By AUSTIN OWOICHO, Abuja
Following reports that the premises of the Nigerian Immigration at Ikoyi has been taken over by religious zealots who compel staffers and applicants to join them in morning devotions, the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) has cried out to immigration authorities and the Federal Government to save the department from religious crisis.
In a statement signed by its director and founder, made avaikable on Monday, MURIC complained that its headquarters had been inundated with reports that Nigerians who visit the immigration office in Ikoyi, Lagos early in the mornings are being made to partake in Christian prayers and evangelical devotion without any regard for their religious leaning.
According to Akintola, “The Ikoyi office of immigrations has been taken over by Christian fanatics who force everyone who arrives early to join in Christian prayers. They insist that there must be morning devotion before starting work every morning. The fact that they have Muslims among their staff and applicants means nothing to them. They invoke spirits and imaginary angels. They shout and scream at the top of their voices. It is madness in official quarters.
“Muslims need protection in this country. We cannot just stand by watching as Muslims are embarrassed and denigrated by overzealous Christian officials in immigration office. It is not only ridiculous but also unacceptable. It is hard to believe that Ikoyi immigration office is owned by the Nigerian government. It looks more like a Christian evangelical office.
“When did Nigeria descend to this level? How can a government department of such high status become a tool in the hands of gymnastic crusaders? We are demanding immediate cessation of this rubbish. It must also be investigated. All government offices are there for staffers to work and for visitors to receive quality service. How can we get that quality service when you force us to go down on our knees contrary to our belief? By the way, how can we allow civil servants to mess up tax payers for crying out loud? No serious nation will allow its work force to descend into the labyrinths of mythical religiousity and Treasure Island miracle mentality.”
MURIC affirmed that Nigerian Muslims are tax payers and major stakeholders who deserve quality service. The Muslim human rights outfit decried the compulsion of applicants to join in morning devotion of any kind in Ikoyi immigration office in particular and any other government department for that matter.
“This phenomenon is now common in many ministries, parastatals, hospitals, clinics, market places, etc. Some Christian extremists just assume that they own this country. They arrogantly ask everyone to close their eyes in government offices every morning. They ask them to kneel down and pray. They should be told that Muslims pray in their homes every morning before going to work. So what is the essence of forcing us to pray in the office in Christian fashion? This ignoble practice is common where Christians are heads of department. It happens where Christians are directors. This bedlam must be brought under control.
“If anybody wants to pray in the office, let him or her pray silently and privately. It is an infringement on Allah-given fundamental rights of Muslims to compel them to kneel down and pray in Christian manner just because the boss in that office is a Christian. This is something Muslim bosses will never do and we are demanding immediate stoppage.
“It is paradoxical that the same Christian bosses and directors who force Muslims to join them in prayer are the same people who spread the misleading propaganda that Nigeria is being Islamised. This new revelation proves that they are the ones Christianising Nigeria but accusing the Muslims in order to deceive Nigerians. Our neighbours are adept at deception, outright lies and fake news.
“It may be argued that Muslims also pray at work but while that is true they never drag non-Muslims to join their prayer. The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria guarantees freedom of religion and that is why whoever wants to worship should do so briefly without compelling others to join him or her. MURIC will continue to expose those who tramp upon Allah-given fundamental rights of Muslims”.
The Muslim group lamented the Nigerian irony where there is excessive show of religious devotion without a commensurate level of transparency and accountability in public office.
“Our advice is that Nigerians should stop this hypocritical show of piety in criminality. How can we spend hours on our knees yet we are ‘fantastically corrupt’? How can we compel people to join in morning devotion but demand bribes from the same people minutes later? Those who waste so much time kneeling down in prayer during working hours do not deserve full salary because they did not render full service to their country. They are cheating on government”.
MURIC also explained that it does not oppose Christians praise-worshipping in workplaces since Muslims also observe Salat (ritual or canonical prayer) at work. The organization insists that the Christian spiritual exercise should involve Christians alone and that no Muslim should be invited or forced to attend or participate. It argued that such Christian praise-singing at work should not be done where both Christians and Muslims are waiting for public service.
“It is necessary to clarify our position before we draw the curtain in order to avoid deliberate misinterpretation by mischief makers and war mongers. We Muslims are not saying Christians cannot or should not worship in work places. We also worship in our places of work but it is Salat which has prescribed time and special genuflections as we are commanded in the Qur’an ‘Observe regular Salatbecause it is prescribed at stated times’ (Qur’an 4:103; see also Qur’an 2:238; 23:9; etc). It must be noted that Muslims who observe Salat in their places of work are neither showing off nor being fanatical because such prayer (e.g. between 1 pm and 2 pm) is mandatory and those who ignore Salat are cursed (Qur’an 107:5).
“Nonetheless, our Salat is an all-Muslim affair. We do not invite or force Christians to join us. So what we are saying is that Christians can also assemble for religious purposes in their places of work but they should not invite Muslims talk less of forcing them to join in morning devotion. Morning devotion by Christians in immigration office is legitimate with the proviso that it is an all-Christian affair. But it becomes illegal, illegitimate, unlawful and unconstitutional the moment Muslims are coerced to join. It is religious intimidation of the highest order. Do your own alone and let the Muslims do their own alone. “For you your religion and for us our religion” (Qur’an 109:6).
“As we draw the curtain, we demand full investigation into the Ikoyi morning devotion affair. A circular should go out in all ministries and parastatals warning against forceful morning devotions. Defaulters should be punished as deterrents”.