15th June, 2011
LEAVE THE ISLAMIC BANK ALONE
Bishops of the Dioceses in the Church of Nigeria Anglican Communion have urged the Senate and Federal House of Representatives not to pass any bill that would make the proposed Islamic bank to see the light of the day. According to the Anglican Bishop of Enugu, Rt. Rev. Emmanuel Chukwuma, the emergence of a religious bank "would pose serious threat to the unity of the country" and that they oppose the move because of its "religious connotation."
Millions of Nigerian Muslims who have been eager to put their money in halal (acceptable by Islamic standard) accounts will have the opportunity to do so. The present situation whereby there is no single Islamic bank constitutes a breach of the Allah-given and fundamental rights of Muslims in the country. It stands in contradistinction to the principle of freedom of religion as provided in Section 38 of the 1999 constitution, particularly the right to "manifest" and "practice" one's religion.
We assert clearly, unambiguously and unequivocally that Nigeria's democracy remains a sham until every Nigerian enjoys all his or her rights as enshrined in the constitution. The rights of Nigerian Muslims have been trampled upon in this country for too long. At present, Muslims are forced to patronize financial institutions which operate riba (usury) and which compel Muslims to act against their faith. This is a clear indication of lack of religious freedom.
We call on Nigerians to be objective this time around. The Muslims need Islamic banks. The fact that others do not need it does not mean that they should stand in the way of the Muslims. People read religion into everything but claim that it is not religion when they wish to do mischief.
We call the attention of the Federal Government to this most dangerous trend. We charge the National Assembly to ignore the call of extremists opposing the establishment of an Islamic bank. The security agencies must also pay attention. The international community also needs to watch these developments. A section of the federation is lording it upon another. It had better not be.
The spirit of 'live and let live' is not there. Nigerian Christians are comfortable with the status quo and its pro-Western banking system. Their Muslim counterparts are not. The Muslims are not calling for the abolition of the existing 'Christian' banking system. They are simply asking for an Islamic banking system to run parri passu with what is on ground. Yet Christians are saying, "No. You cannot have yours. You must continue to accept ours." In short, Christian standards are being imposed on Muslims. It violates the principles of peaceful coexistence.
Christians are forcing Muslims to do things the Christian way. Muslims are being robbed of the vital sense of belonging needed to forge a united country.
The anti-Islamic bank camp is simply an agent provocateur and it should be closely watched. Britain has been operating Islamic banks since 2004 and it has not made that country less British. The first Islamic bank in Italy opened in 2008. We warn that blind and uninformed opposition is dangerous in a democratic setting. The current development also reveals that all the noise about religious tolerance has been to no avail. Looking for religious tolerance in the anti-Islamic bank camp is like looking for a needle in a collection of hay stacks.
MURIC demands parity in the polity. We dismiss the Anglican Bishops' declaration against the establishment of Islamic banks as parochial, mischievious and bigoted. The threat by the bishops to go on demonstration if their position is ignored is not only callous, it is shallow and provocative.
Dr. Is-haq Akintola,
Is-haq Akintola (Ph.D),
Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC),
Yahoo Group: groups.yahoo.com/group/muslimrights
Be just Justice is the soul of peace
No one can deny one and have the other
Neither can violence or naked force bring lasting peace