Muslim sect, the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) has warned Kaduna State governor, Mr. Nasir El-Rufai, to stop abridging the religious rights of its members and called on the international community to restrain him.
The warning was contained in a statement signed by Mr. Ibrahim Musa, President, IMN Media Forum. According to the IMN, popularly known as Shiites, the latest episode of denial of their right to worship by Mr. El-Rufai occurred on Friday, a day marking the beginning of Muharram, the first month of the Islamic calendar.
During the period, said the statement, Shia Muslims worldwide remember the brutal killing of Imam Hussein, grandson of Prophet Muhammad by Yazeed forces on the plains of Karbala.
The sect said the mourning the death of Imam Hussein is a sacred religious duty.
But on Saturday, one day into the sacred mourning period, said IMN, Mr. El-Rufai ordered armed security agents to disperse its members carrying out the religious duty.
IMN noted that it was through Allah's grace that loss of lives was averted in Kaduna and Zaria.
"The governor and his security chiefs have been encroaching on our religious rights for too long. Their action this last Saturday must be taken as severe trampling of our rights and freedom of thought, conscience and religion and freedom (either alone or in community with others, and in public or in private) to manifest and propagate our religion or belief in worship, teaching, practice, and observance," said the group.
It observed that the government's conduct amounts to immense provocation and persecution, adding that an end must be put to it.
"This has to stop immediately. If we don’t have the right to congregate in our centers of worship and education, where do they want us to observe our religious rites? A similar thing happened last year in the same Kaduna when the governor used a combination of these security forces and hired thugs to brutally attack mourners resulting in the death of scores of our members, torching of our religious center and school as well as the unjustified detention of many others to date."
This mindless killing spree should not be allowed to repeat itself this year," IMN warned.
The group explained that not one person has ever been molested or denied freedom during its mourning sessions, saying the sessions take place in facilities owned by it and not in public places.
"We don't force anyone to join us in the mourning sessions. Why then must we be prevented from our own religious obligations? Why should we then be subjected to these state-sponsored ruthless attacks each year? This government is supposed to be secular. It must not be seen to be supporting any particular religious group opposed to the mourning of Ashura. Everyone must be allowed to practice his belief as guaranteed in the Nigerian laws under which El-Rufai draws his legitimacy to govern justly and do right to all manners of people irrespective of their beliefs," stated IMN.
It described the Ashura mourning and all its activities as very peaceful, wondering why such an occasion should be turned into an excuse for slaughter. The sect called on all people of conscience and the international community to call Mr. El-Rufai to order.