LAGOS – Seeking better communication with the government, Nigeria Muslims have launched an enlightenment program during the holy fasting month of Ramadan to enhance healthy interfaith relations in their community.
The program is to “deepen healthy community relations between Muslims and their neighbors in government or corporate organizations,” Professor Ishaq Akintola, a leading Muslim rights activist, told OnIslam.net.
“We start by urging organizations to avoid fixing provocative or stressful events in Ramadan as this could strain relations with the Muslim community.”
Ramadan, the holiest month in Islamic calendar, started in Nigeria on July 10.
In Ramadan, adult Muslims abstain from food, drink, smoking and sex between dawn and sunset.
The sick and those traveling are exempt from fasting especially if it poses health risks.
During the holy month, Muslims dedicate their time to be closer to Allah through prayers, self-restraint and good deeds.
Launching the enlightenment program, the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) group urged the government agencies, political parties and corporate bodies to avoid fixing programs during the holy month that might stress or provoke Muslims.
The group cited an earlier case in 2002 when a national beauty pageant was held within Ramadan, leading to massive protests across most Northern Nigerian cities as Muslims saw it as a deliberate attempt to provoke them.
That incident led to deaths and injuries, and dealt a blow to Muslim-Christian relations.
“Apart from fasting from dawn till dusk, Muslims are expected to engage in rigorous spiritual exercises,” Akintola said in an email exclusively sent to OnIslam.net.
“It hurts Muslims when they are compelled to be part of certain social events during the month of Ramadan when indeed it is a religious duty to remain on the celestial plane throughout the period.
“MURIC uses this opportunity to remind those at the helm of affairs to consider the sensibilities of the Nigerian Muslim population when planning events for the months of July and August 2013.”
A similar awareness program was launched by a leading Muslim group to educate employers and Muslims alike on how to relate especially during the fasting month.
“It is our belief that as many non-Muslims and employers as possible need to be properly educated on what this month demands of Muslims and the need for them to understand their Muslim employees therein,” Kamor Disu, of the Muslim Public Affairs Centre, MPAC, told OnIslam.net.
“It is our belief that as many non-Muslims and employers as possible need to be properly educated on what this month demands of Muslims and the need for them to understand their Muslim employees therein,” he added.
The program included designing a pamphlet containing the guide to Muslim-employers’ relations during and after Ramadan.
“It is our intention to foster unity and harmony in the society,” Disu said.
It will be wrong to assume that employers know everything about the religious obligations of their workers, and it is against this background that we set out to fill that gap.
“Part of the message is calling on employers to allow their Muslim workers perform their prayers as and when due and, except it is genuinely feared that it would affect productivity, they should allow Muslims to do their tilaawah (Qur’an recitation) as they may deem appropriate. We of course made it clear for Muslim employees to respect the sensitivities of their work.”
The initiative won plaudits of Muslim activists.
“I agree and support that kind of cause because it will not only take away the stress or psychological trauma associated with a fasting Muslim being exposed to hardship or profanities but will also make him see his employer or government or the concerned association as respecting his religious sensibilities,” Omoyemi Akangbe, a Lagos-based attorney, said.
“That way, we are fostering friendly relations among ourselves. So I join the call.”
Temitope Olasoju, a Muslim banker at the Federal Capital Territory, said he agrees with any call for everybody to “respect the sanctity of the holy month, because it is in doing that can we truly demonstrate our respect for one another as a people of one country, bound by one destiny.”
Not only Muslims.
The new interfaith programs were welcomed by Reverend Bamidele Isaac Isola, who worships at the popular Redeemed Christian Church of Christ in Lagos.
“I don’t think our Muslim brothers are asking for too much or anything impossible,” he told OnIslam.net.
“Respect begets respect, and I would expect people to respect the sanctity of the holy month. In fact, respect for one another should not be restricted to Ramadan or lent but it should be an everyday affair.
“It is by doing that that Nigeria can move forward.”
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