The Director of Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC), Ishaq Akintola, has sought for an equal treatment between Christians and Muslims in Nigeria.
Speaking exclusively to The Punch, the professor of Islamic Eschatology also reacted to the Christian Association of Nigeria’s criticism of the recent visit by the United States Secretary of State, John Kerry, describing it as unwarranted.
He said: “I still insist Nigeria is not a secular state. It does not recognise any religion at all. An example is the Sallah holidays. Although Christians used to enjoy Christmas and other holidays, there was no Sallah holiday for Muslims on Eid el-Fitr and Eid el-Kabir days during the colonial days. We wrenched that from our oppressors’ hands after a long struggle.
“Another example where freedom has come our way is where Nigerian Christians compelled Muslims to operate Christian financial system with its riba (interest) which is haram (forbidden) for Muslims, yet they refused to allow Muslims to practise the Islamic banking until a former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi (now Emir of Kano), belled the cat by introducing Islamic banking.
“What exactly do I mean? Nigerian Christians have been enjoying everything they need since the British took over the country and colonised it. They have the Christian common law while they object to Muslims having Shariah. They enjoy Christo-Western education while they restrict Muslim children’s access to Islamic education. Christians are free to do whatever they like on Sundays but Muslims are chained to their workplaces on Fridays. That chain must break. Freedom is our cry.
“The government supports both Christian and Muslim pilgrimages. Christian and Muslim prayers are said at official functions. The preamble of the Nigerian Constitution leans heavily on God. So, we are a multi-religious nation. It is when Christian leaders want to pull the wool over our eyes that they claim that Nigeria is a secular country.
“We must widen the horizon of the quest for self-determination. They hold Christian court or church marriage whose certificate is recognised by law whereas mosque marriage certificate is not recognised. Christian schoolchildren use Christian school uniforms but Muslim children are disallowed from using the hijab. Muslim women are denied driving licences and international passports in Nigeria on account of their use of hijab.
“There is an urgent need to straighten this lopsided system. It is not working. Nigerian Muslims still remain oppressed today because they have yet to be emancipated in the four examples above. There are more areas of oppression. But there are one or two aspects where the Muslims have been liberated.
“So you can see that it is all about struggling for liberation. It is like a master-slave affair. Those who sit on the necks of Muslims are reluctant to set them free. But we will get there whether the oppressor likes it or not. It is interesting to note that Christians know that a Muslim commits a sin each time he collects or gives riba yet they never freely allowed it. What do you call that? Do we love our neighbours?
“Do you call that freedom of religion? Isn’t there some element of selfishness in that? Didn’t Jesus teach loving the neighbour? I remember that a particular bishop from the East led his followers in a public demonstration against the introduction of Islamic banking. Ridiculous, isn’t it?
“As for the claim that Muslims are being favoured by the present administration, that is large-scale falsehood. Even Nigerian toddlers know that Buhari is religion-blind. He is not a fanatic. He just wants to fix Nigeria.
“How has the present administration favoured Muslims? The facts are at our fingertips. Take the South-West as an example: there are six states there and each has a minister. Only Babatunde Fashola and Adebayo Shittu are Muslims. The rest are Christians. Let CAN tell us if that is not so. Do you call two out of six a favour? And that is just a tip of the iceberg in Buhari’s administration.
“The parastatals are replete with Christian chief executives. But Muslims are not complaining. Nigeria now has about 35 ministers out of which only 17 are Muslims. Tell me how the present administration has favoured Muslims. Is CAN using mathematics or mathemagic?
“Personally, I believe that we are cutting our nose to spite our face in this country. We should allow government to pick the best candidates for positions in order to get maximum performance. We should not always be thinking of religious or ethnic leaning. Muslims have tried as much as possible to maintain this principle but CAN is always making a noise because of its grip on the press.”