Decency is universal because everyone appreciates it. We all want to live in decent accommodations, associate with decent people, listen to decent discussions or arguments, watch decent television programmes, and dress in decent attires. Sadly, the 21st century men and women appear to have lost much of their sense of decency in nearly all spheres of life, public as well as private.
The recent ban placed by the Anambra State Government on the wearing of miniskirts in both public and private schools in the state re-echoes the fact that decency transcends religious borders. That’s why even those without regard for religion yet appreciate the worth of ethical values. For example, a British-American author and journalist, Christopher Hitchens, asserts that “Human decency is not derived from religion as it precedes it (religion)”. Had this ban come from a Muslim governor especially in any northern state of Nigeria, the policy would have been religiously sentimentalized; and the person labeled as “Shari’ah-Governor”.
The ban came when schools in the state were about re-opening for the new academic session. The Commissioner for Education in Anambra State, Prof. Ngozi Chuma-Udeh, announced government’s decision on the ban during an interactive meeting with education secretaries of public and mission schools held at the Anambra State Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) in Awka. She decried the growing trend of female pupils putting on miniskirt uniforms to schools.
Lamenting further how indecent dressing had become widespread among young school boys and girls, Chuma-Udeh said the practice was morally wrong and unacceptable to the standards desired for the children by the state government. She said the acceptable measurement for uniforms in the state remained knee-length. Uniforms above the knee, she noted, was fast becoming a fashion among school boys and girls. She, therefore, charged the education secretaries to ensure that schools comply with the new directives in order to salvage the future of the pupils and students in the state.
Weeks after announcing the dress code policy, there came last week another pronouncement banning the operations of casinos and betting centers in Anambra state. Popular gambling services in Nigeria include Bet9ja, 1960bet, Nairabet, 9jaPredict and BetNigeria. Could Soludo have come to Islamize Anambra given these bans that are more about morals than governance? Maybe, Anambra should be renamed “Islamic State of Anambra”. My people say, “Fire was expected in a blacksmith’s workshop but ignited in a barber’s shop”. Well done, ‘Malam’ Soludo!
Decency simply refers to any behaviour that is morally good and acceptable in society. Being acceptable in the society requires having a sense of decency, which synonyms include civility, courtesy, decorum, honesty, modesty, righteousness, virtue, etiquette, good manners, and respect for other people. Being decent earns a person greater respect from others. Respect is naturally mutual; a matter of give-and-take. The way a person is treated largely depends on the quality of his decency.
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Meanwhile, some people argue that decent dressing is not the same as proper dressing. Proponents of this view opine that while decent dressing signifies being dressed in non-transparent or non-body-hugging clothes; proper dressing, according to them, relates to the proceedings of the occasion to which the dress is wore. Whatever may be the goal behind this argument, its semantics should not stop us from appreciating the universality of decency as symbolized in the bans by Soludo.
In the world of ethics, decent dressing takes precedence over other forms of decency because no matter how decent a person might be in speech and in manners; he loses all the respect earned there from once he’s not decent in dress. Sometimes, decent dressing speaks about individuals louder than expressions conveyed with words.
Two verses of the Qur’an give details of the dress code to which Muslims are expected to comply. These specifics are stated in Qur’an 24:30-31 “And say to the believing men that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that will make for greater purity for them: And Allah is well-acquainted with all that they do. And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that they should not display their beauty and ornament except what (most ordinarily) appear thereof; that they should draw their veils over heir bosoms and not display their beauty except to their husbands, their fathers, their husbands’ fathers, their sons, their husbands’ sons, their brothers or their brothers’ sons, or their sisters’ sons or their women, or the slaves whom their right hands possess, or male servants free of physical needs or small children who have no shame of the sense of sex; and that they should not strike their feet in order to draw attention to their hidden ornaments…”.
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While Governor Charles Soludo deserves a pat on the back for these policies, his other 35 colleagues in the country are encouraged to emulate him by re-defining existing dress code where such is not decent enough. This would help school children to imbibe all the habits and feelings that seek to build responsible personalities in them. As we commend Soludo, we also urge him to extend the same ethical standards to teachers in whose care the students are entrusted while in school. Some of the indecent dressings noticed among students were handed down to them by their teachers; making them copycats. Sadly, imitators of any given fashion usually take their passion farther than the point defined by the innovators. The ban could, thereafter, be extended to other forms of aberrant appearances including weird hair styles, irregular finger-nails and wild make-ups particularly among girls.
Decent dressing begins with decent clothes. Parents and teachers as role models at home and in the school have a duty to always dress decently and responsibly. We call on religious leaders to use their sermons to help fight the scourge of outrageous clothing. May Allah guide us to recognize the value of decency and live by it, amin.