By Balkis Tijani.
Prof. Taofeek Ibrahim, the Vice Chancellor of Al-Hikmah University, a faith-based institution in Ilorin, the Kwara State capital, has discountenanced calls by some Christian students of the school to whittle down the hijab policy in consideration of non-Muslims.
In separate interviews with INSIDER, some female Christian students who pleaded anonymity had expressed their displeasure over donning the hijab against their wish.
Others, who live on campus disclosed that the freedom to practice their religion had nosedived under the ‘rigid policy’.
Some of the girls who explained that they settled for Al-Hikmah University having been hamstrung by opportunity to study in secular institutions in the state, queried why the school admits Christians when it will be intolerant to their religion.
They collectively asked the management of the institution to enforce compliance with decent dressing rather than compel non-Muslims to use the hijab.
When asked by our correspondent if she felt oppressed by the policy, one of the students said, “Of course, I am. You must put on long gown and hijab not even a veil. The policy is out of reach.”
In her response to why she chose the school despite the legislation, she stated, “When I was doing my JUPEB (Joint Universities Preliminary Examination Board) programme, we do dress normal with veil. Hijab wasn’t compulsory then. It was when I got admission I was told it was now compulsory to use the hijab. I didn’t know it will be so strict like this.”
She added, “At least, they should consider us Christians. We can’t go to church any longer, especially those in the hostel that attend Celestial churches. Imagine us dressed for church in hijab or even attempt to take off the hijab at the school gate. People will say we’re prostitutes. The school should enforce compliance with decent dressing, instead of forcing non-Muslims to wear the hijab.”
Another aggrieved Christian student averred that, “Even most of the Muslims complain that they’re not comfortable with the hijab. My parents are not comfortable about me putting on hijab. They believe I’ll be converted to Islam at school.
“They were not even comfortable about sending me to the school. I had no choice but to go there after waiting at home for so long. I tried Unilorin several times, also the fees for non-indigenes at KWASU was very expensive.
“Hijab shouldn’t be made compulsory for Christians. The school should rather make a law that everyone should dress properly and look decent.”
Reacting, Prof. Ibrahim, the Vice Chancellor of the institution described their claims as “invalid and not tenable.”
In a chat with INSIDER on Saturday, the Al-Hikmah VC noted that the university had publicly declared that its vision and objectives are based on Islamic values, hence did not force applicants to apply.
Speaking on admitting only Muslim students, he explained that it was not in the character and policy of the school to discriminate admission to applicants on the basis of religion, ethnicity, gender or nationality.
He said, “Complaint of oppression on the basis of mandatory hijab for female students in our university is invalid and not tenable.
“This defence is premised on the fact that our University publicly declared and extensively publicise that the establishment of our institution and the drive of its vision, mission and objectives are based on Islamic philosophy and values. Having made that public, there can be no claim of ‘oppression’, when we did not force applicants to apply to our University.
“Our guiding philosophy and values were well publicly pre-declared and people have their choice to sign on, or not, to our institution.
“Against this background, let me state, unequivocally, that, the Hijab is made mandatory for our non-Muslim students, like their Muslim counterparts. This is for the obvious reason that, the problem of un-controlled, erotic and provocative display of the breasts and buttocks is not limited to female Muslims. It is same with non-Muslim females, so the prescription in our environment is same.
“In contrast to opinions that, as an Islamic institution, isn’t it safer to admit only Muslim students, my response is no. It is not in our character and policy to discriminate admission to applicants on the basis of religion, ethnicity, gender or nationality.”
Weighing in on the issue, an Islamic scholar who wished not to be named asserted that the move by the institution was “Islamically wrong”.
He, however, alluded that the Christian students should not complain for what they had already signed up for.
“Sharia does not impose anything Islamic law on non-Muslims. It is Islamically wrong, but unfortunately the students of Al-Hikmah will never have their way.
“There is a concept of law, you cannot sign for something and now complain of injury. A boxer cannot take any of his opponents to court for hitting him because he signed up to be a boxer as well as whatever happens in the ring”, he said.