Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM)
For struggle, Solidarity and Socialism in Nigeria
Newspaper of the DSM
SHARIA CRISIS IN OYO SCHOOLS:
RELIGION SHOULD BE A PRIVATE AFFAIR
On 13th March, 2003, a drama, which graphically revealed the level of degeneration of religious bigotry and the impending catastrophe not only in the state but the Country, was played out at a secondary school in Ibadan. The school, Queen of Apostles, Oluyoro, a former Catholic School has earlier forbidden students from putting on any other cloth apart the school uniform, especially the "hijab" which is a veil wore by Muslim women as a token of modesty.
According to an eye witness account, when the school's principal sent back some students for wearing the veil, some Islamic fanatics obviously awaiting such action swooped down on the school principal, rough handled her and later got her arrested by the police.
However, the event assumed a new dimension when the students of the school, who are all females, mobilised and marched down to the Agugu Police Station where the principal had been detained for over about an hour and forced the police to release her.
This event, coming just weeks after a similar, but bloodier event has confirmed, beyond doubt that the state could soon be engulfed in a religious crisis hitherto experienced. On February 24th this year, irate islamic activists numbering several scores invaded some secondary schools in the state capital beating and injuring students, teachers and some unfortunate bystanders. They also vandalized furniture and other school properties. These religious zealots claimed to be protesting against alleged discrimination against female moslems in the practice of their faith. These events also led to the closure of the entire primary and post -primary institutions in the state for several days.
PRELUDE TO CRISIS
On January 17th, 2002, an Islamic leader, Dr. Ibrahim Datti Ahmed announced in a press conference in Minna, Niger State that moslems in Oyo and Kwara states had invited him to bring Sharia, the Islam legal code, to them.
On April 30, the National Council of Moslem Youths (NACOMYO) announced the introduction of Sharia in the state. A month after (May 1st), the same organisation (NACOMYO) announced the setting up of Oyo State Independent Sharia Panel. Although Mr. Sanni Ishaq Kunle, who read the press statement assured that the panel will be for moslems who willingly submitted to panel, he warned that moslems who disobey the panel "may be ostracized by the moslem Ummah, their children may not be given names of mallams, their marriages may not be contracted by mallams and they may not be prayed for in their graves by mallams". More seriously, Sanni threatened that "there could be other extra-legal punishments as may be determined by the Imam in Council in Oyo state".
Sometime later, a young man was reported to have gone to the Council to confess a crime after which he was given forty strokes of the cane
Since then, the group and a sister organisation, the Muslim students society (MSS) have organised several protests to the office of the state governor at Agodi.
Not surprisingly both the state and the federal government have remained pathetically helpless on this matter. Apart from a terse warning of dealing with the perpetrators of the act, the state government has done nothing to arrest the situation.
Why religious crises, why now? To answer the above question there is the need to understand the crisis engendered by the capitalist system both internationally and especially the third world, the peculiarity of this particular period and the manifestation in Nigeria. Marx is popularly quoted as saying that religion is the opium of the people, but this is not all. According to him "religious distress is at the same time the expression of real distress and also a protest against real distress. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature..........." This summarily explains the recent increase in not only muslim fanaticism, but the geometric rise in the number of churches and church goers.
The government of the state, which like other AD governments was popularly voted into power with the belief that it will be able to right the accumulated wrongs of protracted military misrule has failed woefully in this regard. It has not only failed to address the most elementary problems, it has also created a number of new ones. The government has sacked thousands of workers in the state tertiary institutions, offices and parastatals. What more it has also failed to pay the salaries of the not too lucky remaining workers. These have caused life to be unbearable for millions in the state .It is the hydra-headed, multifarious problems that is fantastically reflected in the mind of a large mass of the people of the state, as acts of God. Hence, this religious fundamentalism is essentially an attempt to re - direct the society to God who this people erroneously blames their socio- economic woes.
Internationally, the United State led war on "terrorism" has also led to many moslems, who hitherto are unconcerned about religion to consciously identify with this groups. In fact the impending strike on Iraq which is viewed by many as un-called for and by moslems as religious persecution is daily forcing more and more moslems into the fold of fanaticism. This is evidenced by the countless pro-bin Laden and Saddam demonstrations which have been held in the state.
A SOCIALIST ALTERNATIVE
This problem will worsen with time. If the US attacks Iraq a serious backlash will plunge not only the state but also all the countries with large muslim population throughout the world into crisis. Hence as immediate measure to halt this fast approaching disaster we call on all workers, students, traders to join in stopping the proposed war on Iraq. We also call for a total separation of religion and government. Religion must strictly be a private affair. An end must come to the use of public resources to fund religious activities such as pilgrimages etc. Abolition of all illegal and parallel judicial system apart from the civil court and the formation of community security watch, democratically elected and accountable to the community. Also for the introduction of free and compulsory, state controlled education. The working people should demand democratic control of all public institutions. Ultimately, a final end to all these crisis and similar ones will only come with the overthrow of the capitalist system.