MURIC: Taking a stand for the Muslim Ummah – COMMENT


A team of Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC), at a press conference on arrival at Obafemi Awolowo Station, of the Nigerian Railways, Moniya, Ibadan, Oyo State, during its picnic dedicated to showcasing the Buhari Train of Lagos-Ibadan rail line, on Sunday March 13, 2022.

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As preparation started for this piece, news filtered in that the Supreme Court has ruled in favour of female Muslim Students to wear hijab in schools. This ruling presents an exciting period for female Muslim students, their parents, Hijab Advocacy groups and the Muslim Ummah. In addition, the excitement of this ruling offers a relatable introduction to this piece on “Taking a Stand.” It is the “Taking a Stand” that led the Muslim Students Association of Nigeria (MSSN), Lagos Area Unit, and other Hijab Rights group to forge ahead with the hijab court case from 2014 till 2022. Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) has been leading the cause against hijab discrimination and its website is replete with cases of hijab discrimination that saw the organisation taking a stand.

MURIC is against the oppression of man and a keener eye would realise that the “taking a stand” of MURIC is not for Muslims alone but focus is on Muslims because mainstream rights group often activate the silence is golden mantra whenever Muslims face persecution on the matter of faith. A typical example is hijab discrimination which usually involves assault, harassment and denial of girl child education and no mainstream rights and advocacy groups come to the aid of the victims. This lends credence to the point that these mainstream rights and advocacy groups are mere appendage of the church and Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN). Whenever Muslims are wronged and it is brought to the attention of MURIC, be rest assured that MURIC will not be silent, the body would be taking a stand.

MURIC advocacy is changing the narrative in the public space and ensuring that Muslims are not only brought to the table, but Muslims come along with the table. The just concluded political primaries offer a glimpse into the active roles of MURIC in the advocacy for Muslims participation in the political affairs of this country and how the group is managing to drive the conversation. The initial discourse on Presidential flagbearers of political parties was centred around the region until CAN’s media narrative started to focus on the religion. It was at this point that silence was no longer golden for MURIC and the religious body raised pertinent points on the need for the Presidency to come to the South and if it comes to the western part of the South, the President should be a Muslim.

MURIC argued that no Muslim from the Southwest had ever occupied Aso Rock despite having four Christians (Lieutenant General Oladipupo Diya, Chief Ernest Shonekan, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and Vice Pretsident Yemi Osinbajo) at the Villa. You can simply relate MURIC’s stance to “Yoruba lokan, Musulumi lokan.” The taking a stand of MURIC in this instance was intentional, deliberate and persuasive. It is instructive to note that the outcome of the ruling political party primaries, APC, currently suit MURIC’s narrative. The opposition party, PDP also have a Muslim as flagbearer which no doubt leaves CAN displeased, desperate and on the ropes, and explains the apex Christian body recent ultimatum to APC and PDP to have Christian running mates.

News filtered in couple of days ago that the Governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike was among the candidates shortlisted for the running mates of Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, the presidential flagbearer of PDP. MURIC joined the conversation and with bravado of a combatant soldier unapologetically told Alhaji Atiku not to choose Governor Wike as a running mate because he is a known Muslim hater. MURIC spoke plainly and took a stand on Governor Wike, the organisation’s contention was that the maltreatment of minority Muslims in Rivers State is enough justification that the Governor does not deserve such a high office at the national level. Whether this point played on the mind of Alhaji Atiku in his final choice of Governor Okowa of Delta State as his running mate is open to debate, but it cannot be denied that MURIC lent his voice and stood up for minority Muslims in Rivers State and across the country.

Need it be mentioned that there was a time in this country when CAN sneezes, Muslims will catch the cold through the media. In recent years, that narrative is changing, and Muslims are blanketed from the sneeze of CAN by MURIC. MURIC speaks up against the double standard of the media and, to a considerable extent, the levelling of the field is on course. Those who are not comfortable with MURIC’s refusal to be silent, often label them as fanatics who are hitting up the polity but what they cannot deny is MURIC’s courageous input is driving the conversation in favour of Muslims. MURIC’s approach is daring because the human rights group brings to the fore the difficult issues many of their foes shy away from, ignore, or try to hide from the unsuspecting public. Interestingly, for the first time, the country is witnessing a major shift in the narrative that often envelopes public discourse.

Prior to this period, Muslims are often on the ropes, placed on the defensive and bullied by the media about the situation in the country but the table is turning, and the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) seems to have found a match in MURIC. Ordinarily, CAN, being the apex religious body of Christians in Nigeria should find its match from Nigeria Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA), the umbrella religious body of Muslims in Nigeria. However, unlike CAN, NSCIA as a respected and mature body is naturally not cut out to be drawn towards media match and, so, it often ignores the outbursts of CAN, even in the face of blatant provocations.

That places NSCIA up more as a father figure than to relegate self on the same line of unnecessary roforofo fight as if equal to CAN, a supposedly religious umbrella body that is now generally believed to be better registered as a political party in Nigeria, rather than sitting on the pulpit in the Lord’s Vineyard to fire political salvos, most at times, to the discomfort of many.  MURIC is thus better positioned as the vibrant, active subordinate of NSCIA, although operating at its own pace, blazing the trail only for NSCIA, the father figure, as apex body of Islam in Nigeria, to be the one to rain peace at the end of all matters.

MURIC is leading the frontiers of discourse on the rights and advocacy of Muslims, encouraging Muslims to embrace dialogue in the face of oppression rather than be silent and let frustrations lead to violent outbursts. The road to freedom might be long as witnessed with the Lagos State hijab court case which started in 2014 before its Supreme Court ruling in 2022 but, like the bitter leaf, has sweet end. MURIC presents facts as they relate to Muslims to diffuse the tensions often created by CAN’s media narratives. With MURIC, Muslims are not on the reactionary trail but are on the track of proactivity.

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