An Islamic advocacy group, Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) has appealed to the Nigerian government to ignore claims by Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan that Turkish terrorists are currently in Nigeria.

The group advised President Muhammadu Buhari to focus on the eight bilateral agreements signed by the two countries during President Erdogan's visit to Nigeria rather than chasing “innocent” Turkish nationals.

It described the Turkish citizens who are members of the Hizmet Movement seeking asylum in Nigeria, as "innocent", claiming the Turkish government is only making effort to stigmatise them because of their political differences.

MURIC, in a statement obtained on Friday by Sahara Reporters from its director, Professor Ishaq Akintola, stated that such claims by the Turkish President are “false, baseless and of no consequence”.

He, however, urged Buhari to focus more on the gains of the bilateral agreements signed between the two countries which would reflect on the Nigerian economy rather than embarking on a baseless manhunt.

The statement read, “We heartily welcome the bilateral agreements signed by Nigeria and Turkey as they have the potential to boost economic and military advancement in both countries. However, we take the Turkish president’s allegation that there are Turkish terrorists in Nigeria with a pinch of salt. It is false, baseless and of no consequence whatsoever.

“We are aware of the existence of Boko Haram and ISWAP terrorists in the country but we reject the attempt to label innocent Turkish citizens as terrorists just because there is a political difference between them and their president.

“Nigerian opposition groups are spread all over Europe and America but President Buhari does not label them as terrorists. Neither does he tell his hosts to haunt them. Instead, he treats all Nigerian citizens at home and in diaspora as his own children. This is one area President Erdogan of Turkey needs to look into. He derailed by veering into the issue of opposition members from his country who reside in Nigeria. He should have ignored them.

“We acknowledge Erdogan’s role as a leading mouthpiece of the Muslim world and a stout defender of Islam, particularly against Western stigmatisation. But that does not confer on him the right to label the opposition in his country as terrorists and to haunt them all over the place. Erdogan should stick to what we know him for as the unrelenting defender of world Muslims.

“Neither should Erdogan’s humongous Muslim hero image becloud nor diminish MURIC’s commitment to protecting Allah-given fundamental human rights of Muslims in Nigeria, be it, individual or group. This is where the issue of protecting the rights of members of HIzmet in Nigeria comes in.

“These people are our fellow Muslims. It does not matter whether they are foreigners or Nigerians. Prophet Muhammad (SAW) said. ‘A Muslim is a brother to a fellow Muslim’ (al-Muslim akhul-Muslim). Interestingly enough, we have not heard of their involvement in any violent activity since their sojourn in this country.

“Or is it terrorism to build hospitals and establish schools? The terrorists that we know (Boko Haram) blow up schools and hospitals. Is it terrorism to build boreholes for public schools? Is it terrorism to assist Nigerians on hajj and sacrificial animals? Erdogan is our hero as a defender of Islam but his allegation of terrorism against these people does not hold any water at all.   

“What we know of them is that they build primary and secondary schools, universities and hospitals. They also engage in humanitarian services, assisting poor Muslims to meet religious obligations like hajj and sacrificial animals. They have been in this country for more than 20 years (even before Erdogan became Prime Minister) and some of the institutions established by them in Nigeria are two decades old already. A coup that allegedly occurred in Turkey five years ago while these people were still in Nigeria should not be hanged on their necks.

“Unfortunately they are already being punished for what took place in their absence as they are not allowed to return to Turkey ever since the coup. Members of their families (wives, husbands, children, etc.) who are in Turkey are not allowed to travel out to join them.”

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