By Yusufu Shehu Usman
I woke up this morning to the discomforting and highly provocating piece of news from international sources that the United States has placed Nigeria among some other nations on the US watch list for the violation of religious freedom
How religious is America that it will keep Nigeria under watch for violation of the freedom religion ?
I will advice the United States to start with it’s treatment of American Muslims who are constantly under official attack by government policies and subjected to hatred, deprivation and segregation by other sections of the American society
It is therefore hypocritical, highly tendentious and pretentious for the United States to arrogate to itself the prerogative of black listing any other country for the violation of freedom of religion or the right to worship
If the percieved truncating of the freedom of worship is wrong abroad, it must also be wrong in America
You can not subject the adherents of the Islamic faith to oppression in America and deprive them of their fundamental right to belief and worship and yet accuse other nations of violating the same rights and freedoms
Americamust remove the spec in their own eyes before trying to remove the log in another nation’s eyes
There is no justification whatsoever for America to put Nigeria under it’s watch list for violation of religious rights by citing few selected and isolated instances of such infractions.
The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria provides not only for the right and freedom to hold religious beliefs but also to practice and propagate the same without official intimidation
The Constitution states that the government of Nigeria should not adopt any religion as a state religion
It can not be denied that the government of Nigeria does not interfere with or violate the Constitutional right of the citizens to believe, practice and even propagate their respective religious faiths
In Nigeria there are three major religions widely practiced across the nation, namely; Islam, Christiany and Traditional religion and the government has preserved and protected the rights of every citizen to practice the faith of his choice and belief
If any thing, despite it’s claim of secularism, the government supports in many and varied ways, the practice of Islam and Christianity without discrimination
It established the Pilgrimage Boards for both Christians and Muslims and fully fund them and in addition, in almost every state, sponsors pilgrims to Mecca pand Jerusalem to perform essential aspects of their faiths
Nigeria may arguably be described as the most religious nation on earth and the citizens of the Federal Republic of Nigeria are the most passionate in the practice and propagation of their chosen faiths
In Nigeria, no citizen is compelled by the state to accept or convert to any religion and none has ever been prosecuted or persecuted on account of his faith
It is only in Nigeria that both Muslims and Christians feel free to block public high ways on Fridays and Sundays and even on other days just because they are worshipping in the mosque, in the church or when they are conducting a religion related occassions
It is only in Nigeria that both Christians and Muslims use megaphones and live hands at any part of the day or night to propagate their faiths
In all these, the Government has not sought to prohibit or restrain the faithfuls even if other Citizens may not feel comfortable with the practices
As a matter of government policy or law, the government does not discriminate against any religion and to the best of my knowledge, the only faith that does not seem to have government recognition and any measure of official support, support is the traditional religion.
I am sure that the traditional religionists have not complained about marginalisation or discrimination to the United States and even If they did, I am sure that the US will not consider it as a violation of their right to hold a religious belief, just as the American governments are treating the religion of the United States Aborigenes with disdain and without recognition
It will be unfair for the adherents of Islam or Christianity to accuse the government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria of oppression or discrimination In it’s treatment of their respective religions
The governments bend over backwards to factor in our religious sensitivities and peculiarities In the formulation and execution of it’s policies and this is evident in many respects
Therefore the statement of the United States accusing the Government of Nigeria of violating religious rights and freedom of the citizens to worship is unjust, baseless, mischievous and a veiled attempt to stir a religious crisis in the country by inciting Christians against Muslimagainstat destabilising NigerWe should resist such sinister moves by the United States.
It is insidious that the United States would even threàten economic sànctions against Nigeria on such an issueI seriously suspect the motive of the United States of America in making thiuntenable and phantom charge against my country because no sooner had it released the damning statement, it immediately issued a further statement removing Sudan from the list of indicted countries for no other reason than as the statement indicated, to support the present government of Sudan
This has brought out the motive of the United States as the political and only in furtherance of the well know and never vieled intention of the United States to dominate and exert Political control over other nations especially the so called weak and vulnerable nations of Africa, Asia and Latin America
If the United States is on a sincere crusade against the violation of religious freedom as a global phenomenon, there are no better countries to kick off the crusade from than Russia, China and the United States itself, where the right and freedom of religion and worship are grossly violated by the respective governments