This is the official blog of the Nigeria-based Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC), a human rights organization which promotes, protects and projects the rights of Muslims. This group condemns terrorism and all acts of violence. Its motto is 'Dialogue, Not Violence'
Sunday, October 8, 2017
RESTRUCTURING NIGERIA: MUSLIMS SEEK SIX RELIEFS
9th October, 2017
NIGERIA: MUSLIMS SEEK SIX RELIEFS
The Federal Government appears set for restructuring
particularly with the setting up of a committee on this crucial matter by the
ruling party, the All Peoples’ Congress (APC). Restructuring became popular
after the South East, South South and a section of the South West complained
about marginalization. Several politicians from both the opposition and the
ruling party have since spoken in support of this clamour.
However, we of
the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) dissociate ourselves from all agitations for
secession. We condemn all irredentist movements rearing their ugly heads in
Southern Nigeria, particularly the agitation for the creation of Oduduwa
Republic. We affirm clearly, unambiguously and unequivocally, that Muslim
leaders in Yorubaland were not carried along before those demands were tabled.
Nonetheless, just as some ethnic groups have complained of disaffections, we
contend that Nigerian Muslims also nurse serious grudges bordering on marginalization
against the Nigerian state.
We must start from the
lanes of history because today was born from the wombs of yesterday. Islam has
been in Nigeria since the 11th century and the British met Islam on
ground when they arrived in the 19th century (800 years later). The
British did not deem it fit to observe the rules of natural justice when they
colonized the country as all Islamic landmarks were eliminated and supplanted
with a wholly Christian system.
This injustice may
have been at the root of frequent religious crisis in Nigeria because successive
governments after independence refused to listen to the agitations of Muslims
for a review of the status quo. The issues being raised by Muslims are listed in
the following paragraphs so that the authorities may address them when
restructuring eventually begins.
One: Nigerians enjoy a
total of eight (8) public holidays in a year. These are Christmas Day, Boxing
Day, New Year Day, Good Friday, Easter Monday, Id al-Kabir, Id al-Fitr and
Maulud an-Nabiyy. Five (5) of the eight holidays belong to Christians
(Christmas Day, Boxing Day, 1st January, i.e, New Year Day, Good
Friday and Easter Monday). Only three (3) holidays belong to Muslims, viz, Id
al-Kabir, Id al-Fitr and Maulud an-Nabiyy.
Restructuring should give Muslims 1st Muharram.
This will bring the total number of Muslim holidays to four while Christian
holidays remain five.
Two: Christian marriages contracted inside churches or registries are held
sacrosanct everywhere in Nigeria whereas Muslim marriages (nikah) are
not recognized for any official purpose. Muslim couples find themselves in a cul
de sac each time they presented their Islamic marriage certificates for
official purposes. It is paradoxical that in a democracy, one marriage
conducted by a religious group is acceptable while the other is not. What kind
of constitution is Nigeria using?
Islamic marriages should be recognized in all official
circles where Christian marriages are recognized. The Nigerian Marriage Act
(1990) should therefore be revisited.
Three: Nigeria has a two-day weekend, viz, Saturday and Sunday. Saturday
was a half day during the colonial era and Sunday was the only full day at the
weekend. However, Saturday was made a full day to favour the Seventh Day
Adventists, a Christian denomination during the regime of General Yakubu Gowon,
a Christian military ruler. It is very clear, therefore, that the two weekend
days recognized in Nigeria belong to Christians while Muslims have none since
Friday, the Muslim day of worship, remains a working day.
It is pertinent to note that Friday was a work-free day
until the British brought Christianity and stopped Muslims from enjoying their
Allah-given fundamental human right. The relief we are seeking through
restructuring is that Friday should be declared free to assume parity with the
Christians’ Sunday. While we are not seeking anarchy, we are confident that the
Federal Government (FG) has all the paraphernalia of administration to work out
Four: Immigration officials
engage in regular stereotyping of Muslims who apply for international
passports. They intimidate Muslims particularly at the point of taking pictures.
Muslim males are ordered to remove their caps; Imams are coerced into removing
their turbans; bearded Muslims are compelled to shave or trim their beards; hijab-wearing
Muslim women are made to remove their hijabs or ordered to draw their hijab
backwards to reveal their ears. The same scenario plays itself out in driving
licence, national identity card offices and during registration for elections.
In the process, thousands of Muslims have been denied
international passports, driving licences andnational identity cards while millions have been disenfranchised during
elections. The authorities must find a way of stopping the persecution and profiling
Five: Uniformed groups
in Nigeria, including the army, police, uniformed voluntary groups, nurses, the
National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), students of primary and secondary schools,
etc, use uniforms designed by the Christian colonialists. These uniforms should
have been reviewed after independence because they only suit the Christians.
Some of them constitute breaches to Islamic dress code and offend the
sensibility of Muslims who are compelled to wear the uniforms regardless of
their inner feeling of resentment.
In view of the fact that Western countries like Britain,
Canada and the United States have designed uniforms with hijab for their female
Muslim police, soldiers, students, etc, Nigeria’s restructuring authorities
should borrow a leaf from those countries.
Six: There is no
single Shari’ah court in South Western Nigeria where Muslims constitute the
majority. This is contrary to what obtained in Yorubaland before the advent of
the British. There were Shariah courts in Ede, Iwo, Ikirun, Ibadan, etc. Yoruba
Muslims are now compelled to take their civil matters like inheritance,
marriage, etc to Christo-Western courts. This is preposterous and unacceptable.
We demand the establishment of Shariah courts in all South
Western states including Edo State where there is a significant percentage of
We call the
attention of FG and the restructuring committee of the APC to the above six
reliefs. Muslims are in bondage in this country and we believe that restructuring
should emancipate people in captivity. APC promised change. This change can
only be meaningful to us if it breaks the shackles around our necks. We have
begged enough for the restoration of our Allah-given and fundamental human rights.
We are tired of begging. Restructuring is about reapportioning the dividends of
democracy such that it goes round and it is not restricted to one section.
Colonial administration was grossly unfair to Muslims.
Nigeria was Christianised by Britain and Muslims bore the brunt. We suffered
forceful conversion, denial of rightful employment and even worse forms of
persecution. But what is most disappointing is the policy of exclusion adopted
by post-independence governments.
On a final note,
we demand full integration and full recognition as bona fide citizens of
Nigeria, not second or third class citizens. We are the aggrieved party. The
British most brutally and most unjustly took all we had from us, giving us
nothing in return and offering no relief. It has continued to give us a feeling of rejection,
marginalization, denial of the dividends of democracy and lack of a sense of
belonging. The time for redress is now and our six-point relief is here for all
Professor Ishaq Akintola,
Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC)