The Federal Government has responded to the many comments of displeasure registered by citizens over the news of Nigeria’s membership of Islamic Coalition Against Terror (ISMAT), saying that it has absolutely nothing to do with giving Nigeria an Islamic identity.
Speaking on Monday, March 7, in an interview with State House correspondents, Foreign Affairs Minister, Geoffrey Onyeama said it was wrong to accuse the government of giving Nigeria an Islamic identity with the decision to be a member of the coalition explaining that Islamic nations were ill at ease with the general notion attributing terrorism to their religion hence, the sole aim of the coalition was to prove that terrorists were not representing Islam.
According to the Minister who granted the interview shortly after his meeting with President Buhari at the Presidential Villa, the major interest of Nigerians should be directed to the objectives of the coalition rather than concentrating on religion. He added that terrorism is a global phenomenon and Nigeria therefore was ready to support any move to deal with it.
What I say first of all is that you guys in the media have to be more responsible in the way you present news. First and foremost, get your facts right. It has nothing to do with religion as far as Nigeria is concerned. We’ve to look at what the objective is. We face terror challenges and it’s a global phenomenon.
Unfortunately, the problem we’ve today is that some of the terrorists groups are claiming some of the things they are doing is in the name of a particular religion and it is clear to everybody that this is not the case which is obviously a concern to people of Islamic faith and Islamic countries that their religion should be so abused.
So, there is naturally a tendency to show that this has nothing to do with Islam. Terrorism has nothing to do with Islam. Islamic countries, Islamic people want to be seen as being in the forefront of the battle against these terrorists to show also that it has absolutely nothing to do with religion. That’s what this is all about. So, we’re supporting every move to achieve this to disabuse people’s minds that some of these terrorists are speaking in the name of Islam or are Islamic or that there’s anything about Islamic teaching that somehow condones these barbaric actions.
I think it is something we should all get together and we should all support whoever is working towards it. And that is what this coalition is for; to show too that we’re a Muslim country, we’re Muslims and these people do not speak for Islam and have nothing to do with islam. Most of the victims of these people are Muslims if you look at it. So, that’s what it is. It has nothing to do with Nigeria, Christianity, Islam. I think the media should really get the main message across.
Countries involved in the coalition aside from Saudi Arabia, include Jordan, the UAE, Pakistan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Benin, Turkey, Chad, Togo, Tunisia, Djibouti, Senegal, Sudan, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Gabon, Guinea, the partially-recognized state of Palestine, the Islamic Federal Republic of the Comoros, Qatar, Cote d’Ivoire, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Maldives, Mali, Malaysia, Egypt, Morocco, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Yemen.
According to a statement quoted by state news agency SPA:
The countries here mentioned have decided on the formation of a military alliance led by Saudi Arabia to fight terrorism, with a joint operations center based in Riyadh (the capital of Saudi Arabia) to coordinate and support military operations.
The coalition has a duty to protect the Islamic nation from the evils of all terrorist groups and organizations whatever their sect and name which wreak death and corruption on earth and aim to terrorize the innocent.
Arabiya TV, also reports that according to the text of the statement announcing the formation of the group, “the coalition is created to counteract terrorism, which became a threat to the interests of the Islamic nation” and “on the basis of the right of peoples for self-defense.
Now, back to the Minister’s statement, I see a contradiction as he says the coalition has nothing to do with religion, but went ahead to state that Islamic countries and people of Islamic faith want to show the world that Islam has nothing to do with terrorism. Does it then mean that Nigeria joining the coalition shows that she is an Islamic country? Have we all been sold to Islam without knowing it?
I believe one qualification for membership of this coalition is that the member countries are Islam or isn’t that the reason for the adjective that qualifies the coalition? Is this coalition the only anti-terrorism organisation in the world? Why ISMAT? What do they have to offer Nigeria in particular that other non-religious anti-terrorist coalitions cannot?
The purpose of asking these questions is not to stir more trouble than has already been raised by this issue but i strongly believe that the citizens of Nigeria deserve a better explanation for being dragged into ISMAT being a multi-religious country.