World Bulletin/News Desk
Nigeria is in the throes of another religious tension as leading Muslim and Christian representative bodies trade barbs over controlling the country's Information Ministry and subsequently a large section of the media.
"We have downplayed the utterly insensitive, provocative and dangerous comments of the leadership of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) about Muslims and Islam," Mohamed Qasim, the director of publicity at the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA), told Anadolu Agency on Sunday.
"Our silence reflected our desire for peace and harmony. But this time we must set the record straight," he thundered.
The NSCIA issued late Saturday a strongly-worded rebuttal of CAN’s claim that Christians are treated as second class citizens in Nigeria, especially at the Information Ministry and the Nigeria Television Authority (NTA), which the CAN dismissed as "Muslim haven."
CAN President Ayo Oritsejafor, a multimillionaire cleric notorious for his controversial anti-Muslim and pro-government stand, has claimed that seven out of NTA's eight directors were Muslims.
"Turn that around and see what will happen. What do you call that? Second class citizens," he said in a recent interview.
Qasim, the NSCIA spokesman, refuted the claim.
He sent AA an email containing names, designations and years of service of board chairmen and members at the NTA since inception.
"Between 1976 and today, about 80 percent of external board members of the NTA have been Christians, only 20 percent are Muslims," he said.
"The position of secretary, a very powerful seat, has exclusively been given to Christians since the beginning of NTA. No Muslim has held that position."
Nigeria has a population of 160 million people, 55 percent of them said to be Muslims, 40 percent Christians and remainders belong to indigenous religions.
The Muslims’ apex body accused its Christian counterpart of propagating falsehoods against Muslims and Islam.
"Why would anyone who claims to be a religious leader want to lead Nigeria into the ugly specter of a religious war through belligerent utterances and false allegations just to gain vainglorious self-assertiveness?" Qasim fumed.
"Why would a religious leader not reflect before making a public pronouncement?"
The spokesman accused the CAN leadership of "random deliberate provocation," asserting this trend has propelled NSCIA to update Nigerian Muslims with "unassailable facts".
"Having tolerated CAN’ s irritation for so long in the interest of peace and without any reciprocation, we are compelled to say enough is enough and to henceforth resist any unwarranted bullying and intimidation of Nigerian Muslims by the President of CAN."
Qasim argued that contrary to the CAN leadership's claims, Muslims have been tolerant of their Christian brethren even in the core North that is predominantly Muslim.
He noted that all government ministers and advisers in the 17 states in Nigeria’s South are all Christians, a lopsidedness he insisted gives the lie to the CAN’s claim of marginalization.
"We want to tell the world that Muslims are tolerant and very just and fair," he told AA.
"In our future advertorial we are going to publish where Christians were given certificate of occupancy to build churches, even in Sokoto (the seat of Islamic caliphate in Nigeria) and these are in major streets and areas. We are asking them: are they ready to do the same for Muslims in the South-South and South-East?"
Efforts to get the CAN leadership to react to NSCIA’s position proved futile.
"The CAN will react to the issues at the appropriate time," spokesman Anthony Sanni scantily told AA.Last Mod: 20 Ekim 2013, 23:35