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The Nation: That Curious Editorial

By Disu Kamor
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Unable to steer clear of bias, The Nation newspaper wrote an editorial on June 16th (titled That Curious Verdict) on the court verdict delivered by Justice Jide Falola on 3rd June, 2016 in Osun State. The court had held that the Muslim female students in public primary and secondary schools in the state are free to wear hijab in their schools. The Nation editorial gives an unreliable interpretation of this landmark verdict and ceaselessly put forward wrong examples to justify the misinterpretation.

For instance, in the 4th paragraph, the editorial asks a rhetorical question: What has human right got to do with the dress code adopted by organisations? in the following paragraph, the editorial continues: We cannot pretend, as a nation, to be oblivious to developments on the global stage. Do police women wear hijabs? Do judges? Yes, police women judges are allowed to wear the hijab in many Western countries, and so are students in public and some private schools.

In the Northern part of the country, and in some states in the Western part, Muslim students are allowed to use the hijab in public schools by government directives. Nothing more than a few clicks online would have revealed this to The Nation if it took its works seriously enough. What The Nation should be doing is advocate to secure the rights of those kids that are being forced to make a choice between education and a religious observance.

Also, it is not for The Nation newspaper to state the legal position on the issue, the court reserves that right. The newspaper remarkably erred in surmising that religious mandated dress code has got no connection with human right. It is in fact such lazy and reductionist thinking that makes the issue in Osun State seem complicated. In the abstract of a paper titled "Moslem Women, Religion And The Hijab: A Human Rights Perspective" in the East African Journal of Peace and Human Rights (Vol. 14 (1) 2008: pp. 148), M Ssenyonjo, Professor of International Law and Human Rights at Brunel University, London focuses on the status of the hijab in Islam and selected recent cases concerning the wearing of the Islamic dress in schools: "On the basis of these, two conclusions are made. Firstly, to prevent a person from making a choice to wear religious clothing (like the hijab) in public or private schools or institutions, in the absence of justification compatible with human rights law, may impair the individual's freedom to have or adopt a religion. Secondly, the general exclusion of women from schools or work on account of the Islamic dress might lead to further discrimination against girls and women in education and employment. A human rights perspective to the Islamic dress should involve as a starting point respecting choices of individual Muslim women to wear or not to wear the hijab." The editors at The Nation will do themselves some good by obtaining and digesting this important scholastic work.

The Nation further editorializes that "Where the Christians decide to adopt passive resistance, it should be seen as their right". Obviously, The Nation newspaper is calling to chaos where simple appeal by the unsuccessful party would be appropriate. Aside to being a disservice to a democratic nation, this subtle encouragement by this newspaper and depiction as a media gunslinger for Osun CAN should put The Nation to shaem. It clearly shows that their words are not only he same to those by Osun State CAN, also their sentiments remain the same.

Although The Nation newspaper will claim it has not broken any rule pertaining to journalism ethics, surely it cannot deny that this editorial is an example of the lowest standards in the practice of journalism. The Nation newspaper must pledge to minimize the number of errors it makes and to correct those that occur. Its editorial on this occasion is bizarre and its judgment is manifestly wrong. Accuracy and candor are crucial in the business of informing the public.

Finally, the unfortunate references to Justice Jide Falola and the criticism of the legal basis on which he passed his verdict have merely been substituting facile caricature for rigorous analysis. This editorial and other comments like it over-simplifying the substantive issues surrounding the hijab crisis in Osun State and the historical background to it (and CAN's infantile reactions) stand in poor contrast with other excellent news coverage of the issue and public comments. That The Nation newspaper seems only too willing to misreport events, or not report them at all, and to stick to CAN's propaganda line adopting its very definition of the situation and its language of deceit shows clearly that for the newspaper, if knowledge was the mark of good journalism, it remains completely unmarked.

The editorial must therefore be read allowing for artistic licence.

Disu Kamor
Executive Chairman
Muslim Public Affairs Centre, MPAC, Nigeria.
21 Salvation Road, Opebi, Lagos
Telephone: +234 807 604 9545
E-mails: [email protected]
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