ABUJA - The closure of Nigeria's first-even Muslim radio following a raid by the secret police is triggering uproar in the western African country, amid accusations of using witch-hunt to silence the country's Muslim community.
"With this raid on a reputable Muslim organization, Muslim Nigerians would be excused for believing that we are witnessing a witch hunting exercise, Disu Kamor, spokesman of the Muslim Public Affairs Center (MPAC), told OnIslam.net.
Al-Quds Radio, Nigeria's first Muslim radio, was raided and shut down by the State Security Service (SSS) and the National Broadcasting Corporation (NBC), the country's broadcasting regulatory agency.
NBC argues the radio, which is owned by Jama'atu Ta'awun Muslimeen (TAWUN), was shut because rules ban religious and political parties from getting broadcasting license.
But TAWUN President Daood Imran Molaasan dismisses the claim, saying the radio has not breached laws as it transmits from Canada.
We also told them through our lawyer that committee can be constituted by NBC to iron out such issues," he said.
The secret police raid and closure of the Islamic radio have sparked warnings of worsening the ethno-religious divides in a country split between Muslims and Christians.
Kamor, the MPAC spokesman, said the secret police must be called to order before it causes "unnecessary tension in the society.
Civil rights activist Bamidele Aturu, a Christian, said he found it difficult the secret police "could engage themselves in such unconscionable and shameful conduct".
"It cannot be rationalized especially when you have precedence and genuine and honorable explanations from the owners of this radio station," he said.
"Besides the whole saga amounts to senseless censorship in 21st century."
Muslims make up nearly 55 percent of Nigeria's 140 million population, while Christians account for nearly 40 percent.
Nigeria's Muslims have long complained of media bias in covering their affairs, especially in light of attacks launched by militant Boko Haram group.
Nigeria has more than 40 private radio stations, 13 of them owned by Christian bodies.
Muslims did not own any radio station.
Muslim leaders and rights activists have accused police of applying double standards in dealing with Muslims.
"How do you explain such a clampdown when there have been many precedence in radio stations belonging to Christian groups," Shina Loremikan, director of the Committee for the Defense of Human Rights (CDHR), told OnIslam.net.
"If you did not harass or shut the radios belonging to Christians, why are you not doing the same to people of other faith? Something is illogical here and these agencies must answer questions."
Molaasan, the TAWUN President, is also astonished.
"To our dismay, there are Christian radio and TV stations like Liveway Radio Network of the Redeemed Christian Church of god, Nigeria Gospel Radio, LoveWorld Christian Network Radio-Nigeria and DCLM (Deeper Life Christian Ministry) TV, Lagos," he said.
"The NBC did not close down all the mentioned Christian radio and TV stations in Nigeria. Why our own?"
He appealed for the help of human rights defenders, the civil society, Christians and Muslims to reopen the radio.
"All right thinking citizens of Osun State and lover of peace should not allow SSS and NBC to create invisible Boko Haram in our state of Omoluabi," he said. "And all our confiscated equipments should be released."
Kamor, the MPAC spokesman, was also critical.
"The TAWUN is known to work according to the best practices, but its remarkable work on the inter-faith dialogue platform and research on Muslim Nigerians' positive and constructive engagement with Nigerian society is especially commendable, he said.
"It is therefore surprising to read that officers of the SSS and NBC attacked the organization's facility for the Quds Internet media streaming, harassed its staff and carted away the streaming equipment.
"We stand in support of the TAWUN against this unwarranted attack on their personnel and facility, which only goes to undermine the excellent work the organization and similar organizations are doing at this incredibly sensitive time in the country, he said.
The MPAC spokesman reiterated the view that the raid was a form of censorship to silence the Muslim community.
"It is our hope that this attack will neither break nor weaken TAWUN in the excellent works it is doing on behalf of the Nigerian Muslim community, he said.
Rather it will make us stronger and more determined to deliver on our principles of peaceful dialogue, positive interaction and engagement with all sectors of society and prosperity for our country."It seems that some wish to see all Muslims radicalized rather than brought to the mainstream effort to unite our country and its people.
Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net