BUJA-The Federal government of Nigeria has warned the Muslim Solidarity Forum (MSF) in Sokoto State to immediately withdraw their statement against the Catholic Archbishop of Sokoto diocese, Most Rev (Dr) Mathew Hassan Kukah, asking him to either leave the state or tender an apology over his Christmas’ sermon, which the Bishop alleged that President Muhammadu Buhari’s agenda is to Islamized the country. Speaking on the matter is Garba Shehu, Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity to the president, who described the action of MSF as ill-conceived idea and ‘wrong calls, stressing that, no group or organization has the legitimate right to give anybody quit notice in any part of the country, and nobody can deny anyone his religious or political right of freedom of expression as long as it is within the ambit-enshrined in the 1999 Constitution, but advised that religious leaders should be mindful of their views on national issues. He stated this on Wednesday while reacting to the forum’s notice to Bishop Kukah. His statement reads:
”The right for all religions to coexist is enshrined in this country’s Constitution. The duty of the government, more so, this democratic government, is to ensure that the Constitution is respected. But all must respect the rights and sensitivities of their fellow Nigerians. Father Kukah has greatly offended many with his controversial remarks against the government and the person of the President, with some even accusing him of voicing anti-Islamic rhetoric”
”On matters such as these, responsible leadership in any society must exercise restraint. Knee-jerk reactions will not only cause the fraying of enduring relationships, but also the evisceration of peaceful communities such as Sokoto, the headquarters of the Muslim community as beacon of pluralism and tolerance. The Sultanate has historically had good relations with followers of all faiths. That is why Father Kukah was received on his arrival in Sokoto with friendship and tolerance. Under our laws, groups or factions must not give quit notices, neither should they unilaterally sanction any perceived breaches. Where they occur, it is the courts of law that should adjudicate. Unilateral action is not the way to go”
”Groups such as the Muslim Solidarity Forum must be seen to share and uphold the country’s multi-religious principles. And individuals like Father Kukah must respect the feelings of his fellow Nigerians in his private and public utterances.”
Meanwhile, Kukah has responded to the Forum’s demand but said he was ready to apologise if he is shown any part of his Christmas sermon that insulted Islam.
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