One of the delegates at the ongoing National Conference, Alhaji Nurudeen Lemu gave a speech on Thursday, April 10, 2014 that was so remarkable that the other delegates gave him a thunderous ovation for it, despite the standing law that there should be no clapping after any speech.
Alhaji Lemu, who is representing the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs at the Confab, gave a speech that has been described as a powerful counterpoint to some of the divisive speeches made so far by some other delegates.
We reproduce the transcript of Lemu’s speech below:
As a delegate, and as a people representing people of faith in God from the Islamic perspective, one thing we believe is that God will protect the community that stands for justice even if they are not Muslims and God will not protect the community that goes contrary to justice even if they call themselves Muslims.
God is not a religious bigot. He is not a male chauvinist. He is not an ethnocentric tribalist. God is not the oppressor of anyone. God is with those who care; those who want for others those things they want for themselves.
One tendency for people who claim to follow a religion is to slide into the position of believing that we are better than the others. We overestimate our virtues and underestimate the goodness in others. The tendency is for us to become spiritually arrogant; to forget that others are people like us.
There is always a tension between representing our religious communities or our ethnic communities and our loyalty to the virtues and values and teachings of our religion even those lofty ideals of our ethnic groups.
It is our prayer that delegates will try and ensure that the spiritual strength we have in us will keep us from not getting angry and not allowing our bitterness from others to make us sail from justice. It is in this vein and as a delegate from the Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs, we condemn the murder of all Christians, we condemn the murder of all Muslims. Not because they are Christians or Muslims, but because they are human beings – creatures of God.
There is no compulsion in religion. We all own Nigeria. We all belong here. And we all have the right to self-determination. We should respect that right and do unto others what we will do unto ourselves.
There are many other countries that have ethnic and religious diversity far greater than what we have here in Nigeria. But something that distinguishes us from them, be it Singapore, United States, they have been able to respect the rule of law so that any bigot, any nepotic individual who tramples on the right of anyone especially that of the minority, the rule of law will catch up. Satan will only find a hole if there is a crack in that rule of law.
Ever ethnic group is an oppressed minority somewhere. Every group is a religious and ethnic minority somewhere. Every majority or settler is an indigene somewhere. In one way, we are all settlers; we just don’t remember where we came from or why we came.
But ultimately, we are all visitors to this planet, from God we come and to Him we return. As Muslim delegates, we come in brotherhood, as brothers and friends to solve our common problems and not as adversaries.
We come against the exploitation of religion and religious sentiments. We come against stereotyping, stigmatizing and dehumanizing of each other. We come against the use of religion as a political decoy and as a distraction from the critical things that bedevil our nation.
I pray that at the end of this conference, we will all grow in our humanity and respect for each other.