesday, 18 March, I woke up to see a release pasted on notice boards in my hostel by the Muslim Students’ Society of Nigeria. It goes thus:
“O you who believe, take not as protectors, helpers, and friends those who take your religion as a mockery and fun from among those who received the scriptures (Jews and Christians) before you, and nor from among the disbelievers; and Fear Allaah if you indeed are true believers.” (Suratul Maidah verse 57).
General Secretary, MSSN,
I deem the release offensive and here is a rejoinder:
Re: A Call to Order
To go straight to the point, this is a reaction to a statement released by the General Secretary of the Muslim Students’ Society of Nigeria, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife Chapter which ‘sternly’ warns people from wearing Islamic religious clothing for the departmental costume days. I agree that it is quite sensitive to wear sacred clothing representing other faiths mockingly, especially in a religiously delicate society that we have now created. While other faiths are affected by this act, using that as an excuse would be lame because it is not stated in the codes of other religions that it is wrong and most other religions do not even have official clothing, only clothing either copied from other countries or derived by spiritual leaders.
It was written that ‘This barbaric act is offensive to our faith and it would not be taken with levity.’ That is a threat which itself is capable of inciting people. In a secular state where we all have complete freedom to wear anything as long as it does not contravene the university Dress Code which was recently revised and publicized.
As a matter of fact, it is our Muslim sisters who are contravening the University law by wearing veils which covers their identity. On the issue of ‘the possibility of the use of these Islamic attires by non-Muslims to impersonate and perpetuate heinous crimes thereby portraying Islam in a bad light.’ I believe that MSSN is only avoiding the big issue and taking up the minor and inconsequential one, the University Management, a few weeks back issued a statement on the Dress Code for members of the University Community which states that ‘the identities of all students MUST be revealed at all times.’ While this is a sane law, considering the state of security in our nation and the secular nature of our society, we all know that the law does not cater for the Muslim sisters who wear veils. While this is right according to their faith, it is inconsistent with the law of a community they voluntarily joined.
If not for religious tolerance, what we should do anytime we see any veiled Muslim sister in our hostels or in the academic area is to alert the security unit of the University or hold her down and demand for her identity to be revealed. If only we had been doing what we are supposed to do, maybe MSSN would have had bigger issues to contend with. A Muslim friend, while attempting to justify the release said that maybe they are already working on reconciling the law and the Islamic faith but even if they are doing anything, it is not enough because I know the trauma a Muslim colleague of mine goes through each time we are to write an exam.
By citing the UI incident, they mean that it is possible for Muslims to mob anyone who wears purportedly Muslim attire in a manner they deem offensive, that would amount to breaking the law and I am extremely sure that people from other faiths won’t let the issue slide. Another question is this: What exactly is ‘offensive’? When does wearing a cloth I like become offensive in a secular democracy? Whose law would that be? People wear Jalabias as nightwears or casual wears and it has even become a fashion trend amongst youth nowadays.
That can only work in a ‘Sharia’ state and not a secular state like ours. They cannot bring what obtains in the Arab world down here and we need to agree with the fact that we only practice a syncretized version of the ‘revealed’ religions and our cultures as Africans. When I consulted with a respected Muslim colleague, he told me that it is offensive to mock Islam as stated in the Holy Quran but nowhere is it expressly stated in the Quran that Muslims should attack or mob those who do it. If all religious associations attack everyone who they feel is mocking their religions then we would all become murderers in the name of religion.
On a final note, MSSN does not have any right or authority to issue a ‘stern warning’ to anyone except Muslims who are members of the society, what they should have done is to discourage people from doing what they deem offensive to their religion. As a student and a stakeholder in Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, I hereby demand that MSSN retract the offensive statement they released. I wish us all a peaceful existence in Ife. Thank you.