Press Release: FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
27th March, 2007
MPAC Denounces Barbaric Murder in Gombe State
The Muslim Public Affairs Centre, MPAC, denounce the barbaric and gruesome murder of a female teacher by irate Muslim pupils on Wednesday, March 21, 2007 at a secondary school in Gandu, Gombe state. The Vice Principal of the school, Hajiya Hadiza Gombe, in media reports was quoted to have said the teacher, who was employed on contract was assigned to invigilate the SS1 pupils who were writing their Islamic Religious Knowledge exams. She added that the teacher suspected that a foul play was about to take place when one of the students wanted to come in with his books to the exam hall. Hajiya Gombe said when the teacher collected the books and threw them outside, unknown to her, there was a copy of the Holy Qur’an among the books. The students were reported to have attacked the teacher outside the school compound after the exam and killed her. The school principal, Mr. Mohammed Sadiq, who tried to protect the teacher in his office was also terribly beaten and injured while they set the teacher’s car, three classes, the school’s clinic, administrative block and library on fire.
What adds to the outrage felt by the Muslim community in this case was that those misguided youths violated the sanctity of human life that God made sacred in their twisted ideas that they were ‘defending’ the Holy Qur’an. Rather, their actions endanger and offend the basic principles of Islam, which are mercy, justice, freedom, forgiveness and human dignity. The Qur’an, the most fundamental scripture of Islam which these vicious youths claim to be defending, teaches sanctity of life, not violence. It enjoins peace, justice, and compassion as basic tenets for all of humankind and condemns violence and aggression in all forms. Even if a genuine crime was committed, ‘vigilante-type justice’ is not acceptable form of justice in Islam. Instead of offering to kill for the Qur’an, would it not have been better for the youth to declare that they would live by following these Qur’anic principles? This is what Islam teaches. This ugly incident is another sad example that what Islam teaches and what some Muslims do are, sadly, often very different.
Allah (SWT) says in Surah 16; 90 of the glorious Qur’an: “Allah commands justice, the doing of good, and liberality to kith and kin, and He forbids all shameful deeds, and injustice and rebellion: He instructs you, that ye may receive admonition.” Then we should have no difficulty in being examples for others to follow as it was demonstrated in the actions of the school principal, Mr. Mohammed Sadiq, who risked his own life to try to protect the teacher’s. This reprehensible attack, like many others, definitely crossed a threshold in the insanity that pervades daily life in Nigeria. The voice of Nigerian Muslim youth is essential at this tenuous time, and we will rise to the occasion of making our Islamic values heard by condemning it in words and in deeds. As the Qur’an clearly further states, “If anyone slays a human being… it shall be as though he had slain all mankind” (Surah 5:32). It is in the light of these magnificent words that we call on Muslim youth to reject extremist ideologies and seek to cultivate a culture of love, tolerance and coexistence for the advancement of all people as taught by Islam. This terrible crime illustrates once again the depth of misunderstanding and confusion that has darkened those who claim to belong to Islam. Regardless of the history of deep sectarian strife in certain places or cultures, there is no escaping the fact that the mentality that can lead to the level of fanaticism and violence demonstrated by the irate youths is taught, not inherent to Islam.
The Nigerian government- Federal and State- must provide adequate protection to all its citizens wherever they choose to reside in the country. This is their unalienable constitutional right and there can be no double standard in protecting innocent civilian life. Much of the violence and extremism that currently plagues some parts of our country and increasingly threatens other parts has been incubated in the societal dysfunction that ensues in the aftermath of the lawlessness of our unsettled past. All people, irrespective of tribe and faith should feel safe and secure in whatever part of the country they live. Violent attacks on civilians while exploiting religious or cultural sentiments is an on-going phenomenon born out of the culture of hatred that is fomented among hard-line adherents of the two major religions in Nigeria and the political elite has abysmally and repeatedly failed to institute peaceful co-existence.
Notwithstanding the seriousness of this heinous crime, the MPAC reaffirms that the fair and firm application of the rule of law is the surest guarantee to defeat the ills of extremism and bigotry in our society. The government of Nigeria must identify and have the courage to prosecute to the full extent of the law these murderers. Anything short of this will sow another seed of discord and mistrust in the heart of the populace. We trust that community and political leaders, the media and individuals would rise to the occasion and not exploit this terrible homicide for narrow personal, sectarian and political gains. Yes, we Muslims, like the adherents of other faiths have a problem with violent extremists. That being the case, we can use any assistance we can get in our effort to transcend the current situation. Perhaps the most beneficial thing the Christian leadership in particular can offer is discouraging and confronting hate-filled antagonists, bigots with right wing agenda and violent extremists in their own ranks.