As Nigerians are celebrating New year, the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) has asked the Federal Government (FG) to address the grievances of Nigerian Muslims. The Islamic human rights group linked such grievances with deradicalisation and traced religious violence to the denial of Islamic fundamental human rights. The group also reiterated the six reliefs being sought by Nigerian Muslims.
This was disclosed in MURIC’s new year message which was circulated on Saturday, 2nd December, 2020 by the group’s director, Professor Ishaq Akintola.
The message reads:
“Nigerians celebrated the first day of the Gregorian calendar yesterday, 1st January, 2021. Thus we heralded the new year and bid farewell to year 2020 which many people around the world would wish had never come. It was a year of trauma particularly with the advent of COVID-19 pandemic, the attendant prolonged lockdown and #EndSARS commotion.
“It was equally a year of tumult for Nigeria as insecurity reigned supreme with Boko Haram, bandits and kidnappers striking at will. Above all, Nigerians from all walks of life experienced disruption of socio-economic life which compelled them to raise both old and fresh grievances with the Federal Government (FG).
“Nigerian Muslims also articulated six grievances which they called on FG to address during the year 2020 but FG has not attended to any of our requests. This is not good enough. It is our belief that the war against Boko Haram is prolonged because FG is not adopting the carrot and stick technique. Government must not rely on the use of force alone. As Nigerian soldiers fight Boko Haram on the battle field, it must engage in genuine dialogue with Muslim leaders and groups in the country.
“Deradicalisation will remain a farce until all Allah-given fundamental human rights are willingly rendered to Nigerian Muslims. FG must muster enough political will to address the lopsidedness in the Nigerian socio-economic landscape, particularly those that have religious colouring. Nigeria as at today is a Christianised colony where Muslims are held in agonising bondage.
“There is every likelihood that those who have taken up arms will turn repentant if they see government introducing reforms which conform with the yearnings of Muslims in the country. This is the carrot. But a situation whereby Muslims continue to suffer excruciating pain everyday without any hope in sight is the major cause of the protracted insurgency in the North East. The perception of insurgents seeking the forceful establishment of an Islamic caliphate is that Nigeria is being run along Christian line and all Islamic landmarks have been eliminated. FG owes it a duty to correct this erroneous and dangerous perception.
“Exempli gratia, FG declared national holiday yesterday which was 1st January, 2020 in recognition of the Christian Gregorian calendar. But the same FG has ignored the age-long demand of Nigerian Muslims for the recognition of the first day of the Hijrah calendar (1st Muharram) by declaring a holiday on that date. This is in spite of the fact that 1st Muharram has been recognised at state level by some states around five years ago and had started declaring holidays for it.
“FG is thereby giving us the impression that Nigeria only recognises Christianity at the national level but Islam is non grata. This is gross injustice and it is a major grievance nursed by conscious Muslims against the Nigerian state. A father who has two or three children but displays open preference for one has invited disharmony. FG has a duty in loco parentis to balance this lop-sidedness by giving the same official recognition to 1st Muharram in the name of justice.
“In the alternative, FG should withdraw recognition for any first day of the year thus leaving the decision to states to handle. In that circumstance, any state that wishes to recognise 1st January or 1st Muharram or both will be free to do so. This is what should obtain in a true federation. It is part of what FG should consider in its restructuring project. Those who are clamouring for restructuring should prepare their minds for this. Restructuring should not be a one way affair. Nigerian Muslims are also demanding restructuring.
“The Hijrah holiday question is just one of the six reliefs being sought by Nigerian Muslims. In summary, the remaining five are : recognition for Islamic marriages; the Friday question; acceptance of caps, turban, hijab and beards for identity cards, driving licences and international travelling passports; acceptance of beards and hijab in uniformed organisations like the army, police, NYSC, etc and, finally, establishment of Shariah courts in all states where there is significant number of Muslims.
“It is our contention that no true deradicalisation of extremist religious groups can take place without addressing the grievances of Nigerian Muslims. Denial of the rights of Muslims tantamounts to depriving them of what Allah gave them freely. We assert that all human rights were first guaranteed by the Supreme Creator, Allah, before homo sapiens sought to incorporate them in man-made laws. Any infringement on the right of man is therefore a sin before Almighty Allah and a violation of the laws made by men.
“Almighty Allah says in Qur’an 17:70, ‘We have honoured the son of Adam. We elevated them both on land and the sea. We also provided good things for them and preferred them above many of our creatures.’ It is therefore a desecration for any government, institution or individual to deny Muslims their Allah-given fundamental human rights.
“MURIC appeals to all Islamic organisations, groups and Muslim individuals to eschew bitterness, rancor and violence in the pursuit of their religious and civil rights and liberties. We urge all stakeholders to give the FG, state governments and institutions more time to study and fully understand the plight of Muslims in the country. In particular, we appeal to groups like Al-Qaedah, Boko Haram, ISIS and ISWAP who have already embarked on violence to rescind their decision, surrender their weapons and give peace a chance.”