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'
A report of the Nigerian National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) published on 29th June, 2013 has severely indicted the Nigerian military. It accused the Joint Task Force of rape, torture, summary killings, arbitrary detention amounting to internment, outrages against the dignity of civilians and other horrible crimes.
It is interesting that NHRC is a human rights agency run by the Nigerian government. Coming from such a source, the report should be considered as not only credible but also damning. We therefore urge the Nigerian authorities to take the report seriously.
We of the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) appeal to the National Assembly to urgently step into the picture to prevent further carnage and to stem the attendant humanitarian disaster which has already sent thousands fleeing into neighbouring countries.
No oversight function can be more important than protecting law-abiding and tax-paying citizens from the claws of rampaging soldiers. Neither can Nigerian lawmakers afford to stand akimbo while the military takes the law into its hands. Any soldier who cannot subsume his or her military fiat under civilian authority is not fit to wear the uniform in a civilized society.
It is becoming clear that some elements in the Nigerian military are exploiting the emergency situation to commit crimes against humanity. This is most unethical, inhuman, cruel and disgusting. We warn that this bestiality is capable of working against the goal of the emergency rule.
MURIC asserts clearly, unambiguously and unequivocally that dialogue remains the most potent weapon against insurgency. There is no smoke without fire. Without prejudice to our avowed commitment to dialogue and our rejection of violence, we warn that people will continue to rise against authorities wherever there is oppression. Justice is the Soul of Peace.
MURIC appeals to the international community not to fold its hands at this crucial hour. A major humanitarian disaster is unfolding in North-Eastern Nigeria. We ask for the immediate presence of United Nations observersin the zone and a microscopic and meticulous investigation of the activities of the Nigerian military both before and during the emergency rule. Indicted personnel should be made to face the International Court of Justice.
Professor Ishaq Akintola,
Director, Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC), 234-818-211-9714
24th June, 2013 PRESS RELEASE: 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.
This year's Ramadan will start around 8th July 2013. It will last thirty or twenty nine days. Apart from fasting from dawn till dusk, Muslims are expected to engage in rigorous spiritual exercises. They must avoid all profanities. They stay close to the mosque most of the Ramadan period. In fact they are expected to remain inside their mosques in the last ten days for I'tikaaf. These are religious duties which Muslims must carry out. 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, Director, Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC), 234-818-211-9714
Three state governors have recently suffered intimidation in the hands of the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA). A chartered OAS helicopter ferrying Adams Oshiomole and his aides from Government House in Benin to Awka was recalled to Benin Airport on 7th June, 2013.
On April 26th June, 2013 a plane carrying Rivers State Governor Chibuike Amaechi and his entourage was grounded for about two hours at the Akure Airport for allegedly 'violating aviation procedures'. The governor was returning from the burial ceremony of the Ekiti State Deputy Governor, Mrs. Funmi Olayinka, in Ado Ekiti.
Again on Wednesday 12th June, 2013 a Donnier 328 aircraft carrying Sokoto State Governor, Alhaji Aliyu Wamakko and his aides from Abuja to Sokoto was diverted to Kaduna over an allegation of unruly behavior of the governor's supporters who had come to welcome him at the airport.
Our people say "Once is happenstance, twice is a coincidence, the third time is enemy action" (Ekini kebe, ekeji kebe, eketa ajenjetan). We must begin to ask the question: why is it always happening to the opposition or to governors who have fallen out of Mr. President's favour?
Equally alarming is the use of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to harass the opposition. The current trial of the Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Adeyemi Ikuforiji, is an example.
The subterfuges involved in the attempt to frustrate the registration of opposition parties have reversed the Nigerian state to a feeding-bottle democracy.
We also consider the reaction of the Jonathan administration to the rancorous, disgusting and despicable conduct of the election of the Nigerian Governors' Forum (NGF) as a national embarrassment. Since when did 16 votes become majority over 19? What kind of mathematical equation is Aso Rock positing for Nigerian children learning simple arithmetic in the schools? What lesson does this teach students of political science in Nigerian universities? It is embarrassing, ludicrous and untenable. This singular event has turned Nigeria to a laughing stock in the comity of nations.
We of the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) are deeply disturbed by these ugly, avoidable and absolutely unnecessary developments. They are symptomatic of a jittery administration incapable of tolerating opposition, whether homegrown or in other parties.
We call on the international community to watch out for more electioneering abracadabra in the 2015 elections. An administration which accepts 16 as the winning vote over 19 cannot be trusted to deliver a free and fair election. From the primaries to the presidential election, MURIC expects arm-twisting, blackmail, intimidation and even worse as the Nigerian ship cruises to 2015.
We remind the Machiavellian ideologues in Aso Rock that posterity is just around the corner. We appeal to the Minister of Aviation, Mrs. Stella Oduah-Ogiemwonyi to call NAMA to order. Denial of the Nigerian airspace to opposition figures is a dangerous precedent. We urge the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) not to allow any stain on its white garment. Finally, MURIC calls on the National Assembly to rise against the emerging season of executive totalitarianism.
Professor Ishaq Akintola,
Director, Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC), 234-818-211-9714
The signing into law of this cremation bill signifies a yawning communication gap between the government of Lagos State and its citizens. Both Christians and Muslims were united in their opposition to the bill yet government went ahead to sign it into law.
Well, judging from the attitude of government to the hijab imbroglio, I think the Lagos State Government will apply the law with maturity and caution. In spite of all said and done, I have seen that Fashola's government listens.
The retraction of certain inflammatory statements made by a high-ranking government official on the hijab saga is very commendable.
The governor himself later clarified the issue. Lagos is the most progressive state in this country. Its only rival is the State of Oshun. I think we should give Fashola the chance to prove himself. He should not be judged by isolated cases. The cremation law in particular does not target any group, ethnic or religious. I think government has genuine fears.
In any case, there is a way to 'beat' or 'circumvent' this law since it only affects corpses left unclaimed and notice must be given before cremation. What Lagos citizens must do to avoid the wrath of this law is to behave responsibly by ensuring that they claim their corpses early enough and by searching for missing family members and friends everywhere including the mortuaries.
If I am permitted to think aloud, this law is not expected to affect Muslims at all since Muslims are not known to leave their dead ones in hospital mortuaries at all. Ceteris paribus, Muslims bury their dead within forty eight hours. Most Muslim corpses are buried within twenty four hours. This notwithstanding, we must show concern even if those affected are non-Muslims because they are our neighbours and we must care about them.
Burial rites in Islam necessitate urgency and precision and they are so elaborate that this cremation saga becomes irrelevant and almost unthinkable. There are steps which must be taken when treating a Muslim corpse otherwise some sin will be committed by the handlers. Let me mention some of these for the benefit of doubting Thomases.
A dying Muslim is led in talqiin. This is a process whereby somebody near the dying Muslim repeats the kalimat ash-shahadah: La ilaha ilallah Muhammad rasulullah (i.e. there is no other god except Allah and Muhammad is His messenger). The talqiin is confirmed in an hadith related by Abu Saiid al-Khudri.
Immediately a Muslim dies, those around him or her must close his or her eyes. The Prophet (SAW) closed the eyes of Abu Salmah when the latter's eyes had become glazed. Surat Yasin (chapter 36 of the Glorious Qur'an) is also recited around the dead body.
The corpse's legs and arms are stretched early enough to prevent the impact of rigor mortis. The outer garments of the deceased are then removed while he or she is covered with a clean sheet of cloth, preferably white. The words "Bismillahi wa 'ala milat rasulillahi" (i.e. in Allah's name and in the religion of Allah's messenger) are repeated while doing this.
News of a Muslim's death must be spread quickly so as to enable friends and relations to attend the funeral and earn spiritual rewards. Attending a funeral is one of the six obligations which a Muslim owes a fellow Muslim. The remaining five obligations, according to an hadith, is greeting him on the way, honouring his invitation, seeking blessings for him when he sneezes, nursing him in sickness and wishing for him what he wishes himself.
Islam permits quiet weeping but forbids wailing over the loss of a dear one. Umar bin Khattab reported an hadith in which the Prophet (SAW) said the dead may be punished in the grave on account of the wailing of people left behind on earth.
A Muslim corpse must be bathed before it is shrouded. Islam permits men to wash male corpses while women wash female corpses. However, a husband may wash his wife's corpse and so vice versa. Bathing a Muslim corpse is called ghaslu al-mayyit. This is fard (i.e. compulsory) except in the case of a martyr (ash-shahiid). Camphor is added to the water used for bathing a Muslim corpse.
The bathing of the corpse is closely followed by shrouding (at-takfiin). A funeral prayer (salat al-janazah) is conducted by Muslims for their dead. This may be followed by a short khutbah or sermon in which the Imam reminds those who attend the janazah of the ephemeral nature of life on earth.
It is clear from the above procedure that Muslims have great regard for their dead ones and this cremation law has an extremely remote possibility of directly affecting Lagos Muslims.
The bottom line, however, is that people must search for their dear ones very well, including searching the police stations, prisons and mortuaries.
The Nigerian military has once again been accused of killing civilians in the ongoing military operations against the notorious Boko Haram militants in the North East of the country. This was contained in a video clip recently shown on Al-Jazeerah.
Although the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) has denied this allegation and insisted that the military operation is designed to protect civilians from the atrocities of Boko Haram, the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) is constrained to ask the FG to caution its troops. We insist on strict compliance with the rules of engagement. The Nigerian military has a duty not only to manifest professionalism but to practice it in its campaign against insurgents.
In particular, we demand the involvement of international observers.The military must operate in a transparent environment to convince all and sundry that Allah-given and fundamental rights are not being compromised under the cover of emergency rule.
MURIC questions the rationale behind the communication lockdown clamped on the three states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe with the attendant economic losses as well as emotional and psychological trauma visited upon civilians who have been rendered incommunicado since emergency rule began in those three states.
There are students, businessmen and other civilians in the zone who have not been able to communicate with their families and business associates since the lockdown began. Parents whose children and wards are in tertiary institutions are greatly worried about the safety and welfare of their loved ones. The same applies to civil servants who work within the emergency zone but whose families are elsewhere in the country.
MURIC affirms that the communication lockdown is unnecessary, wicked and inhuman. It constitutes an open rape on democracy. What is the military afraid of? Why should innocent civilians be denied access to their mobile phones and their loved ones for so long? We strongly suspect that this is a crude cover for the violation of the fundamental human rights of the civilian population in such a way that no reports of such crimes against humanity would ever emerge from the zone.
We charge the international community to act quickly before the West African sub-region is enveloped in an unprecedented humanitarian catastrophe. The United Nations should quickly send its observers to the zone. We also urge the military to put its cards on the table by allowing journalists, aid workers, local and international observers into the emergency zone without let or hindrance.
Professor Is-haq Akintola,
Director, Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC), 234-818-211-9714