In the name of Allah the Beneficent, the Merciful.
For Immediate Release
MPAC Statement On the Delegation To The National Dialogue Conference
The Muslim Public Affairs Centre, MPAC, is dismayed at the lop-sided composition of the ongoing ‘National Dialogue’ and its leadership due largely to the presidential nominees to the conference and we join other peoples of conscience to declare that this type of action only demonstrates a type of hostility against Islam. Nigerian Muslims in recent years, despite being in the majority, have experienced increasing discrimination and prejudice both in the workplace and in government offices. Some Muslims have been barred from job interviews for having beards. Others have been prevented from going to Jumu’ah (Friday) prayers and Muslim sisters have been verbally abused for wearing hijab. Although it is not difficult to detect anti-Muslim sentiment in all of these incidents, the disturbing decision of the present administration to discriminate against Muslims in nominating delegates to the conference has been a shock to Muslims across the country, and also to everyone who holds dear the values of freedom and equality that the people of Nigeria have struggled so hard to establish over the years. It is more disturbing because it brings back the sad memory of the president’s antecedent when he, in 1976 as then the head of state, constituted, by appointment, another lop-sided Constituent Assembly which expunged the recommendation for the creation of a Federal Court of Appeal and a Shari’ah Court of Appeal which his predecessor’s Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC) had strongly recommended. Now, it seems that history is bound to repeat itself.
This disturbing and ill-advised action by our government will serve to increase the shared perception and fears of anti-Muslim sentiments within the Obasanjo-Atiku administration and a track record of utilising the rule of law as a means of implementing tyranny against Muslims rather than upholding equality and justice. We totally condemn the decision to create this lopsided leadership and delegates and express our concern that the current face of the conference will only send wrong message to the world of our readiness to engage and involve all sections of the society in active nation-building drive and serve to encourage and increase the determination of bigots and extremists amongst us who have always subscribed to discriminatory policies and practices against Muslims.
Following the open discrimination in the selection process across board, the average Nigerian Muslim is left with no choice but to move to the next logical step of trying to fathom why. Reasons like expunging the minimum Muslim rights left in the Nigerian constitution readily come to mind. With a minority Muslim representation, any anti- Islamic agenda the President and his delegates put forward will easily scale through and such action will inevitably pave way for further erosion of Muslim rights following the precedence of the 1976 assembly when about eighty three Muslim delegates staged a walk-out in protest against the conduct of the assembly in Muslim affairs. The result of this current plan will force Nigerian Muslims to take second place behind their counterparts whom they in reality outnumber demographically. Muslims will not only be relegated in terms of governance, growth and development, but also be boxed up and deprived the freedom in practicing their religion, a good mix for similar faith clash and ‘faith-cleansing’ as we have witnessed in other countries. Efforts to limit Muslim freedom to practice and express their Deen are already evident in the society as mentioned above, only this recent initiative by the Government will escalate it. Many restrictions to the free practice of the Islamic faith are already enshrined in the constitutional doctrine, by omission or commission; daily played out by our school and education systems and government agencies policies e.g. policies and practices that openly demonstrate anti-Muslim biases go unchecked, the number of Muslims present at this conference will definitely not allow a fair and balanced debate and redress of all or many of the issues and concerns facing the Muslim community. Nor will the government’s ongoing tactics to engage only a section of the Nigerian Muslim community in crisis-management talk make-up for the imbalance and injustice. Such moves will be only further justify the concern that the Obasanjo-Atiku Government must have constituted this lop-sided assembly covertly to wipe off the remaining rights Muslims still enjoy in the society.
MPAC calls on all Nigerian Muslims to be on guide, put all differences aside and stand together in a show of resolve and solidarity in the face of this open threat to the purpose of our very existence. Mosques, Muslim organizations and Muslim Student organizations must work actively together in the coming days and weeks in a coalition to defend and protect a common good of the community, engaging in peaceful and political means and ways according to the dictates of the Islamic tradition to prevent the complete erosion of our God-given rights.
We enjoin the President and his vice, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, to embark on the path of honour and fairness by restoring equity to the field of play and we call on him and his advisors to realize that peace and stability can only be achieved through fairness, equity, justice to all and through the rule of law. These are the basic tenets of democracy that Nigerians have suffered to establish and they must ultimately prevail, above sentiments. We call on the President of Nigeria to work closer with the whole of the Muslim community across the country and immediately correct all the mistakes pointed out to him by our umbrella body – the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, to be seen by all.