CAN Cries Like A Spoilt Child...Islamic Leader

Professor of Eschatology and President, Muslim Rights Concern, Ishaq Akintola, said that the Christian Association of Nigeria is behaving like a spoilt child and acting like a dog in the manger concerning the issue of Sukuk bonds by the Federal Government

The Christian Association of Nigeria has claimed that the Federal Government’s floating of Sukuk Islamic bond was an attempt to Islamise Nigeria. Do you think CAN has a reason to be afraid?

None that I can think of. CAN knows what it is doing. Its false alarms are deliberate. CAN is aware of its various advantages over the Muslim Ummah. For instance, CAN enjoys its own Westo-Christian bonds; Westo-Christian education system; Westo-Christian school uniform; Westo-Christian legal system; Westo-Christian banking; work-free Saturday and Sunday for unlimited and unrestricted worship; January 1st of every year is declared as a holiday, etc.

After enjoying all the above, we have to compare them to CAN’s opposition to Sukuk, its hysteria over Islamic education for Muslim children and hijab on school uniform, its phobia for Shari‘ah, and its pathological allergy for Muslims’ demand for work-free Friday. It is laughable that CAN encouraged a bishop to mobilise street protests against Islamic banking in the South-East. Muharram 1st, which is our own January 1st, is not recognised by the Federal Government. Is that not religious apartheid? We give kudos to Governor (Rauf) Aregbesola of Osun State and Governor Ajimobi of Oyo State for declaring Muharram 1st as a public holiday. We know most northern states also declared it a public holiday.

But we want the Federal Government to recognise it and declare it a national holiday. After all, they say this is a regime of change. They should let us feel the change by removing the chain from the necks of Muslims. Muslims are being treated like slaves in this country. Why should Christians enjoy something and Muslims will be deprived of similar things? Verily, verily, I say to President Muhammadu Buhari, ‘Allah will ask you on yawm al-Qiyamah (the Day of Judgment) if you don’t give us our 1st Muharram next year.’

CAN is like a spoilt child who has everything and needs nothing else. But like a dog in the manger, CAN will rather stand between its deprived Muslim neighbours and their needs. Being a smart alec, CAN makes so much noise about being the victim of Islamisation in order to turn attention away from its overbearing posture and the gross imbalance in the socioeconomic life between Christians and Muslims in Nigeria.

These are issues that border on restructuring. Those clamouring for restructuring and those who are considering areas of common ground should pay attention to this. We (Muslims) are shortchanged in the present democratic setting. We have been marginalised. What is our gain from independence? Where is our dividend of democracy? We remain oppressed until 1st Muharram is declared a holiday. We remain repressed until our daughters are free to wear the hijab. We remain repressed until Friday becomes a work-free day. We remain suppressed until every Muslim student has access to Islamic education. We cannot worship freely on Friday whereas Christians are free from dawn to dusk on Saturday and Sunday.

Muslim families are scattered like wild oats on Friday. The husband cannot go to the mosque with his wife. They cannot go to the mosque with their children. But every Christian is free to go to church on Sunday with his wife and children. This is gross imbalance. Yet, CAN is shouting ‘Islamisation!’ Islamisation my foot! However, the good news is that Muslims are making their demands in an atmosphere of decorum and respect for law and order. We are not issuing threats. We are not engaging in violence. We are simply putting our cards on the table in a civilised manner.

Will you say CAN should recommend its own bond to the FG?

With all pleasure. We are not opposed to Christians enjoying any aspect of their religious rights. We have said it several times and we will repeat it now: even apart from Christian bonds, let CAN tell the Federal Government all the things it wants. We will not play dog in the manger over CAN’s demands. It is the Muslims who have always been making demands because the status quo suits Christians. The Christians need little or nothing from the present system because the British colonialists who were essentially Christians operated a Christian system in Nigeria after tyrannically and undemocratically stopping all Islamic systems in the land.

The Christians have not been asking for anything because they were made comfortable by the British. For the avoidance of doubt, let us ask CAN clearly: ‘What do you want? We are now in the court of public opinion. What religious rights do you want from the Federal Government? Say it loud and clear so that you can allow Nigerians to sleep soundly without cries of Islamisation.’

We are waiting to see if the Nigerian government will play the role of a good and responsible father when restructuring exercise begins. It should not just be political and economic restructuring alone. The government must ask the Christians and the Muslims what they want.

The agitation for equal rights will continue after restructuring if Muslims are sidelined again. But I guess the government will prefer to listen to those of us who adopt this civil approach. This is definitely better than those who take up arms against their country over religious issues.

CAN also argued that the Federal Government is trying to sell the nation to Arab countries through the Sukuk bond. What is your view?

Islamisation agenda is a mirage. CAN should sing another song – this one is rickety and weather-beaten. Who is Islamising who? Muslims have participated in hundreds of Westo-Christian bonds. Yet, we are not Christianised. So, how can anybody become Islamised via Sukuk? For the avoidance of doubt, the Federal Government’s N100bn Sukuk was oversubscribed by N5bn.

The interesting aspect is that more Christians participated in it than Muslims! CAN is just rabble-rousing. Nigerian Christians are not deceived. Just yesterday (Thursday), the government announced that the Sukuk fund would be spent on 25 federal roads. How can anybody stand between a facility designed to enhance the growth of infrastructure? Who is the enemy of progress? We don’t blame Nigerian Christians. They are simple folks. The problem is the Christian leadership. I mean CAN officials. They are always eager to beat war drums. They are always inciting their followers against their Muslim neighbours. They are inexplicably aggressive. Yet, that is not a big problem.

The real problem lies in the fact that they do not base their postulates on facts. They make provocative declarations without understanding the issues and without making any attempt to seek knowledge about those issues. Contrary to the advocacy in Mathew 7:7 which assures Christians that they will ‘find’ if they ‘seek’, leaders of CAN make no effort to find the truth. Neither do they believe that the truth will set them free – John 8:32 – when they finally find it.

We understand why CAN must make a noise. It has to justify sitting on billions of naira in tithes from members across the country. It is a game of numbers. It is also a gimmick for securing and sustaining CAN leadership’s affluence in the face of abject poverty, disease and squalor among its followers in particular and the masses in general.

But it said issuing the bond is a violation of the constitution and promotion of a sectional religious financial policy. How do you view that?

It is sheer propaganda. CAN is merely whipping up anti-Muslim sentiments. The leadership of the umbrella body of Nigerian Christians is Islamophobic.

Do you think the Federal Government should have met with various religious groups, especially CAN, to explain the aim of Sukuk before it issued it?

Meeting CAN separately on Sukuk is unnecessary. A public statement on the rationale for Sukuk plus a massive public enlightenment campaign on it is better.

What is Sukuk and why should CAN not fear it?

Sukuk is an Islamic bond that can generate returns to investors. It is an arm of ‘ethical finance’. Now, what is ‘ethical finance’? It is a term which implies finance that is put to good social and environmental use like building roads, acquiring advanced equipment for hospitals, equipping laboratories in universities, etc.

What has CAN got to fear in this? How does turning our roads into McAcadam models hurt CAN? Many Nigerians die due to lack of proper medical care. Why should CAN kick against an opportunity to equip our hospitals with state-of-the-art machines? It beats me hollow. It is gymnastic religiosity in the face of egocentric propensity.

It will appear that the leadership of Christendom and Islam in Nigeria do not see eye to eye?

How can that be possible when one has everything and the other remains deprived? How can they see eye to eye when one is self-seeking and the other idealistic? Why not, when one is eternally provocative and the other is always level-headed? Or, is that possible when one is reactionary and the other reformatory? Or where one is worldly and materialistic and the other consistently seeks the face, the guidance and the laws of the Lord? How can they be the same? As a last shot, Christian and Muslim leaders can still do Nigeria a favour.

They should weigh the impact of their words before going public. We should be responsible leaders. We should come closer; teach and practise love; teach and practise tolerance and above all, teach Nigerians how to appreciate their country.

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