The Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Hassan Mathew Kukah has indicated his readiness to apologise to Muslims in Nigeria for his Christmas day message, particularly from the Islamic adherents.
There is a caveat though: The Jama’atu Nasril Islam (JNI), the Islamic group leading the onslaught against Kukah must point to any portion of the message, where he insulted Islam as a religion.
The cleric said this in reaction to the statement credited to the JNI which portrayed Kukah as an ingrate because he was accepted and tolerated in Sokoto, the seat of the Islamic Caliphate. Kukah said that if JNI fails to provide such evidence, he would consider their statement as a threat to his person.
He accused Khalid Aliyu, Secretary-General of JNI, who signed the statement, on dwelling more on politics rather than humanity, to have accused him of firing an arrow at the heart of Islam and Muslims in Nigeria.
Kukah went further: “The Secretary-General has accused me of being an enemy of his religion, Islam. He accused me of what he calls, firing an arrow at the heart of Islam and Muslims in Nigeria. He says I have been accorded respect and accommodated in Sokoto and I have turned around to bite a finger that has fed me.
“He poses a question: How can Muslims continue to be hospitable to one who proves to be an ingrate many times over? How can Muslims be comfortable in associating with a bitterly vindictive person disguised in the garb of a religious cleric?
“I can only take this statement from the secretary-general of JNI as a clear case of incitement to violence against me. My area of research is religion, politics and society. I’m concerned about how religion can help to form good citizens and also how the state can create an environment that enables citizens to achieve this.
“In all of my writings over the last forty or more years, I have never written a single paper or article on Islam as a religion. If there is any scholar anywhere who knows, let him or her say so.
“I have written about religion focusing on how both citizens and the state deal with it, with a focus on politicians. My concerns are summarised in what the late Professor Bala Usman loosely referred to as the manipulation of religion. This manipulation is what has turned religion into a weapon of war in Nigeria.
“I request Dr Aliyu, as a matter of honour and based on the text of my sermon, to formally identify where, in his sermon, I attacked Islam or all Muslims in Nigeria. I assure him that I will be more than happy to apologise for the offensive part of the statement.
“The relevant paragraphs in my sermon focused on the two painful themes of nepotism and the haemorrhaging of lives in our country, a fact that as I said, most religious leaders and statesmen and women have alluded to. How a critique of government policies suddenly becomes hater of Islam and the north, beggars belief.
“I call on Dr Aliyu to clarify and validate his accusations against me and advance the reasons why he should incite violence against me.
“I am unaware of anyone in Sokoto who has accused me of any misdemeanour or actions aimed at undermining the state or anyone, no least the faith of Islam. I believe that today, nepotism poses a serious threat to our country.
“My belief was to add my voice to the voices of millions of Nigerians, Muslims, Christians, Traditional rulers, Statesmen and all who have shown genuine concern. It will be a great pity and a disservice to our efforts at national cohesion if we resort to the kind of diversionary threats that Dr Aliyu has embarked on.
“It only makes the job of insurgents easier if we become enemies to one another.”