A group, the Muslim Rights Concern, MURIC, has faulted the decision of the National Youth Service Corps, NYSC, to fix the orientation programme for batch A stream II prospective corps members during the month of Ramadan.
But in a statement signed by its director, Ishaq Akintola, MURIC called on the authorities to postpone the programme, stressing that it is unconstitutional to open the camp at the period.
It stated that allowing the camp to go on as planned would leave Muslim corps members at a disadvantage, explaining that those observing Ramadan will find it very difficult to adapt to the rigours in camp.
While accusing the NYSC of discrimination, the body said religious crisis is common in Nigeria due to the “overzealousness and insensitivity of some government officials”.
The statement reads, “We reject this date because Muslim corpers will still be fasting at that time. It is illegal, unlawful and unconstitutional for NYSC to hold camp at a time when its Muslim members will be deprived of their freedom of worship and the liberty to practice their creed without fear. This planned camp is exclusive, discriminatory and parochial.
“Official policies in this country often fail to take our cultural and religious plurality into consideration.
“Any Nigerian institution dealing with schedules and programmes particularly the NYSC whose programmes are of such magnitude is expected to consider the dates and periods of important festivals, rituals and religious practices. This should form the core of its logistics. It is our humble opinion that NYSC headquarters has failed in its strategic planning by allowing its next camp to clash with the Ramadan period.”
MURIC, which wondered why the NYSC did not stick to the initial date scheduled for the exercise, said; “What happened to 21st May, 2016 which was the date earlier picked for the orientation? We do not want to believe that the shift was deliberately planned to coincide with the Ramadan season with a view to excluding prospective Muslim corpers.
“MURIC is not trying to indulge Muslim youths. Fasting is no joke and it certainly cannot be combined with the physical challenges which characterize the NYSC camp. Eligible Muslim graduates will definitely want to be part of the service but the obstacles standing in their way are gargantuan.
“Unlike the Islamophobic climate expected in an NYSC camp organized in Ramadan, what happens during Ramadan in Muslim-friendly environments is that both primary and secondary schools close for the day around 2 pm. Lectures in tertiary institutions stop from 3 pm while civil servants also leave their offices by 2 pm. If Muslims are not asking the Nigerian government to do this, its agencies should not become blatant tools of oppression.
“The clear message we are sending to NYSC officials here is that the camp planned to begin constitutes a serious impediment to the religious observation of Muslims. It is exclusive, sectional and parochial. The planned camp should be put in abeyance for now in the interest of peace. A stitch in time saves nine.
“Muslim youths throughout the country are bitter and furious at the thought of being disallowed to fast in the month of Ramadan. The best which NYSC headquarters can do for Nigeria now is to postpone the camp till the end of Ramadan. This country needs peace and stability to develop. We have had enough religious crises. NYSC should not stoke another.”