The Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Matthew Kukah, has accused an Islamic group, Jama’atu Nasril Islam (JNI) of inciting violence against him over his controversial Christmas message.
The clergyman in a message titled: “A Nation in search of vindication”, had earlier accused the Buhari administration of not living up to expectations of Nigerians due to various economic and security challenges affecting the nation.
He said Mr Buhari was “institutionalising northern hegemony against national interests.”
In a reaction to Mr Kukah’s sermon, JNI, in a statement dated January 6 described the bishop’s sermon as “irresponsible and seditious”.
The statement was signed by the secretary of JNI, Khalid Aliyu.
According to him, Mr Kukah message “was a prepared address considering the occasion and the audience, one cannot but agree that it was a calculated attempt to insult Islam which is typical of him. His veiled insinuation that Muslims have a pool of violence to draw from, is disgusting, disheartening, as well as condemnable.”
Another Islamic group, the Ummah Movement with its headquarters at the National Islamic Centre (NIC), Zaria, had said the failure of Mr Kukah to retract its statement early enough triggered its reaction, hence “called for the immediate resignation of the Bishop from the Peace Committee, in view of his blatant anti-Muslim partisanship as displayed in his treasonable Christmas message.”
The movement’s call was made known in a statement by its leader, Muhammad Muhammad and was made available to the press on Sunday.
JNI inciting violence – Kukah
In response to the statement by JNI, the bishop said the Islamic group was simply inciting violence against him.
He said this in a release sent to PREMIUM TIMES on Monday.
He said “the JNI secretary focused more on politics than humanity to have accused him of firing an arrow at the heart of Islam and Muslims in Nigeria”.
READ ALSO: Muslim groups attack Kukah over Christmas message
“Dr Aliyu has accused me of being an enemy of his Religion, Islam. He accused me of what he calls, firing an arrow at the heart of Islam and Muslims in Nigeria. He says I have been accorded respect and accommodated in Sokoto and I have turned around to bite a finger that has fed me. He poses a question: How can Muslims continue to be hospitable to one who proves to be an ingrate many times over? How can Muslims be comfortable in associating with a bitterly vindictive person disguised in the garb of a religious cleric? I can only take this statement from the Secretary General of JNI as a clear case of incitement to violence against me.”
The outspoken cleric explained that “he is more interested on how religion can be used to foster unity as against what he was accused of doing”.
“Finally, I will make only two points. First, my area of research is Religion, Politics and Society. I am concerned about how religion can help to form good citizens and also how the state can create an environment that enables citizens to achieve this. In all of my writings over the last forty or more years, I have never written a single paper or article on Islam as a Religion. If there is any scholar anywhere who knows, let him or her say so. I have written about Religion focusing on how both citizens and the state deal with it with focus on politicians. My concerns are summarised in what the late Professor Bala Usman loosely referred to as the manipulation of religion. This manipulation is what has turned religion into a weapon of war in Nigeria.
“Secondly, I will request Dr Aliyu as a matter of honour and based on the text of my sermon to formally identify where in my Sermon I attacked Islam or all Muslims in Nigeria and the world according to him. I am more than happy to apologise for the offensive part of the statement. The relevant paragraphs in my Sermon focused on the two painful themes of nepotism and the hemoraging of lives in our country, a fact that as I said, most religious leaders and statesmen and women have alluded to. How a critique of government policies suddenly becomes hatred of Islam and the north, beggars belief. I am therefore calling on Dr. Aliyu to clarify and validate his accusations against me and advance the reasons why he should incite violence against me. I am unaware of anyone in Sokoto who has accused me of any misdemeanor or actions aimed at undermining the state or anyone, no least the faith of Islam.”
The bishop said his sermon was on how to make Nigeria great.
“I believe that today, nepotism poses a serious threat to our country,” he said. “The second point was the issue of the insecurity and how the north has become so affected. My belief was to add my voice to the voices of millions of Nigerians, Muslims, Christians, Traditional rulers, Statesmen and all who have shown genuine concern.”
“It will be a great pity and a disservice to our efforts at national cohesion if we resort to the kind of diversionary threats that Dr Aliyu has embarked on. It only makes the job of insurgents easier if we become enemies to one another.”
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