A licence to worship God: knocks, kudos trail proposed Kaduna State’s ‘religious preaching law’
• ‘Tell Herbalists To Obtain License Before They Practise Herbalism And Witches Before They Fly’
• ‘Some People Are Using Religion For Their Own Selfish Interest, Instead Of Projecting What The Religion Says’
Recently, Kaduna State’s Governor, Nasir el-Rufai sent a bill to the State House of Assembly to regulate religious preaching across the state. The bill was tagged: “A bill for a law to substitute the Kaduna State religious preaching law, 1984”. A section of the bill reads: “A person shall be guilty of an offence who, in contravention of this law; (a) preaches without a valid licence (b) plays religious cassette or uses a loudspeaker for religious purposes after 8pm in a public place (c) uses a loudspeaker for religious purposes other than inside a mosque or church and the surrounding areas outside the stipulated prayer times (d) uses a loudspeaker in vehicles plying the streets with religious recording.” Already, clerics of all religions and their faithful have started reacting to this law. Should religions be regulated beyond what is in the Constitution? Is it proper that preachers are licensed before they can do God’s work? CHRIS IREKAMBA (Lagos), IYABO LAWAL (Ibadan), NKECHI ONYEDIKA-UGOEZE (Abuja), TUNDE OSO and EKEMENA AZAINO (Lagos) report.
‘Preaching Regulation Bill By Kaduna State Government Should Be Replicated At Federal Level’
(Ustaz Mohammad Kabir, Chief Imam, Garki Market Mosque, Federal Capital Territory, Abuja)
RELIGIOUS Activities should be regulated to weed out preachers that incite people to violence. The Preaching Regulation Bill by the Kaduna State government is commendable. It should be replicated at the federal level. Some people are using religion for their own selfish interest, instead of projecting what the religion says, and by so doing, causing problems. Some people don’t even have the knowledge of their religion, but have only become preachers by chance. You see them preaching anyhow even in the mosque, but if you listen closely to them, you’d discover that they have not studied the Qur’an well and cannot therefore interpret it well.
There is need for government to put in place some regulations for religious activities. Let us find out those who have the knowledge of the religion and what they are saying. Whether Muslims or Christians, all we are trying to do is worship God. Therefore, we shouldn’t use religion for selfish motives. Religion is to be used to bring people to God, but there are those using religion to incite people to violence.
In my religion, there is nothing like compulsion or violence. What you can only do is to win people to your religion through preaching and your good manners, which can attract. It is not by forcing or accusing them of not following the religion. Even Prophet Mohammed (SAW) lived with non-Muslims, and he never compelled them to follow his religion. It was through the Messenger’s good manners and that of his companions that other people got attracted to the religion. Most people, especially politicians, use religion to achieve selfish political goals, but politics has nothing to do with you being a Christian or Muslim. This is democracy, and people should be allowed to choose for themselves who they feel would treat them better.
So, let them regulate religious activities and let us know those that are having the license. The license has been given by God for you to preach, but even if you have the license and you don’t follow the guidelines, it would be revoked by God Himself. However, the license given by God is a general one, but if you don’t abide by what God has said, then He has nothing to do with you. For instance, what happened between the Nigerian Army and the Shiites had nothing to do with religion. You cannot go and block the road owned by the people in the name of religion. There is nowhere in the Qur’an, where it is said that if you are having your religious activities, you should inconvenience others; it is not done. If we have this kind of regulation, we will know what we are doing. A preacher can use the roadsides, he/she can even ask government to provide security, but you don’t just block the roads in the name of religion.
‘I Would Have Preferred That The Matter Be Discussed With Religious Leaders’
(Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama, Catholic Bishop of Jos/President, Catholic Bishop’s Conference of Nigeria (CBCN).
MODERATING religious excesses is not wrong, but it could be handled better with the involvement of religious leaders across board. I haven’t read the details of the Bill, but from all I know, it has been generating a lot of reactions from both Muslim and Christian religious leaders. I personally believe there is need to regulate the way religious activities are being carried out in the country— whether in terms of preaching, respecting the rights of others or blocking the highways during prayers and causing inconveniences. There is noise pollution and above all, we have cases of people who are not adequately trained to undertake the delicate task of preaching, which is a very sensitive task. I believe there is some desired measure of control that is required, but if that control is going to create violation of religious rights, then there is a problem.
I would have preferred that the issue be discussed in a sensitive manner with religious leaders, for there to be some kind of dialogue with both Christian and Muslim leaders. Let the facts be evident that look, there is problem of noise pollution, disturbance, people preaching extremism or fundamentalism. Then the religious leaders would come up with solutions, but when it comes in the form of a decree from the government, it doesn’t often work well.
Take the case of Zamfara, the then governor wasn’t a religious leader, but he decreed Sharia on his people. Now look at the repercussions. While I commend the effort of the state government in trying to moderate religious activities, I think it should have been done in a manner that is inclusive by taking along the religious leaders across board. I think it would have been an effective measure to curtail religious excesses. You don’t achieve results in this kind of issue by top-to-bottom approach. It should have been bottom-to-top approach — get religious leaders at the grassroots, enlighten them, dialogue with them and let them be familiar with the issues and the problems caused by some of these people that are not adequately trained to undertake religious evangelisation. That would have been the starting point and then it would have culminated at this level before legislation or whatever. But when you come suddenly, people are likely to misunderstand and misinterpret it. So, it is the process that is faulty. I don’t think the idea is wrong to moderate religious excesses.
‘Proposed Bill Would Set Nigeria On Fire’
(Bishop Francis Wale Oke, Presiding Bishop, Sword of the Spirit Ministries, aka Christ Life Church, Ibadan)
THE proposed bill stopping religious sermons in churches and mosques in Kaduna State is a dangerous one that could set the whole country on fire. That bill should be stopped. I know he proposed it to tackle el-Zakky-Zakky and such others, but it would do more evil than good for Nigeria.
I would want to offer some words of advice to His Excellency, Nasir el-Rufai. When he was in former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s cabinet in Abuja, he earned my respect and as somebody who is working for the unity of Nigeria, I want to directly ask him to stop the bill and kill the fire. This is because nobody can predict the extent of the fire the bill is capable of unleashing on the country.
So in the name of God, let him stop that bill so that Nigeria can maintain its peace. You shouldn’t stoke the fire of religious crisis, because it is emotional.
When it comes to religion, people don’t think, they don’t reason, they just go wild. We don’t need that now. Let’s join hands and see how we can move Nigeria forward in its goal of economic recovery— fighting corruption and bringing all of us together in unity without the division of religion, tribe or race. That is what everybody should do now. I make a very strong appeal to His Excellency, el-Rufai, he is a passionate Nigerian, but he should drop that bill for the sake of unity.
‘Situation Is Better Handled By Muslims And Christians’
(Prof. Sabit Ariyo Olagoke, founder and spiritual head of Shafaudeen-in-Islam Organisation, Worldwide)
THE bill was in order, if it is in consonance with the guidelines of the apex bodies of the two religions. The Holy Qur’an supports the notion of modesty and orderliness, but it abhors excesses of some people when it comes to religion, which calls for concern. The two religions, no doubt, stressed the essence of good neighbourliness and orderliness. The two good Books also specifically emphasised that there must be no compulsion in religion, which should be seen and employed as an instrument of unity, peace and development.
A situation whereby people use it as a weapon of disunity and chaos calls for regulating measures. However, if this is to be done, it is supposed to be managed by the apex body of all the religions, because these are the people that know the nitty-gritty of the religion. If such a bill were passed through the apex bodies to the Houses of Assembly, then there would be a divine rationality on the outcome of such a bill becoming law. Anything to the contrary may throw the state into another round of chaos.
‘Governor May Have Good Intentions, But Let The People Have A Say’
(His Grace Most Rev Dr. Alfred Adewale Martins, Archbishop of Lagos)
WHETHER or not I support that preachers should be licensed before they can preach, one thing we know is that the country’s Constitution guarantees freedom of worship. If there is any bill that is going to restrict freedom of worship, then that bill should not see the light of day.
I hope the governor and the government of Kaduna State will listen to what the people of the state have to say on the issue and take such seriously, because democracy is about the people and the good of the people.
It is necessary for the government to listen to the people that voted them into power and not just ram things down their throat.
There may be good intentions behind the law, but it is important that in making such a law for the people, they have a say so that the law can be effective in the first instance and be a just one.
‘Asking A Pastor To Obtain Licence Is Against The Constitution Of Nigeria’
(Apostle Johnson Suleman, founder/president, Omega Fire Ministries, Edo State)
I DON’T have personal issues with any governor, but I think there are better things for the governor to do in the state rather than fighting Christianity through sentimental laws of banning public use of speaker and issuance of licence, among others, all of which are against the divine order and Nigeria Constitution, which is supreme to the laws of any state.
People are living in poverty and hardship, which to me should be a major concern to him. If all he can do is to use his first one year in office fighting God, it is very clear that he won’t go far, because whoever stands in the way of the church will go for it.
There were men of God before El-rufai was governor and there will be men of God after he leaves. Why not tell herbalists to obtain licence before they practise herbalism? Why not tell witches that they need licence to fly?
Asking a pastor to obtain licence is against the Constitution of Nigeria. When you talk of license, you are acting against freedom of worship. The governor should stay off his plan.
‘Whether Such Law Is Enacted In Imo, Ondo Or Kaduna State, It Is Absolutely Wrong’
(Pastor Lawrence Onochie, Founder/Pastor, King’s Heritage Ministry, Ogba, Lagos)
I VEHEMENTLY condemn the proposed bill to regulate religious preaching in the state by Kaduna State Government. From whatever direction one looks at that law, it is absolutely uncalled for and it runs against the grain of the citizens’ fundamental freedom of association, movement and speech expression, association and speech.
It is also a bad precedence, as it is targeted mainly at the Christian faith, which mostly holds public crusade and evangelism. I don’t think it is in the interest of national unity and the spirit of the constitution for anybody to enact a law, which infringes on the people’s rights. All men and women of goodwill should condemn the edict.
Whether such law is enacted in Imo, Ondo or Kaduna State, it is absolutely wrong. I know that the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN) will soon come up with an official position against the legislation. It can’t stand and should not stand. The President and the Commander-in-Chief must do the needful by avoiding such legislation.