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Cleric cautions against hate speech, deplores activities of Boko Haram 

By Nkechi Onyedika-Ugoeze, Abuja 
25 January 2020   |   3:12 am
The Chief Imam Juma’at Mosque, Lafia, Mallam Ali Mohammed has called for peace and unity among religious groups across the federation for the development of the country.

The Chief Imam Juma’at Mosque, Lafia, Mallam Ali Mohammed has called for peace and unity among religious groups across the federation for the development of the country.

He urged religious leaders to bear in mind that they command respect in the society and have the largest population as an audience, and should therefore not use their platform to preach hatred. 

Speaking at workshop on advancing peace and inter-religious dialogue organised by the African Centre for Media and Information Literacy (AFRICMIL) in Abuja, Mohammed blamed religious crisis in Nigeria on religious followers, who don’t follow the tenets of their faith, decrying the activities of the Boko Haram sect, adding they do not represent the Muslims and should never be misconstrued as fighting for Islamic faith. 

“They are on their own and does not represent Islam. Nobody should have an impression that the activities of Boko Haram are Islamic, it is not in any way because Allah says, ‘you should never kill a soul because if you kill a soul, you have killed the entire humanity.’ Those who think they can kill in the name of religion are a bunch of illiterates that do not have the knowledge of the Quran.” 

He implored Nigerians to shun hatred, blackmail and pursue peace and unity of the country, urging political leaders to be sincere and rule with the fear of God as well as ensure fairness, equity and justice in administering the affairs of the nation. 

Earlier, the coordinator, AFRICMIL, Chido Onumah described the role of religion in the society as pertinent and having the power to sustain or destabilise the peace of a nation.

Onuma observed that there are genuine fears of religious conflicts breaking out in Nigeria which could threaten, not just the peace but the unity of the country if not quickly checked to add that Nigeria has increasingly degenerated from a multi-ethnic, multi-religious but united society into a theatre of unhealthy rivalry between Christianity and Islam. 

According to him. “Religious and ethnic stereotyping, as well as hate speeches, is on the increase with dire consequences on national unity and nation-building, noting that government has responded to the rising tension in the country by trying to pass a law to criminalise hate speech but that is not the way to go. 

He said: “What we need is not more regulation but more education and empowerment. There is the urgent need to use media and information literacy, in this era of information and communication technology and Internet revolution, as a tool to change the behaviour of opinion moulders such as religious leaders in the society”. 

Onumah noted that the potential for intense religious crises is even more obvious in this age of internet technology were websites, blogs and social media platforms which are routinely deployed to disseminate all kinds of fake news and hate messages targeting other religions and cultures.

On his part, the chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) Kaduna State, John Hayab, stressed the role of the media in inspiring peace or inciting crisis in a country.

While calling for peace among the two major religious groups in Nigeria, he noted that followers of religious faith must learn to respect the values of other’s religion and stop the endless show of religious supremacy.