World Bulletin / News Desk
The Nigerian Presidency denied on Sunday the oppression or marginalization of Muslims in the country, a few hours after thousands of Muslims gathered in Lagos to pray for the nation and protest alleged government's marginalization and anti-Muslim policies.
"It is not true that President [Goodluck Jonathan] is marginalizing or discriminating against the Muslims," presidential spokesman on political matters Ahmad Gulak told Anadolu Agency.
"He is not a religious bigot," he insisted.
Thousands of Nigerian Muslims flocked to Tarawa Balewa Square in Lagos earlier Sunday to pray for the nation and urge authorities to "redress the many injustices" against Muslims.
Themed "Muslims pray for the Nation," the event was organized by the Joint Muslim Forum, an influential amalgam of Muslim organizations drawn largely from Lagos State, Nigeria's former political capital with hugely rich Muslim history.
During the grand prayer session, Muslim speakers took turn to reject perceived "marginalization and discrimination against Muslims" at the federal and state levels.
Muslims of Lagos are already in court challenging a ban on the wearing of hijab Muslim headscarf) in public schools, which they insist violates a constitutional provision that "every Nigerian shall be free to practice and exhibit whatever religion he freely chooses."
Lateef Ibirogba, information commissioner for Lagos state government, denied any discrimination against Muslims.
"Let me say that our government is not marginalizing anybody," he told AA.
"This government has no color or race or religion. It does not believe in mundane considerations and so it cares for everyone," Ibirogba insisted.
Asked to comment on claims that the government deliberately rolls out anti-Muslim policies such as the hijab ban and failure to employ teachers to tutor Islam and Arabic in secondary schools, Ibirogba said: "What matters is the interest of the general populace. We do things in the best interest of all Lagosians. Everybody is taken care of."
He also denied any discrimination in the government's hiring process.
"We take care of issues of employment according to available vacancies. We have no reason to discriminate against anyone," said the information commissioner.
"Lagos belongs to everybody. Our programs and projects are done in the best of everybody."
Gulak, the presidential spokesman, insisted that the accusations leveled against President Jonathan are politically motivated.
"Those making such allegations are politicians. They are acting out a political script," he told AA.
"We see such allegations as the job of the opposition trying to bring down the government," Gulak added.
"Mr. President balances position to every segment of the country," he insisted.
Gulak sidestepped, however, allegations that appointments in the federal agencies, especially in the security agencies, are skewed against Muslims.
The Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) has recently accused the government of "systematic cleansing of Muslims" from key positions of authority and lamented "religious" discriminations against Muslims in Africa's most populous country.
It asserted that no Muslim is appointed cabinet minister from the entire southern region, including in the southwest where Muslims are said to constitute the bulk of the population.
There are 17 states in the south region, each having at least a cabinet minister.
The North has 19 states but appreciable numbers of cabinet ministers from the region are Christians.
No official figure exists for Nigeria's Muslim and Christian populations, as religion and ethnicity were never used as criteria in previous national censuses.
But independent pollsters, including the US-based Pew Review, suggest that Muslims constitute at least 50 percent of Nigeria's estimated population of 175 million.
Christians, however, dispute this figure.Güncelleme Tarihi: 06 Ocak 2014, 11:12