Stop persecuting Muslims, group tells Nigerian Army

MURIC's Executive Director, Ishaq Akintola

“By constantly raiding mosques, Nigerian soldiers are setting a bad precedent,” it said.

An Islamic group, the Muslim Rights Concern, MURIC, has called on the Nigerian Army stop using the excuse of insurgency in some parts of the country to persecute Muslims.

The group in a statement by its Director, Ishaq Akintola, on Tuesday recalled that officials of the Nigerian Army last week raided several mosques in Aba, Abia State, and arrested the Chief Imam of Aba Central Mosque, Bashir Idris and 14 others.

The statement also said although Mr. Idris and 12 of those arrested were set free after rigorous interrogation that lasted hours at the 144 Battalion, Asa in Ukwa West Council Area of the state, two teachers of the New Horizon Academy which is attached to Aba Central Mosque were not released.

It was alleged that the soldiers discovered substances suspected to be chemicals at the school.

“The Muslim Rights Concern- MURIC- denounces the constant raids on mosques which have become recurring decimal in the South Eastern part of Nigeria. The unfolding pattern reveals overzealousness on the part of Easterners and the security operatives based in the South-East. Flimsy excuses are being used to persecute Muslims and Northerners resident in their midst.

“We affirm that this is contrary to the spirit of brotherhood expected among fellow Nigerians. It is also a usurpation of the Allah-given and fundamental human rights of Muslims and Northerners residing in the South-East as enshrined in Chapter IV, Section 41(1) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which stipulates that “Every citizen of Nigeria is entitled to move freely throughout Nigeria and to reside in any part thereof, and no citizen of Nigeria shall be expelled from Nigeria or refused entry thereto or exit therefrom.”

MURIC condemned the constant raids on mosques because, it said, such raids constitute deliberate desecration of the sanctity of a place of worship.

“By constantly raiding mosques, Nigerian soldiers are setting a bad precedent,” it said.

It also said by molesting Imams and Islamic scholars, Nigerian security agencies are engaging in ‘religious stigmatization, ethnic profiling and undue scapegoatism.’

“These actions are not only most unethical but also highly unprofessional. They stand in contradistinction to international best practices among security agencies around the world where the focus is on intelligence gathering instead of the manifestation of Stone Age security gimmicks and dictatorial Gestapo tactics,” MURIC said.

It said by harassing Northerners and intimidating Muslims in the South-East, Nigerian security agents are sending out the wrong message to the rest of the world, that Muslims are now endangered species in Nigeria.

It said the allegation that the two detained teachers were storing bomb-making chemicals is spurious, baseless and unfounded.

“MURIC therefore demands the immediate release of the two teachers, the Chemistry teacher, Abdul Rahman Sani and the principal, Abdul Majid Abubakar. Who does not know that chemicals are needed to teach chemistry? Instead of keeping them incommunicado beyond 48 hours, the duo should be arraigned in a properly constituted court of law if anything is found against them.

The Nigerian Army has always denied it is targeting any ethnic or religious group in its operations.

In its statement, MURIC also asked Igbo leaders to help stop what it called ‘Islamophobia’ in the South East.

“MURIC is alarmed that Igbo leaders are not doing anything to stem the tide of Islamophobia in the South East. We charge Ohaneze to rise above primordial sentiments and stop the harassment of innocent Northerners and Muslims in their midst. We call on the Nigerian security agencies to stop coercing Northerners and Muslims resident in the South-East,” it said.

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