Last Friday marked the beginning of Muharram, the first month of the Islamic calendar, in which adherents of Shia Islam all over the World mark as a mourning period in remembrance of the brutal killing of Imam Hussein (AS), the Grandson of Prophet Muhammad (S), by the evil forces of tyrannical Yazeed on the plains of Karbala. To Shia Islam, mourning the death of Imam Hussein (AS) is a sacred religious duty.
Merely a day into this mourning period this year, (last Saturday 02/01/39 equivalent to 23/09/17), Kaduna state Governor, Nasiru Elrufai sent some fully armed security agents to forcefully disperse members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria solemnly mourning as it is done worldwide. It was sheer protection of Allah, that prevented unnecessary lost of lives in the two Kaduna state towns of Zaria and Kaduna.
The Governor and his security chiefs have been encroaching on our religious rights for too long. Their action this last Saturday must be taken as severe trampling of our rights and freedom of thought, conscience and religion and freedom (either alone or in community with others, and in public or in private) to manifest and propagate our religion or belief in worship, teaching, practice and observance. This is taken as provocation of the highest order and persecution taken too far. This has to stop immediately. If we don’t have the right to congregate in our centers of worship and education, where do they want us to observe our religious rites?
Similar thing happened last year in the same Kaduna when the Governor used a combination of these security forces and hired thugs to brutally attack mourners resulting in the death of scores of our members, torching of our religious center and school as well as the unjustified detention of many others to date. This mindless killing spree should not be allowed to repeat itself this year.
During our mourning sessions, nobody is molested or denied his own freedom. The sessions take place in our private centers or schools and not in any public places. We don’t force anyone to join us in the mourning sessions. Why then must we be prevented from our own religious obligations? Why should we then be subjected to these state-sponsored ruthless attacks each year?
This government is supposed to be secular. It must not be seen to be supporting any particular religious group opposed to the mourning of Ashura. Everyone must be allowed to practice his belief as guaranteed in the Nigerian laws under which Elrufai draws his legitimacy to govern justly and do right to all manners of people irrespective of their beliefs.
Our Ashura mourning is a solemn event, and like all our other activities, very peaceful. It shouldn’t be turned into a perennial killing theatre by Elrufai.
We call on all people of conscience and the International committee to raise their voice therefore to call Elrufai to order.
PRESIDENT MEDIA FORUM OF IMN