Muslim students at the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (FUNAAB), have raised their voices against the alleged discrimination faced by Niqab-wearing students, citing violations of their religious rights.
The incident, which unfolded during the formal opening event of Jihad Week on September 9th, 2023, has ignited a debate over religious freedom and inclusivity within the university campus.
In a strongly-worded statement issued by the Muslim Students’ Society of Nigeria (MSSN), FUNAAB Branch, signed by the MSSN Amir, Fadullah Shittu, and shared with the media, the society emphasised the significance of the Niqab as a symbol of modesty for Muslim women, asserting that it is a personal choice for those who opt to wear it.
The statement further underlined that niqab-wearing students have consistently cooperated with the university’s identification procedures when required.
However, allegations of discrimination against Niqab-wearing students by the university’s management and some staff members have been a recurring concern.
Tensions escalated when the university displayed a billboard branding niqab as indecent dressing, sparking widespread public outrage and necessitating the removal of the controversial signage.
In response to these allegations, the university management initially stated that “niqab-wearing students could be identified when necessary and even claimed to have provisions for their registration.”
However, when the MSSN sought clarification on these procedures, the university administration reportedly contradicted its previous statements, raising questions about transparency.
The situation reached a breaking point during the first-semester examinations when niqab-wearing students allegedly faced undue harassment.
Disturbingly, two sisters were forcibly removed from an examination hall, while another sister was denied access to take an exam.
This latter incident led to her being reported to the Department of State Services (DSS) by university staff and subsequently admitted to a psychiatric department for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
In a further incident, the Chief Security Officer (CSO) of the university reportedly denied MSSN access to a requested hall for an event, insisting that they sign an undertaking prohibiting niqab-wearing students from attending, under the threat of disciplinary action.
MSSN firmly rejected this proposal, instead opting to utilise the masjid for their event.
The climax of this ongoing issue occurred during the opening event of Jihad Week, where a niqab-wearing woman was denied entry at the university gate due to her attire, which adhered to Islamic standards of modesty.
Her brother, who was a panellist at the event, demanded proper identification in line with security standards, prompting a peaceful demonstration by MSSN members in support of her entry.
MSSN FUNAAB has emphasised that any narrative differing from their account should not be accepted without credible evidence.
They remain steadfast in upholding the principles of decency and inclusivity in accordance with their faith while striving to maintain a safe and secure community.
The leaders of MSSN FUNAAB have assured their members that they will continue to protect them against any perceived injustices and have called for unity among their members to promote the values of their religion in the face of ongoing challenges and intimidation.