The controversy over the Christmas homily by the Bishop of Sokoto Catholic Diocese, Bishop Matthew Kukah, deepened on Wednesday as the umbrella body for Muslims, the Jama’atu Nasril Islam (JNI), headed by the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar, attacked him for allegedly denigrating Islam and Muslims.
JNI, in a statement in Kaduna by its Secretary-General, Dr. Khalid Abubakar Aliyu, said the bishop “should not take Muslims kindness for timidity or foolishness.”
Kukah, in his Christmas message on December 25, 2020, had accused President Muhammadu Buhari of nepotism and institutionalising northern hegemony by “reducing others in public life to second-class status”.
“Every honest Nigerian knows that there is no way any non-Northern Muslim president could have done a fraction of what President Buhari has done by his nepotism and gotten away with it”, Kukah was quoted to have said.
A portion of his homily drew flak from many Muslims and Islamic groups, who viewed it as an attack on Islam.
But the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) rose in defence of Kukah, accusing his critics of twisting his homily.
However, the JNI described the message as a calculated attempt to insult Islam.
It noted that the insinuations by Kukah that “Muslims have a pool of violence to draw from, is disgusting, disheartening, as well as condemnable.”
The JNI said Kukah’s message deviated from well-established norm across the globe.
It said despite the status of Sokoto to Muslims and Islamic history, Kukah was warmly welcomed, accepted, accommodated and accorded respect deserving of his position as a religious leader.
It also described Kukah’s message as “irresponsible and seditious.”
“Though the message is disguised as a political hogwash to deceive the innocent, there is no doubt that it was a poisoned arrow fired at the heart of Islam and Muslims in Nigeria, hence the need for this intervention.
“The bishop’s statement was a prepared address considering the occasion and the audience, one cannot but agree that it was a calculated attempt to insult Islam, which is typical of him.
“His veiled insinuation that Muslims have a pool of violence to draw from, is disgusting, disheartening, as well as condemnable.
“Responsibly, Christmas homilies should come with messages of hope, unity, mercy, forgiveness of the Supreme Being and resilience through prayers, especially in this trying time.
“The bishop’s message was however a clear deviation from well-established norm across the globe.
“Kukah is the bishop of the Sokoto Diocese located at the seat of the Caliphate and the heart of Islam and Islamic scholarship, culture and practices in sub-Saharan Africa.
“Despite the status of Sokoto to the Muslims and Islamic history, Bishop Kukah was warmly welcomed, accepted, accommodated and accorded respect deserving of his position as a religious leader.
“Across the length and breadth of the Northern Nigeria, Kukah has friends and associates among the Muslim society. Without fear of any contradiction, he is most accepted and accommodated Christian clergy to the leaders of the Muslims in the North.
“They accorded him all the support he needed, despite some reservations from some quarters about his tendencies to bite the fingers that feed him.
“In spite of the liberality, congeniality and the camaraderie extended to Bishop Kukah in Sokoto and all over the Muslim North, he throws all sense of decorum and common sense to the wind and fired invective salvos on the Muslims and Islam without any justification.
“By this and his several similar inane attacks against Islam and the Muslims, the bishop has lost the friendship and the hospitality of the entire Muslim populace,” it said.
The statement wondered how Muslims can ever trust a man who smiles at their faces in the day and hold dagger against them in the night.
“How can the Muslims continue to be hospitable to the one who proves to be ingrate many times over?
“How can the Muslims be comfortable in associating with a bitterly vindictive person disguised in the garb of religious clergy?
“Muslims in Nigeria cannot be charged and be held responsible or accountable for the actions or inactions of government just because it is headed by a Muslim,” JNI added.
According to the group, Kukah cannot pretend to be attacking President Buhari and while making Islam and the Muslims his targets.
“We will never accept to be used as punching bag of the vindictive bishop.
“It is mind boggling to imagine why Bishop Kukah is always keen in pushing at the national fault lines; religion, tribe and north-south divide.
“His fiery and equally violence inciting speech at the burial of the late Governor Yakowa of Kaduna State (in 2012) is still fresh in our memories,” it added.
JNI warned Kukah not take Muslims’ kindness for granted.
“In being accommodative and kind, the Muslims are adhering to the teaching of the glorious Quran that even in times of war, the Muslims should offer assistance to those who seek their protection. Quran chapter 9 verse 6 is categorical on this…
“Kukah and his likes who enjoys the pleasure of denigrating Islam and Muslims at any slightest opportunity should have lowered their guard, so as to have some peace of mind because the spark which Islam kindles can never be extinguished,” it stated.
The JNI, however, urged Muslims to remain calm and to uphold the teachings of Islam, especially on being accommodating.
“Let’s continue to relate well with our peace-loving Christian neighbours and colleagues regardless of the vituperations of some misguided elements among them,” it said.
Onyebuchi Ezigbo, John Shiklam