Nigeria Muslims Pray For Nation’s Unity
LAGOS – A galaxy of Nigerian Muslim organizations have declared Sunday, January 5, a national day of prayers in Africa’s most populous nation, commemorating 100 years of unification and sending a message to the government to tackle their grievances.
"Muslims comprising all bodies will on January 5 come together to pray for the nation and collectively address issues as they affect Muslims and society, thereon forging the essential unity in the interest of the people," Dish Kamor, a spokesman for the Muslim Public Affairs Center, one of the event’s organizers, told Anadolu Agency on Thursday, January 2.
"The event is tagged ‘Muslims Pray for the Nation’ and it is slated for 9am at the Tafawa Balewa Square, Lagos," he added.
Planned in Lagos, the gathering would be attended by thousands of Muslims from various groups who would held a mass prayer for the nation.
Attendants include members of the Muslim community from across the spectrum, including leading academics and scholars of Islamic jurisprudence, such as Prof. Daud Noibi and Sheikh Habeebullah el-ilory, who heads Nigeria’s largest Islamic and Arabic school.
Prof. Ishaq Oloyede, secretary-general of Nigeria’s Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA), would also address the gathering, Kamor added.
Making final preparations for the gathering, security has been stepped up, deploying police and army personnel on the streets to preempt any disturbance of the public peace.
Nigeria’s Muslims have held special prayers for peace and unity in their country.
Last June, nearly two million Muslims joined a special prayer for establishing peace and promoting unity in Nigeria.
In January 2012, nearly 200 Muslim and Christian leaders gathered at a mosque in the palace of Kano’s emir to pray for peace and stability in Nigeria following attacks by the radical group Boko Haram.
A week later, another prayer was called by the Nigeria Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) to denounce the Boko Haram attacks.
Organizers said that Sunday’s prayer session comes as an attempt to flaunt the strength of Nigeria’s Muslim community in hopes of sending a signal to the government that ignoring their grievances could prove dangerous.
"We will pray and make a positive statement within the state, across the nation and the world at large," Kamor said.
"We are here and very relevant to the growth of the state and Nigeria," he added.
"We cannot and of course will not stop being relevant."
Kamor added that the event would be “a wake-up call [for] all.”
"We want to inform as well as educate," he asserted.
The event will also be a way to draw the government’s attention to a number of grievances voiced by Muslims in recent months.
In November, the NSCIA accused the government of President Goodluck Jonathan of the “systematic cleansing of Muslims” from key positions, especially in the security agencies, and lamented widespread “religious” discrimination against Muslims.
No Muslim has been appointed cabinet minister for the entire southern region, the council asserted, including in the southwest, where Muslims are said to constitute the bulk of the population.
There are 17 states in Nigeria’s southern region, each having at least one cabinet minister.
The North, meanwhile, has 19 states, but appreciable numbers of cabinet ministers from the region are Christians.
In December 2013, the Supreme Council for Shari`ah in Nigeria has accused Christians in the country of waging war against Islamic religion.
The Council alleged widespread persecution and systemic exclusion from public offices of the Nigerian Muslims by the government and security agencies, all of which the council claimed were acting the script of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), the body whose leadership faces serial allegations of always opposing anything Islam or relating to Muslims.
The CAN rejects this allegation.
"More disturbing are some emerging government policies in Nigeria which appear to be less oblivious of the peculiar needs of Muslims, thereby fashioning laws which deny Muslims their right to be Muslims and practice their religion – even in their own communities," Kamor said.
"There are over 50 percent Muslim population in the country," Kamor added.
"They say we are dormant, but we know we are not."
Nigeria, one of the world’s most religiously committed nations, is divided between a Muslim north and a Christian south.
Muslims and Christians, who constitute 55 and 40 percent of Nigeria’s 140 million population respectively, have lived in peace for the most part.