Kukah's comment didn’t denigrate Islam - Wole Soyinka

Posted by FN Editor | a month ago | 151 times

The Nobel Laureate, Wole Soyinka, on Monday said that the controversial reactions to the New Year message of Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Matthew Kukah, are “diversionary” and “nationally unhealthy”.

Mr Soyinka, a professor, also warned that Nigerians must not succumb to the demands of irrational religionists who would demand a mile after getting an inch.

Agreement or disagreement with Mr Kukah’s position is demonstration of a nation’s badge of maturity and should be read as a continuation of the provocative discourse, Mr Soyinka said in a statement.

The Nobel Laureate wondered why religion is being echoed as a legitimate extract from Mr Kukah’s New Year address, adding that it is a “deliberate, emotive displacement of a central concern.”

Mr Soyinka was reacting to the controversies surrounding a New Year homily by Mr Kukah earlier in the month.

The clergyman had in a message titled: “A Nation in search of vindication”, accused the Muhammadu Buhari administration of not living up to expectations of Nigerians due to the various economic and security challenges affecting the nation.

He said Mr Buhari was “institutionalising northern hegemony against national interests.”

In a reaction to Mr Kukah’s sermon, top Islamic group, JNI, in a statement dated January 6, described the bishop’s sermon as “irresponsible and seditious”.

It said Mr Kukah’s message “was a prepared address considering the occasion and the audience, one cannot but agree that it was a calculated attempt to insult Islam which is typical of him. His veiled insinuation that Muslims have a pool of violence to draw from, is disgusting, disheartening, as well as condemnable.”

Another Islamic group, the Ummah Movement, with headquarters at the National Islamic Centre (NIC), Zaria, said the failure of Mr Kukah to retract his statement early enough triggered its reaction, hence “called for the immediate resignation of the Bishop from the Peace Committee, in view of his blatant anti-Muslim partisanship as displayed in his treasonable Christmas message.”

But in his statement on Monday, Mr Soyinka said the timing of Mr Kukah’s Christmas message and the ensuing attacks could not be more fortuitous, seeing that it comes at a time when a world powerful nation, still reeling from an unprecedented assault on her corporate definition, is now poised to set a symbolic seal on her commitment to the democratic ideal.

Mr Soyinka was making reference to the United States of America.

“Let no one be in any doubt that some of the most extreme of the violent forces that recently assaulted her governance citadel are sprung from religious and quasi-religious affirmations, a condition that still enables many of them to be brainwashed into accepting literally, and uncritically, indeed as gospel truth, any pronouncement, however outrageous and improbable, that emerges from their leadership,” the statement read.

“As usual, we have not lacked, within our own distanced environment, advocates who, even till recently, claimed to have seen in their vision, the triumph of God’s own anointed in the electoral contest of that same United States. They have been specific in their prophesy that what was denied at the ballot box would be restored in the law courts.

“And to set a divine seal on the matter, were not our streets in a part of this nation actually inundated by religious processions in support of the candidacy of their supposed Messiah, named Donald Trump? They had conferred on him the mantle of upholder of Christian values, endangered by satanic practices in, of all places, a nation designated as – God’s own Country!

“Of course, not all such tendencies represent the true face of any professed religion, we need only remark that all religions are plagued by a lunatic fringe. In this nation we have learnt the painful way what such inbred loonies are capable of. Thus, extreme care, and historic awareness, should be taken in imputing any act or pronouncement as an attack on faith. At base, competitors for recognition as first line defenders of the ramparts of religiosity are often motivated by non-religious agenda, which is yet another reason for the exercise of restraint and collective responsibility.”

The Nobel Laureate said it should not come as a surprise that a section of Nigeria’s Islamic community, not only claims to have found offence in Mr Kukah’s New Year address. What is bothersome, he argued, is the embedded threat to storm his ‘Capitol’ and eject him, simply for ‘speaking in tongues’. He added that any pluralistic society must emphatically declare such a response unacceptable.

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