The Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA), under the leadership of its President General and Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar, CFR, mni, is devastated and depressed by the horrific and dastardly attacks on Christian worshippers on Easter Sunday, April 21, 2019 in Colombo, Sri Lanka.
It was a most reprehensible, barbaric, callous and inhuman act to launch such savage attacks on a faith community or any group of people at any point at all, not to talk of the time of their communion with the Almighty God. That about 300 people were gruesomely killed with more than 500 others sustaining various degrees of injury is an affront against civilisation and a crime against humanity. There is no moral, religious or political justification for such an outrage on the global psyche. Therefore, all hands must be on deck to ensure that the perpetrators, whoever they are, are severely punished by the Sri Lankan authorities.
It is a sad commentary on the state of the world that at a time everyone is recovering from the severe shock precipitated by the attacks on Muslims in two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, on March 15, 2019, these gruesome attacks borne out of extreme hatred and religious bigotry happened in Sri Lanka, a country that has witnessed some stability after the end of its Civil War some years ago.
The NSCIA condemns and denounces the attacks in the strongest terms. The Council also commiserates with the families of the victims in Sri Lanka, United Kingdom, India, Denmark, Spain, Australia, United States, Switzerland, China, The Netherlands, Japan, Portugal and other countries whose nationals were involved in the ghastly bombings. While praying for the families and countries of the bereaved that they be granted the fortitude to bear the losses and that the hospitalised victims have quick recovery, the Council reiterates that terrorists are terrorists and criminals are criminals, regardless of their race or the religions they claim to profess.
Though all religions ordinarily abhor violence and promote goodness, Islam especially considers killing as a major sin. It considers the sanctity of human life inviolable. In Quran 5, verse 32, it is stated, “whoever kills an innocent person, it is as if he has killed the whole of humanity.” For anyone who claims to be a Muslim to be involved in murder and terrorism itself is an index of the person’s renunciation of Islam.
There is nothing inherently violent in Islam contrary to the claims of some world leaders. As a matter of fact, Huston Smith in his The World’s Religions (1991) records that Prophet Muhammad produced a document that Jews and Christians under Muslim rule “shall be protected from all insults and harm; they shall have equal rights with our own people to our assistance and good offices…they shall practice their religion as freely as Muslims.” The spirit of Islam is that everyone should practise their religion without let or hindrance: “for you is your religion, for me is mine” (Q.109:6).
Reading more about Islam would reveal more of this position, the same way it was revealed to Lady Evelyn Cobbold (d.1963), a Scottish noble woman, who had recorded in her diary: “The more I read and the more I studied, the more convinced I became that Islam is the most practicable religion, and the one most calculated to solve the world’s many perplexing problems, and to bring humanity peace and happiness.” Islam is a religion of peace and terrorists are not Muslims.
In this sad moment, the Christian and Muslim communities in Sri Lanka should continue to work together as they have always been doing through their interfaith meetings and Peace Councils as minorities in their Buddhist majority country. The Government should also clinically investigate the horrific attacks and resist the criminalisation of the entire or section of the Muslim community who had always been at the receiving end of the attacks by extremist religious groups like Bodu Bala Senaor rely on the intelligence of Islamophobic networks both within and outside Sri Lanka.
In the same vein, the Council is shocked by the dispiriting news of the tragedy of the loss of lives on Easter Monday (April 22, 2019) in which 10 people died and 30 others were injured during a night procession in Gombe Metropolis. An official of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) was reported to have rammed his car into a procession of the Boys’ Brigade of St Peter’s Anglican Church and two parishes of ECWA Church killing eight and injuring others before the boys mobilised and killed him and his friend.
It is very unfortunate that Nigeria has to record this ugly incident, which the Sector Commander of the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) in Gombe State referred to as an accident or, as some eyewitnesses said, a product of direct confrontation. Whatever the case was, the losses are regrettable and the condolences of the Council go to the families of the bereaved while our prayers are for the quick recovery of the injured.
The rising waves of attacks in Nigeria against fellow Nigerians on ethnic and religious grounds call for the collective reflection and of all citizens. Nigerians at this time, more than any time before, need to shun the vestiges of ethnicity and religious intolerance that underline much of our sociopolitical dynamics. As a religious nation, with the majority of us being Muslim or Christian, the two faiths of whom are rooted in Ibrahim/Abraham, there are sufficient grounds for mutual cooperation and confidence, rather than a mindset of confrontation and competition.
As it is in the world, and as epitomised by the tragedies of Colombo, Gombe and many other places within and outside Nigeria, there is too much bloodshed borne out of intolerance and mistrust. The problem itself is not the problem but the way we see it. This is why all Muslims and Christians have to rediscover their religions and appreciate that all our problems can be solved in the spirit of the Last Sermon of Prophet Muhammad, that all humanity is from Adam and Eve and no one is superior to the other except by righteousness, and the Sermon of the Mount, that people should love and not judge others.
As we grieve on these tragedies, including the recurrent incidents of deadly banditry in Zamfara State on which we had previously tasked the Federal Government to act decisively, we urge Nigerians to work and pray for peace in the land and in the world. We appeal to the religious leaders in the country to use their mimbars, pulpits and podiums to preach peace, enjoin goodness, promotes righteousness, advance national unity and not otherwise.
May the Almighty Allah grant our world the peace that it urgently requires. May He also put His love in the hearts of Nigerians who claim to believe in Him so that the love of God would reign supreme in the land, not the inordinate love of power, influence and money (Amin).
Prof. Salisu Shehu
Deputy Secretary General
Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs