RAMADAN AND OFFICIAL PROGRAMMES
As Ramadan crawls to its starting line, managers of affairs in various spheres are dotting 'i's and crossing 't's. Programmes of all sorts are being put together for the month of July and August by various organizations, political parties, ministries, agencies, tertiary institutions, etc. In most cases, the planners are (ostensibly?) oblivious of the busy spiritual schedule of the Nigerian Muslim population in the month of Ramadan.
Yet Muslims are integral parts of some of these programmes. Often times the Muslims are also members of the planning committees but sadly enough, they must cooperate with the other members for fear of being accused of sabotage or insurbodination. For the rest of the Muslim population such programmes provoke them. They wonder if it is deliberately planned to coincide with the holy month of Ramadan when Muslims will be at a disadvantage, both physically and psychologically.
More often than not this leads to suspicion and ill-feeling, even when the planners have no bad intention. But the harm has been done, sometimes with collateral damage. An example is the national beauty pageant held in Abuja during the Ramadan period of November 2002. Muslim youths enraged by the timing went on rampage and the unfortunate incident went down in our records as one of Nigeria's worst religious crisis.
We of the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) believe that most of these religious crises are avoidable. In line with our avowed motto, 'Dialogue, Not Violence', we believe that instead of wasting time on protests or violent uprising, individuals and groups who nurse any fear or grievance should speak out and call the attention of the authorities to their plight. Silence has the capacity to isolate. Violence destroys.
Nigeria has lost much through religious and ethnic crises. We cannot continue like this. The way forward is through dialogue. We must put a halt to killing and maiming in the name of religion. Allah has blessed Nigeria tremendously. Unlike countries in Asia and South America where tornadoes, landslides and earthquakes wreath havoc regularly, we have witnessed little or no natural disasters. Yet instead of building a strong and united country, we are the ones who invite disasters on ourselves through bad faith, ill-will, mutual suspicion, bad leadership, recalcitrant followership, greed, avarice and socio-economic injustice.
It is in order to forestall another misunderstanding and the attendant crisis that MURIC calls the attention of the Federal and State Governments, Federal and State Agencies and Corporations, Federal and State tertiary institutions, Research Centers, political parties, the public and private sectors, all workplaces, etc, to the need to observe Ramadan decorum.
Unfortunately we live in a society where materialism and obscenities reign supreme. It hurts Muslims when they are compelled to be part of certain social events during the month of Ramadan when indeed it is a religious duty to remain on the celestial plane throughout the period.
MURIC uses this opportunity to remind those at the helm of affairs to consider the sensibilities of the Nigerian Muslim population when planning events for the months of July and August 2013. Of particular interest is the notice of the mini-convention of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) slated for Saturday, 20th July, 2013 which is likely to be the 12th day of Ramadan.
While we do not suspect foul play nor do we challenge the right of any political party to fix its programmes as it wishes, we call the attention of the PDP leadership to the physical and emotional hardship the mini-convention is certain to cause its Muslim members. Our statement is not designed to criticize or condemn any political party. MURIC is a non-governmental organization with no loyalty towards any political party. This is merely a reminder. Dates may have been fixed without thinking of the religious implication.
Perhaps it is necessary at this stage to elaborate a little on why such events constitute gross inconvenience for Muslims fasting in the month of Ramadan. Every fasting Muslim must wake up in the night for tahajjud (night prayers). He must take an early breakfast (suhuur) before 5 am. He must also break his fast (futuur) between 6.30 pm and 7 pm. It is only in the confines of one's home that one can enjoy this.
Travelling to attend a convention or a conference will definitely cause a lot of discomfort for a Muslim who is fasting in Ramadan. Who will wake up by 3 am to start cooking for him? Yet his fasting is incomplete and unacceptable if he misses the suhuur.
Muslims are also known to travel to Saudi Arabia for the lesser hajj ('Umrah) during Ramadan. Organising a convention or a conference around this period is as good as deliberately targeting Muslims for exemption. True democrats will want to avoid this. MURIC affirms that democracy must be inclusive, not exclusive. It must be participatory, not discriminatory.
We must quickly remind other political parties in the country to desist from holding crucial events like conventions and primaries during Ramadan. In addition, we call on Muslims who are members of political parties and other organizations to create awareness about Ramadan and to resist attempts to fix important programmes during the holy month.
In future, MURIC will not hesitate to challenge such events in courts of competent authority where political parties or organizations refuse to respect the feelings of Muslims. The time has come to use the legitimate machinery of the judiciary to fight those who despise Muslims.
As Nigerian Muslims rise to condemn and to reject acts of violence and terrorism, MURIC asserts its resolve to promote and protect all Allah-given and fundamental rights. Never again shall we stand akimbo while Muslims are denied their fundamental human rights. The difference in our style is clear, however. Ours is an intellectual jihad. We use no weapons and hurt none. No bloodshed shall occur on our hands. Neither do we nurture extremist religious teachings.
Yet we are determined to ensure that Nigerian Muslims enjoy fully the dividends of democracy which all other citizens enjoy. In conformity with the wise words of the great Shaykh Uthman Bin Fudi who said, "In an unjust society, silence is a crime", we will always speak out so that the authorities may know what the Muslims want.
MURIC therefore appeals to the Federal and State Governments, the various political parties, ministries, government parastatals, tertiary institutions and authorities in all workplaces to respect the sensibilities of Muslims during this Ramadan. We urge the leadership of the PDP and other political parties who (may) have slated their conventions for the Ramadan period to kindly shift such events to the second week in August when Ramadan would have ended.
Party conventions, academic conferences and other social gatherings billed for the Ramadan period hurt the feelings of Muslims and are inimical to peaceful coexistence in our dear country, Nigeria.
Professor Ishaq Akintola,
Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC),
Banker's Name: Guaranty Trust Bank
Account Number: 0112827277