The Muslim Media Watch Group of Nigeria (MMWG) has called on religious leaders in the country to stop fanning the embers of religious hatred, disunity and confusion.
The MMWG’s call came on the heels of the decision of the Kwara State branch of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) to blame Muslims for the midnight attacks on worshippers in Ilorin on Monday.
The state chairman of CAN, Professor Timothy Opoola, had on Tuesday said CAN believed that some Muslim fundamentalists were the ones who attacked churches and raped women during crossover programmes.
But the MMWG, in a statement by its National Coordinator, Ibrahim Abdullahi, described the CAN’s claim as parochial and mischievous, saying information at the disposal of the general public and clarification made by the police had proven that the contrary was true as regards what happened in the early hours of January 1.
The Muslim group accused the state branch of CAN of spreading “falsehood, blackmail and parochial information” in order to attract sympathy for its members whom, it said, were less affected than Muslims by the attacks.
It said members of a Muslim group, Quareeb, were “terribly” affected by the attacks by the hoodlums who had seized the opportunity of the New Year celebrations to wreak havoc on worshippers – both Muslims and Christians.
“In his briefing to the press [on Tuesday], Prof. Timothy Opoola, the CAN leader [in the state], mischievously attacked the Muslims, claiming that Christians were attacked in their places of worship and that their female worshippers were raped. This is absolutely fallacious and totally untrue.
“The police that came to the rescue of members of the Quareeb Islamic Association that were similarly affected have the detailed account of the incident in which several members of the Quareeb group were injured when the hoodlums threw explosive devices at them in their midnight tahajud prayers. It was the police rescue team that took several injured Muslims to the General Hospital, Ilorin, when the incident occurred.
“It is on this basis that we call on religious leaders to stop fanning embers of religious hatred, disunity and confusion as exhibited by Kwara CAN. What happened was an insult and assault to both religious groups,” MMWG said.
It added: “The responsible action that should have been taken was for both CAN and Quareeb leaders to jointly address a press conference to condemn the mayhem, commend the police and to call on the state government to firm up arrangements of tight security during all festivals so as to protect innocent worshippers from irresponsible elements and miscreants.
“What Kwara CAN did is, to say the least, unpatriotic, irresponsible and condemnable. We should unite in fighting crimes instead of playing to the gallery and embarking on unholy blackmail of other religious adherents.
“In a mayhem that affected both sides that have been co-existing peacefully, one should not jump up sporadically to wrongly accuse the other as CAN has done. That is what is called mischief and CAN must stand clear of it.”
While commending the state police command for promptly curbing the activities of the hoodlums, the MMWG called for the immediate prosecution of the arrested suspects.