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Scholars renew clamour for end to FG’s Hajj sponsorship, subsidy

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Islamic scholars have renewed demand for end to the Federal Government’s sponsorship of pilgrims to Mecca, Saudi Arabia. The Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar III had earlier advised the Federal Government to take its hands off the sponsorship of pilgrimages while submitting the report of the 2014 Hajj in May 2015.

And scholars including Ustaz Yunus Ibn Kethir of Onigbodo central Mosque told this newspaper that Allah does not make Hajj rites imperative on those who cannot afford it. Stating that Nigeria should take follow the footsteps of the India, which had just ended subsidy on Hajj, Ibn Kethir said: “The National Conference of 2014 also called for the withdrawal of government involvement in pilgrimages beyond the provision of consular services to ensure the comfort and safety of pilgrims while outside the country.” Religion, including the performance of holy pilgrimages, “is a personal affair. Pilgrimages are only for those who can afford them,” he said.

The Indian government had last week withdrawn subsidy given to Muslims for the annual Hajj pilgrimage. Announcing the decision, Union Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said it was in line with the government’s agenda to empower minorities without appeasing them. “This is part of our policy to empower minorities with dignity and without appeasement,” Naqvi told reporters here. He said the government would utilise the funds saved from withdrawing the subsidy for education of minorities,particularly girls.

Naqvi said the subsidy amount ranged from Rs 500-700 crore, which mainly went to the national carrier Air India that flew the pilgrims to Jeddah, along with Saudi Airlines, in a 50:50 ratio. With the government already moving ahead with privatisation of Air India, the subsidy would not make sense, he felt. Naqvi said the withdrawal of subsidy would not make much difference in the airfare from major cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Ahmedabad, Bengaluru and Kolkata, though it would make travel costlier from smaller cities.

“But to offset this cost hike, we have for the first time given the choice to pilgrims to select their point of embarkation. So, for example, a pilgrim from Srinagar may now embark from Delhi, or a pilgrim from Gaya may embark from Kolkata etc., to avoid extra expenses,” Naqvi said. However, the Minister said that the government would “fulfil all its responsibilities it has towards its citizens” and would make all the arrangements for the pilgrims in Saudi Arabia apart from ensuring their safety, security and comfort.

The government had drafted the policy to abolish the Haj subsidy in phased manner after the Supreme Court asked it in 2012 to withdraw it gradually by 2022. Last year, the government had formed a committee comprising eminent Muslims headed by retired IAS Afzal Amanullah to revise India’s Haj policy.

The committee had recommended abolition of Haj subsidy and allowing women above 45 years of age to proceed on Haj without “mehram” (male guardian), among other things. The government accepted most of the recommendations made by the committee. T his year, the highest number of Indian pilgrims are likely to go for the pilgrimage after Saudi Arabia increased India’s quota by 5,000. A total of 1.75 lakh Indian Muslims can go for Haj this year.

Islam

Terrorism not linked to religion, ethnicity, Sultan insists

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  …scolds religious leaders calling for war

 

Terrorism has no connection to religion or ethnicity, the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar III, has insisted as he cautioned religious groups and leaders against comments that would mislead their followers into war. Abubakar who gave the warning while addressing some Sokoto residents, heads of security agencies, religious leaders and journalists during a Ramadan breakfast dinner held at his palace, maintained that the some comments credited to some religious leaders “means the Boko Haram group is winning the war because that is exactly what they want.”

The monarch cited a publication credited to some Christian leaders titled, “if Leah Sharibu dies in the hand of Boko Haram, there will be a religious war in the country,” saying such utterances were irresponsible. He reminded such religious leaders that “terrorism has no connection to religion or ethnicity.’’ Abubakar added that in the event the girl was killed by the terrorists, the Christian leaders that made the comment must be held for complicity.

“How can a leader make such comment,’’ he queried, and stressed that Muslims did not in any way connive with Boko Haram to abduct the girl or get others released. The Sultan reminded such Christian leaders that more Muslims have been killed by Boko Haram than Christians, “which even the former President Goodluck Jonathan testified to.’’

“For some section to make that comment that if she dies in the hand of Boko Haram there will be a religious war is very unfair. “How can someone begin to attack Muslims because this innocent girl happened to be a victim of murderous terrorists?

“It means the Boko Haram group is winning the war because that is exactly what they want. “If they hear about this and went and kill the innocent girl that means you are part and parcel of what make them to do that because they want to cause confusion in the country,” Abubakar stressed.

He urged all Nigerians of goodwill to join in prayers for the safe return of the girl, and for peace and harmony across the country. The Sultan insisted that he reacted on behalf of the entire Nigerian Muslims, and urged the media to save Nigeria from war, as some media reports were inimical to peace and unity of the country. Abubakar accused the core and social media of using unverified stories and gory pictures just to raise tension and spread falsehood in the country.

The monarch cited a picture of herdsmen with guns from the Central Africa Republic which media organizations in the country always use to portray the Fulani herdsmen. “There is no G4 riffle because it has been wiped away for long and that picture used particularly by a TV station was that of herders in Central Africa who were being terrorised by rustlers, because cattle rustling started in their country long before coming to Nigeria,” he noted.

He threatened to disown the award of fellowship on him of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) in protest against continued misleading and unverified stories aired or published by members of the union. Abubakar, who is the President General of the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, however, stressed that the crises between Fulani and farmers were purely economic, now hijacked by a few criminal elements.

He reiterated that the criminals killing innocent people especially in the Middle Belt must be arrested and punished. “But don’t arrest or kill innocent Fulani men just like what happened in Benue state when innocent Fulani people who were on transit, were stopped and killed by some residents of the state,” he cautioned. The Sultan expressed fear that the killings could continue because some politicians were using it to edge out their political opponents.

“Nigerians should expose criminals in their midst, even if they are their parents or relations. “Let’s not leave them alone, don’t hide criminal even if they are your fathers, because too much blood had been shed and this is why God is angry with us. “I believe there are more good people than the bad ones, let the good come together and defeat the bad ones, we have done that while fighting malaria and we can do it again,” he said.

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Islam

Ramadan: Group feeds 2,000 destitutes

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Ramadan

Concerned with the poverty rate in the country, the Counseling Ambassador Organisation of Nigeria, a faith based Non-Governmental Organisation, has fed over 2,000 destitute persons at Oko Baba in Ebute Metta area of Lagos state.

Speaking on the development, the President of the NGO, Pastor Regina Obasa said that the gesture was carried out in the spirit of Ramadan, saying that the prevailing economic challenges in the country prompted the desire of the organization to give the less privileged.

While calling on other well-meaning Nigerians and Corporate Organisations, to complement government’s effort and give back to the society, Obasa said that she was moved by the desire to assist the less privileged in the society and to cushion the effect of poverty in the land.

Responding on behalf of the physically challenged, the Secretary of Lepers in the Destitute Home, Mohammed Buba, commended the NGO, called on other Lagos residents to assist in educating their children and in evacuating the piles of refuse in the camp to prevent an epidemic Buba, who said he has been living in the camp for twenty-five years Ebute Metta, said that education would do a lot in liberating them from the shackle of poverty.

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Islam

Ramadan: ‘Why Buhari, govs must declare emergency in prison sector

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The Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) has called on President Buhari, and all state governors to declare emergency in the prison sector. The group, which said this in its Ramadan message also called on the Chief Justice of the Federation and all state Chief Judges to reflect on the statement of love and mercy by Prophet Muhammed in relation to the condition of inmates of Nigerian prisons nationwide during this Ramadan.

“We must think of how they too can benefit from the special qualities of Ramadan,” MURIC said in a statement issued by its Director, Professor Ishaq Akintola.

“Buhari must borrow a leaf from his United Arab Emirate (UAE) counterpart, Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who ordered the release of 935 prisoners ahead of the upcoming holy fasting month of Ramadan.

He issued the order on Monday 14th May, 2018. We urge Mr. President to declare an emergency in the prison sector and use his prerogative of mercy to release thousands of prison inmates.

This is in view of the terrible condition of the nations’ prisons where inmates sleep in turns, diseases spread like wild fire on a daily basis. “This will not be a strange development and Buhari will not be the first president of an African nation to release a large number of prison inmates.

Kenyan President, Uhuru Kenyatta, released 7,000 prison inmates in October 2016 to make room for corruption offenders. “We charge Mr. President to walk his talk on the predicament of Nigerian prisoners and people who are awaiting trial.

It will be recalled that Buhari on October 5, 2017 described the situation in Nigeria’s prisons as a ‘national scandal’. Buhari must muster the political will to turn around this horrible situation.

The time for the ‘change’ he has been brandishing is now,” MURIC said. Making a special case for the 54 soldiers serving a ten year jail term for refusing to fight Boko Haram with poor weapons, the group said that it regarded “those 54 soldiers as heroes in the present war against corruption because their action exposed the massive corruption in the armed forces.

Their present predicament is a miscarriage of justice. “We also request that Shaykh Al-Zakzaky be set free if the following conditions can b e m e t , namely, dialogue involving the Nigerian Muslim leadership, leaders of Al-Zakyzaky group and the Minister of Interior, an assurance of respect for peace, law and order by the Al-Zakzaky group, a written commitment that members of the group will stop intimidat-ing their neighbours and a halt to the group’s endless long-distance walks on express ways which cause hardship to innocent citizens.

“The Minister of Interior, Abdul Rahman Danbazau, said in June 2017 that 70 percent of Nigerian prisoners are awaiting trial. Many of these awaiting trial inmates have stayed beyond the likely jail term for their alleged offences. For instance, 34 years old Kazeem Sani, a motorcyclist was arrested and detained in 2006 for stealing a mobile phone.

He could not have bagged more than six months for petty stealing but he spent ten years in the Kirikiri Medium Prison without trial before he was set free in July 2016. Emeka Arum who was accused of armed robbery spent eight years awaiting trial in an Enugu prison. Chukwujekwu Ifejika, spent seven years in Onitsha prison also without trial.”

The group continued; “The presence of awaiting trial inmates has caused a general congestion of prisons nationwide. Enugu prison which was built for 638 inmates holds 1,800. 1,574 inmates out of 1,761 prisoners in Anambra are awaiting trial.

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