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Hijab Controversy: Religious Violence in Ilorin as Kwara Government insists schools reopen

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Violence broke out on Wednesday in Ilorin, Kwara State capital after the state government reopened 10 schools that were shut last month over the controversial use of hijab by Muslim female students.

The violence started after Christian officials of Baptist School, Surulere refused to allow the girls in Hijab from coming into the school.

This led to anger among Muslim parents, leading to arguments, which degenerated into a violent confrontation as angry Christians and Muslims threw various objects including stones and plastic chairs at themselves.

The security operatives close to the school had to call for reinforcement to calm the situation. The operatives dispersed them with tear gas.

The hijab controversy started over three weeks ago when officials of Saint Anthony Secondary School prevented Muslim female students from gaining entrance to the school claiming that it is a missionary school.

Several meetings had been held between Muslim and Christian leaders to resolve the issue with no apparent resolution, which led to the government temporarily closing down the ten schools until the reopening on Wednesday morning.

The school reopening was announced on Tuesday night by the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Education and Human Capital Development, Kemi Adeosun.

Mrs Adeosun said, “The government is convinced that its policy to allow willing Muslim schoolgirls to wear their hijab (face covering) in public schools will lead to sustainable peace and communal harmony anchored on mutual respect and understanding.

“This path to mutual respect, understanding, and peace with regards to hijaab had long been adopted in all of the northern Nigeria and many states in the Southwest such as Lagos, Osun, Ekiti, and Oyo States.

“As the students resume normal classes, the government took special notice of the plight of those of them preparing for the West African Senior School Certificate Examination and hereby directs affected schools to hold at least two-hour extra lesson for all the intending candidates after school hours daily.”

The Kwara state government took over all the missionary schools owned by Christian and Muslims since 1974. However, the missionary schools are still heavily supported by the churches that founded them and the case on the actual ownership of the ten schools in question, is still pending in the Supreme Court.

The management of these missionary schools say the government should wait for the outcome of the judgement of the Supreme Court before imposing the hijab policy.

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