The government of the State of Oshun recently declared a one-day public holiday in recognition of the first day of the Islamic calendar.
In a conservative and myopic reaction to the declaration, the Punch newspaper of Tuesday, 20th November, 2012 , page 18, poured vitriolic attacks on the state government for taking this patriotic and much belated action.
The Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) takes the Punch editorial with a pinch of salt. Though we are not unaware of the crusader and anti- Islam character of the Punch from its inception, we are shocked that this newspaper can descend so low.
The Punch is simply acting the script of some fanatical Christian leaders and groups who see nothing good in Muslims and who are determined to keep the current assymetrical system in the country without allowing any room for Muslims. We are aware of the existence of many level-headed and moderate Christians who are prepared to co-exist peacefully with Muslims but this group is not vocal. Rather the Punch has chosen to silence such moderate Christian groups and remain the major megaphone for champions of Islamophobia.
MURIC calls on the authorities to watch media houses like the Punch.
Stoking the fire of religious bigotry is not the right thing to do at this point in time when Nigeria needs people with clear understanding of the religious atmosphere in the country.
That editorial is malicious, sinister and parochial, and that is to say the least. The Punch will continue to lose respect among Muslims so long as it fails to realise that this country is not for Christians alone.
We reaffirm our demand for a national conference where all the demands of religious and ethnic groups will be tabled. We assert that the constitution of this country remains a fraud so long as it fails to recognize those Allah-given and fundamental rights of Muslims.
Our democracy is fake if there is no equal rights. By declaring a public holiday in recognition of the 1st day of the hijrah calendar, Osun State government has merely responded to the yearnings, aspirations, demands and protests of Muslims which date back to the 80s. Punch’s condemnation of the declaration of hijrah holiday has only exposed its ignorance of the fundamentals of democracy.
The hijrah holiday is a dividend of democracy and the right of Muslims. Democracy is all about participation and sense of belonging. Oshun government has given Muslims that much needed feeling of patriotism. Punch should stop fanning the embers of hatred.
Punch needs to be told that the governor of the State of Oshun has simply exercised the powers vested upon him by the Public Holidays Act chapter 378 to enable Section 38 of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which grants every Nigerian freedom of worship to see the light of day. Muslims in the South-West who constitute more than 55% of the total population in the region have long been deprived of this right in spite of several petitions and peaceful demands. Is this the Punch’s sense of democracy?
MURIC challenges the Punch or anyone else that feels bothered with this to go to court. We warn that no newspaper should use its priviledged position to pour invectives on public officers simply because the latter happen to be Muslims or because they take the right decision. It is cheap blackmail.
Those who wrongly use the power of the press to intimidate and coerce should go back to the pages of history. It is ironical that an organ which is expected to be the voice of the voiceless has allowed religious bigotry to turn it into an instrument of tyranny. Punch has carried its Islamophobia too far.
Neither can anyone in his right sense accuse the governor of the State of Oshun of favouring Muslims at the expense of Christians. A brief look at the statistics of government officials is enough to allay such a fear. In fact it is the Muslims in the state who have been accusing the governor of short-changing them in appointments to public offices. Perhaps we should ask Punch to tell us how many Muslims are in the state government’s executive and how many are in the list of permanent secretaries recently appointed in the state?
For the avoidance of doubt, we state the figures as they are at present: of the thirteen (13) commissioners in the state, only four (4) are Muslims, the remaining nine (9) are Christians; of the twenty nine (29) permanent secretaries, eight (8) are Muslims while the remaining twenty one (21) are Christians. Again, only five (5) of the fourteen (14) special advisers in the state are Muslims compared to the remaining nine (9) who are Christians. Why didn’t Punch complain about this lopsidedness if indeed it represents justice and fairness?
MURIC asserts clearly, unambiguously and unequivocally that Nigerian Muslims will continue to pursue their peaceful and legitimate demands for the rule of law, equal rights and justice in this Westo-Christian dominated country. We believe that this land belongs to us all. Nobody is going to run away for anyone. What is good for the goose is equally good for the gander.
Christians and Muslims must live peacefully together with fully recognised rights. A constitution that fails to fully recognise the rights of all is only fit for the dustbin. There has been enough bloodshed in the land. Punch should allow peace to reign. It should therefore stop the publication of provocative editorials to avoid setting fire to the keg of gun powder.
Professor Is-haq Akintola,
Lagos State University,
P.O. Box 10211,
LASU Post Office,
HO 102 101,
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