The Muslim Rights Concern, an Islamic human rights organization, has explained the rationale behind its style of advocacy, which combines theocracy with democracy.
In a statement signed by the Director of the organization, Prof. Ishaq Akintola, the group insisted that its interest lies in progress for Nigeria and the welfare of Nigerian citizens.
According to MURIC, there is no personal relationship between it and President Muhammadu Buhari.
It said: “It is not about any close relationship or acquaintance. It is Buhari’s integrity that warms our heart. We marvel at his prudence, his simplicity and his altruism. He is simply a living legend.
“These are the qualities which we cherish in Buhari. His political party does not matter to us. Some Nigerians are not being honest. All of us have been complaining for a long time that the problem with Nigeria is leadership. We accused our leaders of greed, avarice and selfishness. But today we have a leader who loves Nigeria more than himself but then we want to start listening to looters.
“A former military governor, former military head of state and former chairman Petroleum Task Force (PTF) who refused to steal one kobo. We have a man who, in spite of all the chances he had to steal, he has no fleet of cars, no private estates within the country, he has no foreign account, no houses in London, New York or any foreign land.
“We have been complaining for long that corrupt leaders always got away with their loot. Nobody ever questioned anyone. But today we have a president to whom transparency, probity and accountability are uppermost. He has the political will to fight corruption and to punish offenders. Ex-governors and powerful politicians are being sent to jail for the first time in the history of this country. Huge amounts are also being recovered. It is a record performance.
“We complained that our leaders were corrupt. Now that we have a leader who is not corrupt, we are looking for excuses even after seeing his performance. Treasury Single Account has saved a lot of money for Nigeria. Our foreign reserve has risen from $28 billion to more than $47 billion within two years and in spite of falling oil prices.”
MURIC also cleared the air on insinuations that the group is supporting Buhari because he is a Muslim.
The group said: “It is not the religion. Check our records. Former military heads of state, late General Sani Abacha and General Ibrahim Babangida (rtd) were Muslims but we fought them to a standstill. Again, there are many Muslims among Buhari’s opponents and critics yet we elect to oppose them. Former president Olusegun Obasanjo was a Christian but we supported his regime.
“It is not religion. It is about good governance. If Vice President Yemi Osinbajo who is a Christian clergy contests election tomorrow we will support him because he shares the same vision with President Muhammadu Buhari. Wole Soyinka and Femi Falana are Christians. We will not hesitate to rally behind them tomorrow if they vie for leadership positions. We would have given all our energy to support Tai Solarin, Dr. Beko Ransom Kuti, Chima Ubani and Ken Saro Wiwa who were all Christians had they contested for the post of president in their life time.”
Akintola insisted that the organization is head over heels in love with Nigeria and that love of the country is what drives the group.
He said: “Those who want to silence us peddle false allegations of politicization of MURIC but the truth is that MURIC is being driven by patriotism. We have a strong passion for good governance. We challenge anybody who has seen us attending any political meeting or rally to come forward. We are not in active politics.
“As religious leaders, we are speaking up to guide politicians because things may go wrong if we keep quiet. We therefore appeal to our admirers to try and understand our viewpoint. This is a cause we cannot give up. We will never give up on Nigeria. We will never surrender this country to kleptomaniacs and blood merchants no matter the amount of blackmail. This struggle is towards a better future for Nigerian youth, Nigerian children and generations yet unborn. Posterity will judge us.
“Nigerians were looking for a good leader, an incorruptible and selfless leader. They found one in Buhari so they voted for him. But corruption is fighting back and looters are spending humongous amounts on anti-Buhari propaganda. They are accusing him of favouritism, nepotism and inability to stop killings. Unfortunately some Nigerians fall for the antics of those political challartans. But we are focused and we will not allow agents of corruption, political shenanigans and merchants of death whose tools are fake news and hate speech to deceive us.”
In an undisguised reference to the Peoples Democratic Party, the group queried: “How can we, in good conscience, consciously encourage a political party which was in power for 16 years, 16 years of waste, 16 years of darkness, 16 years of impunity and is now shedding crocodile tears, apologizing to deceive us into accepting it again after stealing the nation dry. Buhari may not be perfect but he is the best around so far. Only a political party who presents a better candidate can make us change our position but it has not happened so far.”
MURIC assured its large number of admirers among Christians and Muslims that it has not derailed.
It said: “What you are witnessing is corruption fighting back. Its agents are confusing our admirers, telling them that we are meddling in politics. They just want to neutralize us in order to have a clear field. They are scared of criticism. But there is nothing like meddling in politics for citizens who know their rights. We are only being politically conscious and that is the duty of every citizen. We must be politically conscious because politics determines what goes where and to who.
“Those who complain about our comments on political developments should remember where we are coming from. MURIC was formed in 1994 as a protest movement after the criminal annulment of the June 12 1993 election. Though a Muslim-Muslim tickect, it was Christian organisations and the Campaign for Democracy alone that were speaking against it while Islamic organisations maintained a curious silence. This gave Nigerians the wrong impression that Islam condones injustice.
“We therefore mobilized radical elements among Muslims to establish an Islamic human rights organization. We filled the yawning lacuna of the time. This is one major reason why we should not stop commenting publicly on what happens around us, particularly those that affect Nigerian citizens. Nonetheless, we will not be swayed from the path of pacific advocacy and responsible activism in keeping with MURIC’s avowed motto, ‘Dialogue, Not Violence’.
“Muslims are the majority in this country of 193 million people. This means that Muslims will enjoy better life if there is good governance and they are likely to suffer most if it is vice versa. So why should an organization that calls itself ‘Muslim Rights Concern’ not show that ‘concern’ in a matter that will determine the fate of millions of its members and adherents of the Islamic faith? This is more so since Islam is a complete way of life encapsulating matters of faith, economy, politics, science, education, morality, etc.”
Arguing further, Akintola insisted that the organisation is strictly following the injunctions of the Qur’an by paying attention to the politics going on around it.
He cited Qur’an 3:104, which says: “Let there arise a group among you that will be calling people to righteousness, commanding people to do good and forbidding them from committing evil, those are the successful ones.”
He also cited Qur’an 8:25 which condemns docility, encourages Muslims to be proactive and warns that those who fail to speak up when necessary may eventually become victims of the evil even if they are innocent.
MURIC argued that it also relied on the hadith of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) in which he said: “Whoever sees any wrongdoing among you should try to use his hands to change it. If he cannot use his hands he should use his tongue (i.e. speak out against it), if he cannot do this he should use his heart (i.e. wish it away or pray against it).”
The group therefore urged Muslims not to shy away from politics.
It said: “Politics determines whether the roads will be good or not. It determines whether or not we will have stable power supply, a reliable public transport system and good public health delivery package. Health, the quality of education, the condition of prisons, civil liberties like freedom to use hijab, etc are determined by politics. It also determines whether or not there will be socio-economic justice. Is it fair to spare looters who steal billions while we sentence a poor man who stole a tuber of yam to two years in jail?
“Some selfish politicians arrogate to themselves all the milk and honey in the land because Nigerians show no interest. Is it not worrisome that some politicians are earning N29 million monthly while poor workers are not even getting N18,000 minimum wage as and when due?
“The International Monetary Fund (IMF) revealed in 1999 that 1% of our population enjoys 85% of the wealth, leaving the remaining 99% of the population to struggle and push themselves before having access to the remaining 15% of Nigeria’s wealth. That is why facilities cannot go round. That is why we have falling school walls. That is why public hospitals are glorified mortuaries. The Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON), said last week that only 350 Nigerians are responsible for more than 80% of the N5.4 trillion debt portfolio of the company. Is this fair? And should we still keep quiet?
“Unfortunately Muslims are at the bottom of the pyramid of poverty in this country. So why should Muslims not participate and why should we not speak up in support of good politicians and condemn bad ones? It is both our right and duty. The interesting thing is that we are here to liberate not only the poor Muslims but also the teeming hoi polloi. We refuse to be intimidated.
“The medieval Sufi and philosopher, Ibn Al-Qayyim al-Jawziyyah (died 1350) condemned silence in public matters. He said: ‘Some people remain permanently deprived due to their poor ability to remain silent”. Shaykh Uthman Dan Fodiyo also said: ‘Silence is a crime in an unjust society.’”
MURIC reiterated that its interest is Nigeria and not any political party.
The group advised Muslims to wake up to the challenge of politics, to speak up and be proactive.
It said: “As our last shot, we charge Muslims to break their silence, to play the role that Allah has instructed them to play and to desist from abdicating their social responsibilities. We invite civil society to stand up to be counted in the struggle to free Nigeria from the clutches of the tiny cabal.
“We remind activists and the rest of Nigerians of the words of the Italian poet, Dante Alighieri, who said: ‘The hottest part of hell will be reserved for those who in times of moral crisis maintain their neutrality.’ Albert Einstein also said: ‘The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil but by those who watch them without doing anything.’ But it was Edmund Burke who drove in the last nail in the coffin of #ourmumudondo when he said: ‘All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.’”