Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Monday, July 25, 2016

Courts and the conflicts of a multi-ethnic state

Geographic isolation prevents some conflict over religious differences in Nigeria, but in areas where the ethnic groups and religious groups interact, conflict is visible. This is one of the least serious, as long as people confine their conflicts to the courts. (Rule of law, don't you know.)

Letter from Africa: Nigeria's war of the religious robes (26 June 2016)
Almost all of Nigeria's many inter-religious crises have erupted in the north of the country, where the majority of the country's Muslims live, along with a sizeable Christian minority.

But, over the past few weeks, a religious conflict of a peculiar nature has sprouted in Osun state, south-west Nigeria, which has a large population of Muslims as well as Christians.

While previous religious conflicts have involved machetes, the battle in Osun is being fought with religious garments…

Back in the beginning of June a judge ruled that female Muslims who attend public schools in the state could wear their hijabs to class.
Nigerian women wearing hijabs
The state's branch of the Christian Association of Nigeria (Can) said Christian students would wear garments associated with church activities to schools if the state governor implemented the court ruling.

And they made good on their threat…

Some wore maroon choir robes and others donned ankle-length, white garments…
Nigerian boys in religious garb
Mr Aregbesola [the governor] announced plans to "reclassify" schools in the state…

The reclassification entailed merging some schools. For example, some male students were dispatched to the Baptist Girls' High School… while some Muslim students were asked to join the Baptist High School in another town…

But while schools, such as the Baptist High School, ultimately complied with the directive, they drew the line at allowing Muslim students to turn up for classes wearing the hijab…

Eventually, the Muslim association in the state took the matter to court.

After three long years, Justice Jide Falola ruled at the beginning of June that the use of hijabs by female Muslim students in Osun was their fundamental human right to freedom of religion…

Nigeria's Muslims applaud lifting of hijab ban in Lagos schools
A leading Muslim group in Nigeria has welcomed a court ruling lifting the ban on girls wearing the headscarf in government schools in Lagos state.

The Muslim Rights Concern (MRC) said the Lagos Court of Appeal's ruling was a victory for the rule of law.

The judges said the ban violated the religious rights of Muslim girls, overturning a lower court's ruling…

Nigeria's population is roughly divided between Muslims and Christians, with both groups being staunch believers.

The majority of Muslims live in the north and Christians primarily are in the south - though the southern state of Lagos has a more religious mix.

In June, the High Court in the southern state of Osun also lifted the ban on Muslims girls wearing the headscarf.

It caused religious tension in the state, with some Christian boys insisting on wearing church robes to school…

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