Some respected Muslim leaders and the Christian Association of Nigeria have disagreed over plans by the security agencies to frisk women dressed in hijab and burka, in response to the growing threat of suicide bombers dressed in the Muslim outfit. While the Muslim leaders argued that such an action would amount to profiling Muslim women, the CAN said it was a necessary sacrifice to make in light of current security realities.
“We are not comfortable with the security arrangement. There should not be separate laws for Muslims and other religion adherents. Solving problems in Nigeria is like scratching the surface. We do not support the fact that Muslim women should be singled out for this action. It is known that some of the people who carry out these suicide bomb attacks are not even Muslims”, he said.
Sharing a similar view, Prof. Akintola, said the Muslim community was against the search of women wearing hijab.
Akintola said, “It will amount to profiling Muslim women. The repercussion will even be graver than we ever expected. Already, the Nigeria elite are discriminating against Muslim women and Muslims generally. Muslims have the right to dress the way they like. Let the security agencies do their work; they know what to do. There is deep intelligence. They should nip conspiracy and plots to bomb in the bud.
“Where they (Boko Haram) are making the bombs, get them there. Those who are behind making the bombs, get them. Those who finance them, pick them. You don’t infringe on civil rights. Boko Haram or no Boko Haram, people should dress the way Allah has instructed them”.
In his view, which was along similar lines as those shared by Akintola and Aliyu-Khalid, Noibi kicked against singling out hijab-wearing women, saying it was wrong.
He said, “It would be wrong for the army or the police to single out Muslim women who wear hijab for security search simply because the Boko Haram insurgents use a similar mode of dressing to carry out their suicide bomb attacks. It will be wrong to target only Muslim women. That will also mean that (all) Muslim women wearing the hijab are suspected suicide bomber. It will also be against the ethics of the police and other uniformed security agencies to use men to search women”.
But the umbrella body of Nigerian Christians insisted that hijab-wearing women be searched.
Its view was articulated by the General Secretary of CAN, Reverend Musa Asake, who explained that Muslims must understand the new trend in the war against Boko Haram.
Rev. Asake said, “If some people are misusing it, then, there should be a restriction as to where to use it. If you are trying to compare it with Catholic nuns, have you ever caught a Catholic nun with a bomb? Has a Catholic nun ever bombed anybody anywhere? Hijab is not something new and has anybody ever challenged it? It is until this thing (suicide bombing) started happening. This is what we are saying; it is for our security”.
The Deputy Force Public Relations Officer, Abayomi Shogunle, weighed in on the controversy, pointing out that women who wear the hijab would be frisked only by female security agents.
He said, “More female policewomen have been deployed to participate in security operations that would involve the searching of women, because of the religious and cultural beliefs of the (Northern) region.
“Women wearing hijab don’t constitute a security threat. The Nigerian constitution guarantees freedom of religion and dressing. Our officers serving in the states prone to terrorism are aware of the modus operandi of the insurgents and they know what to look out for”.
Mr. Shogunle said though policemen face threats on a daily basis, they knew the mode of operation of terrorists.
He said, “Recently in Kano a female terrorist wearing a hijab was trying to mingle with people entering the mosque, but the officers there were able to identify her and fish her out.
“The same thing happened again in Kano when a hijab-wearing female attempted to enter a school and she was prevented from entering the school to carry out her deadly mission. The policemen on duty knew she was not coming on a good mission, so they stopped her from entering the school and she was forced to detonate her bombs outside the premises”.