In the name of Allah the Beneficent, the Merciful.
For Immediate Release
MPAC Expresses Deep Concern Over the Arrest of Muslim Missionaries
The Muslim Public Affairs Centre, MPAC, expresses deeply felt concern over the arrest, detention and declaration of 6 Muslim missionaries as ‘suspected terrorists’ by the Inspector General of Police, IG, Sir Mike Okiro and the FCT Police Commissioner, Mr. John Haruna. In their announcement on Tuesday December 16th, the duo declared that four Zambians Messrs Mohammed Ali Patel, AbdulAziz Chhadat Musa, AbdurRehman Abbas Patel and Vali Shoeb Akubart and two Indians, Mohammed Sakil Sadiq Patel and Dawood Vali Ahmed Ise are suspected terrorists from the dreaded Al-Qaeda group. Expectedly, many local newspapers went out the next day in a frenzied screams of ‘Muslim terrorists invading Nigeria’. The 6 itinerant Muslim preachers had been variously alleged to be carrying ‘fake passports’, accused of ‘looking well’ and harassed severally by different law enforcement agencies. It is clear from the published reports of the events immediately before the arrest and announcement of arrest of these itinerant Muslim preachers that the alarm raised by the Police Chief Mike Okiro and the FCT Police Commissioner regarding threats to the Nigerian nation might not be backed by any credible intelligence reports, but by politically motivated intelligence reports fed from abroad, superficial profiling and hyped information.
Although accused of very serious offenses, the accuracy, legitimacy and substance of those accusations remain to be seen given past politically motivated sensationalist allegations against many Muslims and Islamic groups in Nigeria. The manner and occasion in which the Muslim missionaries’ alleged links with Al Qaeda was announced by Okiro tends to support this feeling. Although they were arrested in Abuja, the IG carefully chose the occasion of the senior police officers’ conference in Akure, Ondo State, to announce their arrest and alleged links with Al Qaeda.
The group, Tabligh Movement, on invitation to Nigeria by the Tabligh Movement in Nigeria, is a well known and well respected itinerant Muslim group that, we believe, adheres to the sublime values of Islam in calling to the peaceful message of Islam as enjoined on all Muslims. They take their missionary activities very seriously, effectively demonstrating many an admirable stand against violence and extremism across the world. If it is suggested that any laws have been broken by any individuals or group then this must be proven by due legal process. Criminalizing freedom of religious association and expression is the hallmark of dictatorships, not democracies. In a functioning democracy where the rule of law is cherished, these men and their hosts should have been charged for specific offenses or released. Rather, the Police continued to offer steadily weaker arguments to defend their decision to continue to hold these men even as their allegations appear to be based more on a political agenda than facts. When the Police authority needed to come up with a concrete proof for their accusations they routinely take refuge in deafening silence.
Indiscriminate criminalization of the Muslim community, restricting freedoms of religious expression, and making public pronouncements that will particularly target and restrict Muslims will not make our country safer. To equate ‘terrorism’ with the aspirations of Muslims to freely preach and peacefully practice their religion is inaccurate and disingenuous. It indicates extreme and institutional intolerance and victimization of the Muslim community.
Although the current arrests and allegations follow hard on the heels of similar comments allegedly made by the IG in May 2008 (MPAC Statement on the Media Reports of Al-Qaeda Terror Threat in Nigeria), the police heavy-handed approach to this group of Muslims requires explanation. For a few years now, the Nigerian Muslim community has noticed disturbing trends within the Nigerian law enforcement and security agencies where law-abiding Muslims are seemingly and summarily hounded based solely on their religion. Terrorism is evil, the people who indulge in it are, and so is profiling and victimization. Interestingly, we now live at a time when the greatest purveyor of violence and sinful warfare on innocent people and nations act as the major provider of intelligence on terrorism to nations- intelligence that lead to dead ends and victimize the innocent. The Police, and other security agencies, have a duty to protect the nation and its population against vicious terrorists that may threaten the peace and security of our country under any guise. They always will have to make some close calls to carry out this heinous duty. Mistakes are thus inevitable, but afterward it’s important that the victims of mistakes are at least made whole. It is crucial that the Police not only remain vigilant against those that might want to hurt us, but also against nations that provide dangerous intelligence on threat of terrorism against the nation. The refusal of the Police to conclusively clear these preachers of dubious allegations is utterly unacceptable. MPAC demands that the arrested Muslim missionaries be immediately released or duly charged to court on available evidences against them.
Speaker, The Senate, FRN.
Speaker, House of Rep., FRN.
Inspector General of Police