April 12,2021, the Kwara Hijab Controversy Interactive Session organized by Global Affairs- the online platform for international relations,human rights and development scholars and practitioners to engage in expert conversations on matters important to them, was held over Zoom to address the ongoing hijab crisis between Christian and Muslim communities in Kwara State,North-Central Nigeria.The session moderated by Chrstabel Unobe and Harvey Onephrojire, engaged three panelists: Rev.Osas Obarisiagbon,Mallam Shehu Uthman Abubakar, and Dr.Drissa Kone. Thirty one participants drawn from Africa and the United States participated at the event.
Host of a Christian weekly broadcast on the Benin City Independent Television Channel, and Senior Pastor, House of Grace, Church of God Mission, Benin City-Nigeria, Rev. Osas Obarisiagbon strongly believes Christian schools should be allowed to ban the hijab.While current Nigerian law allows girls to wear head scarves (hijab), he believes that the law should be overturned. Overturning a law like that would be very difficult in Kwara because the majority of the population is Muslim. Therefore, his argument was more of a “should-be” concept rather than a practical one. He stated that girls wearing a hijab in class could create more divisions in a country already torn over religion, kidnappings and terrorist groups that have killed many Christian children.
Mallam Shehu Uthman Abubakar, an Islamic Scholar and author of 17 books on Islam and Comparative Religion, spoke the most out of anyone during the session. He was full of energy and made several key points. Most importantly, he argues that the current law in Nigeria that allows for girls to wear hijabs in Christian schools should be respected.
According to Shehu, the Nigerian constitution calls for respect for local culture and the dominant culture or religion in Kwara is Islamic.He brought up European colonization during the debate and made an allegation that they brought about Christianity in the country. It is unclear how this has anything to do with the debate given that it has been many decades since Europeans colonized Nigeria. In addition, he did not bring up the kidnappings by gangs or the Muslim extremists in Boko Haram.
The final panelist Dr. Drissa Kone, an Assistant Professor at the Unification Theological Seminary in New York City, an inter-faith Seminary, Kone advocates a dialogue between parties to reach an amicable solution that caters to each side’s interests irrespective of the present law that explicitly permits hijab in all schools in the state.
Overall, the strongest argument is that the current laws prohibit Christian schools from banning the hijab. While the “should be” or not arguments can be equally argued, the law is the law. If Christian pastors would like to overturn the law they will have to go through democratic channels within Nigeria. The rule of law is the most important thing in any democracy, so Christians that oppose this law should try to overturn it not ignore it.