Presidency in Strong Terms Warns Islamic Group over Bishop Kukah .

Due to its criticism and veiled threat against the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Matthew Kukah, over a recent controversial message he released during Christmas, the presidency has chided an Islamic community.

“The Islamic group, the Muslim Solidarity Forum, asked the outspoken cleric to apologise for his controversial Christmas message to Muslims in the state “or leave the state.

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Message Controversial

In his Christmas message entitled: ‘A Nation in Search of Vindication,’ the clergyman alleged that President Muhammadu Buhari was not living up to standards because of the country’s numerous economic and security challenges.

He also said that Mr Buhari was “institutionalising northern hegemony against national interests,” adding that there would have been a military coup in Nigeria if such nepotism had been practised by a Southern Christian president.

The assertion, however, caused controversy as a Muslim community, for example, characterised the sermon of the bishop as “irresponsible and seditious.”

Ejes Gist Nigeria reported how Jama’atu Nasril Islam (JNI), a major Islamic group, said that the message of Mr. Kukah “was a prepared address considering the opportunity and the audience, one can not but accept that it was a calculated attempt to ridicule Islam that is typical of him. His veiled insinuation is shameful, disheartening, as well as condemnable that Muslims have a reservoir of abuse to draw from.

Irrepressible Punishment

The bishop replied in response to this, saying that JNI was inciting violence against him.

The Muslim Solidarity Forum (MSF) also warned the cleric to leave “Sokoto, the Seat of the Caliphate, quickly and quietly.”

In his speeches, Mr Kukah’s “innuendos and parables” were against Islam and its followers, MSF said through its acting chairman, Isah Maishanu, adding that they were insulting.

The Presidency wading in 

However, through a declaration signed by Garba Shehu, President Buhari’s spokesperson, the presidency has waded into the face off.

“Under the Constitution of Nigeria, every citizen has the right to, among other things, freedom of speech and expression, the right to own property and reside in any part of the country and the right to move freely without inhibition,” Mr Shehu said, in an attempt to protect the rights of the cleric.

“The power of Nigeria lies in its diversity. In the Constitution of this country, the freedom for all religions to co-exist is enshrined. Moreover, the government’s responsibility, this democratic government, is to ensure that it follows the Constitution. But everybody must respect their fellow Nigerians’ rights and sensitivities.

With his inflammatory comments against the government and the President, Father Kukah has deeply angered many, with some also accusing him of expressing anti-Islamic rhetoric.

“Responsible leadership in every society must show caution on issues such as these. Not only can knee-jerk reactions trigger the fraying of enduring relationships, but also the evisceration of peaceful societies such as Sokoto, the Muslim community’s headquarters, as a pluralism and tolerance beacon. Historically, the Sultanate has had good relations with adherents of all religions. That is why Father Kukah was greeted with friendship and tolerance on his arrival in Sokoto,’ said Mr. Shehu.

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Under our rules, parties or factions must not send notices of termination, nor can they arbitrarily prosecute any alleged violations. It is the courts of law that can adjudicate when they arise. Not the way to go is unilateral action.

To share and uphold the multi-religious values of the nation, groups such as the Muslim Solidarity Forum must be seen. And in his private and public utterances, people like Father Kukah must value the feelings of his fellow Nigerians,” he added.

# Presidency in Strong Terms Warns Islamic Group over Bishop Kukah

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