Friday, October 21, 2016


Full disclosure: I am the Managing Director of Dialogue Global Links Limited, Kaduna. We recruit workers for local and overseas jobs. We went through the whole process of registering the business with the Ministry of Labour and Productivity, the Kaduna Chamber of Commerce and Industry, as well as fulfilling all conditions for clearance with National Agency for the Prevention of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), and Nigeria Immigration. We submitted to these organisations copies of the contract we signed with Saudi Arabian Manpower Solutions Company (SMASCO) as well as those we signed with each worker, detailing their rights, emoluments and conditions of service. We train, test and screen each applicant so meticulously that nearly 5 months after we got the contract, we are just sending the first batch of successful applicants this month. Sending anyone who is not qualified or unsuitable has consequences; your company will cough up $2000 for each failed deployment. SMASCO has two other partners in Nigeria and it holds them to the same strict standards.

The Qur’an enjoins believers to employ good judgement in ascertaining the veracity of any claim through investigation and application of due diligence in giving fair hearing to litigants or contending parties. (Al-Hujuraat,49:6). When Satan disobeyed Allah’s command of prostration to Adam, even with His All-encompassing Knowledge of why Iblees disobeyed Him, Allah gave him the right to defend himself and asked for his reason in refusing to bow down to Adam (Saad,38:71-76).

The snobbish tone Dr. Aliyu Tilde’s write-ups assume, especially his two posts on Facebook – “The Trafficking of Nigerian Muslims to Saudi Arabia. NAPTIP Beware!” (October 11th, 2016), and “FGN: Please Investigate Allegations of Trafficking/Enslavement of Nigerian Muslims to Saudi Arabia” (October 16th, 2016) betrays sophistry, arrogance, ignorance and disregard to the above Qur’anic injunctions. At best, his articles expose his love for attention and sensation without facts. It makes you wonder how he got the PhD attached to his name. Surely, you studied hard and researched your facts before becoming a doctorate degree holder; unless there is an underlying sentiment which makes such a lettered man discard all the etiquette of scholarship.  

All he had to go on was some cooked-up audio by a certain “Aisha Abubakar Anka, number 53331, Riyal”. The audio, which was released by another unprofessional journalist unto social media platforms for maximum effect, chronicled her journey at the hands of ‘a human trafficking ring’. It sounded just as such audios are designed to sound; emotional. A fine actress Aisha Abubakar Anka would have made. What a waste of talent! She is not the first to be so dubious; she probably was lured into the show of shame. More on that later, insha Allah.

There are millions of Nigerian expatriates in Saudi Arabia - legal as well as illegal residents (overstayers of visa). Among these, you find large army of beggars comprising physically challenged people, women and children brought in by agents at a cost to be settled, with interest, through begging over a long period. This is a thriving business among some Nigerians in Riyadh and the two holy cities of Makkah and Madeenah. I heard of a woman who keeps about 50 beggars at a time, who are closely monitored by a team, while they beg pilgrims for alms. They give a chunk of whatever the beggars make at the end of each day as returns to this ‘beggary-business’ lady. ‘Professionals' in this line of trade will go to any lengths to fight any system that is likely to put them out of business.

Another area in this vile business is the one called ‘Operation’, where an agent will sponsor (with Umrah, and not work, visa) a woman or a man to Saudia under an agreement that binds them, (after overstaying their visa and securing a job illegally), to an instalment payment of a greater part of their wages to the agent over a five-year period, for instance. Some of them beg, sell wares in the streets, wash cars for a fee or end up as housemaids under another syndicate of middlemen who contract them out to Arab households where, at the end of the day, 70% of their salaries goes to their agents. This category of workers, even where they suffer abuse, cannot complain to any authority. As illegal immigrants, the Saudi immigration and police are constantly pursuing them, and if captured, they are often sent back to Nigeria in despicable circumstances. The criminals in this ‘Operation’ business, like Dr. Tilde’s ‘middle-aged, enlightened woman resident there’, will paint with the darkest brush any legal arrangement that will cause them to close shop!

There are such rings within Nigeria too. Young children are basically ‘sold’ into virtual slavery by families and kidnappers. NAPTIP was the government’s answer to the menace; and they are doing a good job, even if they can do better with everyone’s support.

For all the years that these various evil syndicates operated demeaning and causing great embarrassment to Nigeria and its citizens, Dr. Tilde and his co-travellers have not seen it fit to call for investigation into the shame and slavery illegal workers and beggars (among them disabled men, women and children) are subjected to. It is only now when Saudi Arabia decided to end the business of trafficking in persons and included Nigerians in the issuance of work visa that Tilde and his ilk suddenly wake from a deep slumber.

Are we witnessing, in Dr. Tilde’s articles, a proxy war between the ‘Zoroastrian confederates’, avowed foes of Arabs on the one hand, and Saudi Arabia, personifying the Khaleej and the Arab nations on the other? Tilde’s first post suggests that in as much as he averred that ‘very few Arabs have respect for blacks’ Also that ‘The majority despises us and regard us sub-human.’ (Don’t mind the confusion in tenses; Tilde is a PhD). He said, in that connection, that Arabs do not regard the fact that we profess the same faith with them. ‘Most of them’ he opined ‘are worse than infidels…’, whatever than means. He concluded by stating: ‘… the Whites in this case are light years better than the Arabs.’ What would have been the response of Malcolm X to this statement, I wonder! Malcolm X was, after all, an oppressed black in the US, who accepted what seemed to be Islam at the hands of a reverse racist, Elijah Mohammed, and who later realised the universality and non-racial nature of Islam after interacting with Muslims in Saudia Arabia, while on Hajj. I wonder if Tilde realises his comments are ironically racist.

If Dr. Tilde had called me, as hundreds have done, after listening to my response to Aisha Anka’s audio, in order to balance his article with the other view, since I provided my WhatsApp number, he would have known that the contract we signed covers both Muslims and non-Muslims, and thus, avoided the fallacy of addressing his two articles to something affecting Muslims only, in his response to whatever allegations Anka made in her stage-managed audio. Tilde did not call for any clarification; he obviously did not think any was necessary, but only described what I said as ‘a less convincing rebuttal tape’.. ‘circulated by the agents.’ It is curious that he was ready to believe Aisha but did not think ‘the agent’ was convincing. Perhaps Tilde knows something about the curious, stage-managed audio release. By the way, the owners of Travel Express Limited, whose company ferried Aisha to Riyadh, have all her details and they are in the process of suing her to court. The lies are that obvious, but Tilde will believe anything if it damages the foes of the cradle of his ideology, apparently.

Aisha Abubakar Anka claimed that she was lured into the trip by ‘a relation’ who said they were going to be engaged in ‘cleaning the Ka’bah and helping the cause of Muslims.’ Lie. She claimed she has been to Saudia on Umrah previously, surely she must have noticed that not a single woman cleaned hotels and the mosques. Women are employed in other areas but never cleaning of the mosques, the Ka’abah most especially.  

I established contact with the company through which she travelled and found that she filled their recruitment form and indicated her desire to work for two years ‘as a housemaid’  in Saudi Arabia.  She said ‘there are children of 12 to 13 years of age’ among her group which was another lie, as the Saudi Embassy will not issue work visa to anyone below the age of 22. SMASCO set the minimum age for ladies at 22 and men at 28. She also claimed that a woman lost her four-month old pregnancy due to exhaustion, while another fainted because of extreme hunger. As part of the conditions of the work contract, no pregnant woman is accepted for the job. On hunger, I posited, it is not possible to go hungry in a country where you are almost entreated to be fed; where beggars only ask for money; if you give them food, they throw it away. You may accuse Saudi Arabia of other human weaknesses, but certainly not depriving people of food and drink!

Praise be to Allah! Upon all her claims and background-induced weeping, Aisha Anka did not mention rape, torture, or infliction of bodily harm on either herself or any of the women that travelled with her. Dr. Tilde was ignorant of the fact, and did not care to ask, that Aisha Anka was just relating her jumbled experience of a training camp where workers are kept for two weeks, trained and then posted to various places for their job. For the period of such training telephones are not allowed. At the end of her induction period, she was posted to a residence in Abha, another province within the Kingdom, which she refused to go, even though she was given a boarding pass, by her own admission, of a local flight. From the scene her alarm created in the mind of the listener, one would expect a tedious road travel, not checking her in advance and issuing her a boarding pass. Before this, she exposed her ignorance by claiming they were taken to Ethiopia and she was scared. Ethiopian Airlines was the airline she flew on. They must touch Addis Ababa before landing in Saudia; every traveler knows that. Tilde swallowed it all the same, although he is well travelled.

Human beings are the same wherever they are; you find the good and the bad. No country is immune from the issue of abuse of workers, thus, at every given time, we shall have one of our staff in Riyadh for feedback, monitoring and evaluation of the situation of the workers we send. The first batch is travelling with one such staffer.

Our company, Dialogue Global Links has signed contract with SMASCO to recruit three categories of workers,  who must be able to speak, read and write in English, as follows: Drivers (Single and Couple) 28yrs - 45yrs; Housemaids (Single and Couple), 22yrs - 40yrs, and Home Nurses, 27yrs and above.

Beheading the sufferer is not a cure for headaches. Instead of calling on the Government and relevant agencies to stop the current recruitment exercise, regardless of how legal it is, Dr. Tilde should have advocated for the arrest and prosecution of those operating illegally and without proper license!

Let Dr. Tilde be educated; no religious organisation has signed any contract in ‘the ongoing recruitment programs’ to Saudi Arabia. If he has scores to settle with either faction of Izala, let Tilde wait for another avenue. There is nothing religious about it, and the Government is free of ‘complicity’ in this exercise. We see this as a way of putting rogue agents out of business and helping people find jobs.

This may interest Dr. Tilde: over 40% of applicants that we interviewed and cleared as drivers and housemaids are at least graduates. Recruiters tried to discourage them because this is just the first request in the scheme as we are likely to have visas for graduates - engineers, doctors, etc. - but they insisted on going because they are tired of looking for nonexistent jobs! Please, Dr. Tilde; this is the area you should rather ‘appeal to PMB for intervention.

Friday, September 23, 2016


                                            Iranian Pilgrims In Shi'ah Holy City of Karbala

They failed miserably who vainly purposed to aggrandise their position by politicising Hajj; preventing Iranians from performing the pilgrimage, citing  security concerns and advancing baseless allegations against the competence of Saudi authorities in handling Hajj affairs. 

In Iranian Pilgrims In Hajj 2016, published May 20, this year, on these pages, I chronicled the diplomatic tension between Iran and Saudi Arabia over the execution of Nimr Al Nimr on terrorism charges which led ‘angry mob of protesters’ to set ablaze  Saudi’s  ‘diplomatic missions in both Tehran and Mashhad’. As a result, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia severed diplomatic ties with Iran. However, in line with the Kingdom’s policy of welcoming Allah’s guests, ‘irrespective of their nationalities and sectarian backgrounds’, Saudi Hajj authorities made a number of concessions to Iranian Hajj officials in order to facilitate the pilgrimage for their compatriots. They issued landing permits to Iranian aircrafts in spite of an existing ban imposed by the General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) at the time, and allowed Iranian pilgrims obtain Hajj visas through the Saudi Embassy in Dubai. Unfortunately, the Iranian Hajj officials insisted on having their visas issued in Iran even though Iranian mobs had recently torched both the Saudi Embassy and Consulate in Iran. Thus they failed to ratify agreements reached at the end of their four-day series of meetings with their Saudi counterparts ahead of the pilgrimage. Later on, Tehran, at the behest of its Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, unilaterally announced that its citizens would not participate in Hajj 2016. It did not matter whether the intending pilgrims had anything to do with the largely political tussle which led to the boycott or not.

This severing of ties and subsequent boycotting of Hajj is reminiscent of what happened during the 1987 Hajj, which resulted in a clash between Shi’ah demonstrators and the Saudi security forces. That year, Iranian pilgrims had turned the pilgrimage into a rowdy theatre of politically influenced demonstrations with shoutings and denunciations of America, the Big Satan (I wonder what the wordings of the slogans will be today with the nuclear agreement led by Obama’s administration) and the state of Israel among others. ‘We don’t want Mushrikeen’ was oft-chanted by irate protesters in the city of Makkah, and in the same tone followed by ‘Labbaika, yaa Hussain’. The protesters carried flags and placards with bold inscriptions professing worship to other than Allah. Those who denounced Mushrikeen were at the same time uttering words of Shirk in rancorous processions under the pretext of observing Hajj. Allah forbids wrangling and angry conversation during Hajj (Qur’an 2, Al Baqarah: 197). Incongruity! Clearly, the irony was lost on them.

On July 31, 1987 the Saudi police and National Guard personnel, as part of security measures, cordoned and sealed part of the planed demonstration route. The Iranian demonstrators, who tried to force their way through the cordon, clashed with the security forces. This blatant disobedience of simple safety instructions at the peak of Hajj led to a crowd crush in which the following death toll was recorded: 275 Iranian pilgrims, 85 Saudi police, and 42 pilgrims from other nationalities. 

In the aftermath of that avoidable crush occasioned by the Iranian pilgrims, Saudi Arabia severed diplomatic ties with Tehran and reduced Iran’s Hajj quota to 45,000, down from 150,000 pilgrims in earlier years. ‘Iran boycotted the Hajj for three years, from 1988 to 1990.’

The events, which led to the current impasse, are, therefore, not altogether new. Iran will never be satisfied with anything short of total usurpation of the custodianship and management of the Two Holy Mosques from Saudi Arabian authorities.  Preventing Iranians from Hajj was just a smokescreen beneath which lies the grand design of inciting the Muslims against Al Saud to back Khamenei’s political ambitions. This explains his recent ‘verbal jousting’ and misstatement concerning the medical treatment of the victims of Hajj 2015 crush. He said: 

‘Heartless and murderous Saudis locked up the injured with the dead in containers - instead of providing medical treatment and helping them or at least quenching their thirst. They murdered them.’ 

I am not saying the Saudi government is made up of saints; they have their own shortcomings. However, to imagine that the bigoted lot who currently run the affairs of Iran would be a better alternative to run the affairs of the Inviolable Places of Worship in Makkah and Madeenah is the height of naiveté.

Why did Khamenei choose the festive Eid Day for the release of the above statement, on the busiest day of Hajj where the pilgrims have to leave Muzdalifah, to Minaa, to Makkah for stoning Aqabah, slaughtering of sacrificial animals, shaving, Tawaaful Ifaadah, etc? Was it to distract the pilgrims from their genuine devotions to Allah at a time when Iranians have gathered around the shrines of Imam Hussein and Imam Abbas in Karbala? Was it because political interests had preeminence over Muslims’ holy duties? Was it due to rapprochement with the United States of America, “the Big Satan”, over the agreement on nuclear programme, or was it a case of Tauheed and Shirk?

Divergent opinions were expressed on the exact number of victims and cause of the crush, none of which, by the way, had anything to do with the fiction of the Iranians. However, Saudi Arabia’s response to the tragedy in terms of prompt medical aid within the scene and in various hospitals in the Kingdom was beyond question, and not susceptible to undermining from any quarters except that of the Mullas in Tehran. 

The evil augury of those who prevented their citizens from performing Hajj 2016 has fallen against them as Muslims have observed their ritual without incident. The absence of their pilgrims was not felt, and neither heaven nor earth shed a tear over them (Qur’an 44, Ad-Dukhaan: 29); they were not missed….

Hajj 2016 was most successful as many of the pilgrims obeyed the regulations of the Saudi Hajj authorities regarding movements within the holy monuments and observed timings for the Jamaraat rituals allotted to Hajj contingents; a rule that would have been defied, had the troublesome ones from Tehran shown up. Praise be to Allah who made us witness the orderliness and benefits of hitch-free pilgrimage, and to celebrate His Names in the way that He desired devoid of wrangling and shouting.  In the absence of the votaries of the shrines in Karbala, Makkah did not behold demonstrations saturated with political slogans or altercations; Hajj devotions were performed for Allah only! Allahu Akbar!

I have only thanks for Khamenei, who has helped relieve some of the artificial hassles of Hajj by reining in his people, thereby keeping others safe from their deliberate disobedience and its outcomes. Thank you Iran, please keep it up.

Friday, August 26, 2016


            Saudi Arabian Ambassador, Sheikh Fahad Abdullah Sefyan presenting a gift to Hajiya Uwani, Uwar Marayu

His Excellency, Sheikh Fahad Abdullah Sefyan, the Ambassador of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in Nigeria, conversed with me over mobile-phone concerning an article published on page 16 of Saturday Trust (August 13th, 2016), captioned ‘Meet Kaduna Lady Who’s Raising 5 Abandoned Babies.’  His Excellency asked me if I had read the report. ‘No, I have not, but I have the paper, Your Excellency.’ I answered. He said he will send the image of the pages of the report to me by WhatsApp; that he wanted me to get in touch with the ‘Kaduna Lady’ for his 'widow’s mite' on what she is doing.

The story was on Hajiya Uwani Yusuf Waziri, also known as ‘Uwar Marayu’ (Guardian of Orphans), a resident of Umguwar Kaji, Kaduna. Though Uwar Marayu, a mother of 11 children, lives in straitened circumstances, she has consecrated her life to taking care of abandoned babies. Whenever such babies are discovered within Rigachikum, Barakallahu, Hayin Na Iya, etc., under bridges or culverts they are brought to Hakimi, the District Head who sends them to their Guardian, Hajiya Uwani, Uwar Marayu. 

I was in Kaduna at the time and so it was easy to establish contact, through a good friend of mine, Dr. Mahdi Shehu, Chairman, CEO, Dialogue Global Links, with Maryam Ahmadu-Suka, who co-authored the story with Ra’afat Maccido. 

Consequently, Wednesday, August 17th, 2016 was fixed for a brief meeting with the Saudi Ambassador to Nigeria in the Embassy in Abuja by 11am.

Maryam and Hajiya Uwani came with one of the abandoned babies, Zainab, an infant. His Excellency, Sheikh Fahad, welcomed us to his office and personally served us Qahwah, (Arabic Coffee), and dates. When I tried to do that on his behalf he said I should not distress myself as he desired to do that in honour of the abandoned children. Pointing at the infant, Zainab, he said, ‘This has done no wrong for coming to the world. It is blameless.’

Ustaz Abubakr Siddeeq, Sheikh Fahad Abdullah Sefyan, the Saudi Arabian Ambassador (carrying Zainab, the infant) and Hajiya Uwani, Uwar Marayu

Then suddenly I realised that his face darkened, and his eyes reddened and moistened. The Ambassador was trying to speak but his voice was failing him. I passed the tissue box on the table to him that he may wipe away the trickling tears. All of us - Maryam, the report, Hajiya Uwani, Umar Marayu, and I, the English/Hausa Translator - could not control ourselves; even the infant, as if she knew what was happening, started to cry. Hajiya Uwani hushed her with  milk in the feeding-bottle.  

Sheikh Fahad continued to speak with difficulty as the tears refused to abate; he said ‘believers are protectors one of another, thus those in need - orphans, widows, etc., - should be assisted. The Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him) has said repeatedly that ‘I and the guardian of an orphan will be in the Garden like these two;’ his two (forefinger and middle) fingers. When a man once came to the Prophet complaining that he perceived certain hardness in his heart, the Prophet said to him that if he wants his heart to soften he should be merciful towards an orphan, pat his head and feed him from what he eats.’

His Excellency said Hajiya Uwani is a model for other women in Nigeria, and her reward is limitless. ‘Whoever removes a worldly grief from others,’ he said, ‘Allah will remove from him one of the griefs of the Day of Judgement. You are a guardian of orphans in spite of your simple background, but don’t forget the Hadeeth, ‘I and the guardian, caretaker of the orphan will be in the Garden, will enter Paradise together like that', (raising, in order to illustrate the meaning, his forefinger and middle finger jointly, leaving no space in between).

After his short admonition the Ambassador presented his ‘widow’s mite’ to Hajiya Umani which he pleaded not to be mentioned in anyway; but what His Excellency gave for the orphans, I must say, is more than the  meaning of widow’s mite. I will describe it as handsome or, better still, ample sadaqah for which Allah, whose countenance he sought, shall recompense him amply.

Maryam Ahmadu Suka, Ustaz Abubakr Siddeeq Muhammad, Saudi Arabian Ambassador, and Hajiya Uwani, Uwar Marayu.

It was a great way to start a day. Let this serve as a wakeup call to all of us to assign something out of what Allah has bestowed upon us for orphans. The Qur’an says: 

Satan threatens you with destitution and orders you to immorality, while Allah promises you forgiveness from Him and bounty. And Allah is all-Encompassing and Knowing.” [ al-Baqarah 2:  268]        

Friday, May 20, 2016


                                                          King Salman

The unfortunate crowd crush of Hajj 2015 in Minaa exposed Iran’s ardent desire of having control over the Haramayn by whatever means. Tehran failed lamentably in its attempt to depict Saudi authorities as incompetent and incapable of ensuring pilgrims’ safety, and ‘that Hajj affairs should be handed over to Islamic states’. Playing politics with the crush did not stop with the evacuation of bodies of Iranian pilgrims from the holy city of Makkah where they died for a highly politicised funeral procession on the streets of Tehran, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani delivered a scathing speech on the sad incident against the Saudi Arabian Government to the United Nations General Assembly in New York. In his response to President Rouhani, Saudi Foreign Minister, Adel Al Jubeir, who was also at the UN, said, ‘I believe the Iranians should know better than to play politics with a tragedy that has befallen people who were performing their most sacred religious duty.’

No one is even talking about the unIslamic movement of bodies across countries, which is a further tragedy upon the one which befell the dead. It was a callous use of dead bodies to garner emotional support for a sinister cause. How do you explain a public procession and wailing in tow of these departed souls by a people who claim to belong to the same faith with Muhammad (PBUH) who forbade such wailing and public mourning? Only in Iran! These same people cut themselves up with various sharp objects ranging from razor blades to swords every year in mourning of a man who died about 1400 years ago. Ironically, Hussein (RA) for whom they claim to sustain these foolish wounds in solidarity, does not have anything to do with them and their ideology.

The crush debacle was followed by  an ‘open diplomatic crisis’ occasioned by Saudi Arabia’s execution of dozens of ‘mostly Sunni militants linked to Al Qaeda, but including Nimr Al Nimr, a Shiite leader from the east of the country.’ Like other Sunni militants, Nimr was arrested and sentenced to death on terrorism charges. Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader condemned Al Nimr’s execution saying that Saudi Arabia would face ‘the divine hand of revenge’ for his death’. I do not know what to call this other than interference in Saudi’s domestic affairs; just as we saw Iran’s overzealousness in the crisis between Islamic Movement of Nigeria and Chief of Army Staff’s convey, or in many other conflicts especially in the Gulf region where Shiites are involved. The Iranian president thought it was his place to call the Nigerian president to ask about the killing of Nigerians in Nigeria because they hang a photo of his own spiritual leader in their buildings and pledge allegiance to Iran instead of Nigeria.

The executions of both Sunni and Shi’ah terrorists were carried out on the same day to underscore the fact that terrorism has neither sect nor religion.  Al Nimr was executed together with, for example, Faris Al Shuwail, a religious leader for Al Qaeda in Saudi Arabia, among other executed Sunni men. Nevertheless, following these executions Saudi Arabia’s diplomatic missions in both Tehran and Mashhad were stormed and set ablaze by an angry mob of protesters. Riyadh reacted on January 3, 2016 by cutting diplomatic relations with Tehran and many countries including United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Kuwait and Sudan severed ties with Iran. 

Also, as part of Saudi Arabia’s response to the attack on its embassy at Tehran and consulate at Mashhad by Iranian protesters, trade and flights were halted between both nations. The General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) ‘banned Iran’s Mahan Air from flying through its air space or land at its airports due to violations of safety rules’.

Then, came the issue of Hajj 2016. Hardly will you find a ministry anywhere in the world as busy as the Saudi’s Hajj and Umrah Ministry which has to organise and conduct meetings with various Hajj delegations from about 100 countries annually. Each country’s Hajj representatives meet the Saudi Hajj officials separately, though Hajj has a unified form of observance, there are peculiarities among the countries that participate in the ritual.  The year 2016 is no different. Dates were slated and invitations to the meetings were sent to Hajj missions, commissions or ministries as the case may be.

Despite the severance of diplomatic ties with Tehran, and in line with the Kingdom’s policy of welcoming ‘all pilgrims from all over the world and from all nationalities and sectarian backgrounds, the Saudi Hajj authorities extended invitation to the Iranian Hajj Organisation to come for a meeting on arrangements for Hajj 2016. Even with the closure of the Saudi mission in Iran, arrangements were made for entry visas for the Iranian Hajj Organisation’s delegates through the Saudi Arabian embassy in UAE.

The Iranian delegation held a series of meetings with Saudi Hajj authorities for four days in April this year aimed at facilitating Iran’s participation in Hajj  coming up in September. The head of the Iranian Hajj Organisation, Mr Ohadi said four days of negotiations had achieved progress on security issues and travel to the Kingdom. “The Saudis offered good solutions on security," introducing electronic tracking bracelets for all Haj participants, Mr Ohadi said.

Saudi Arabia has made a number of concessions including allowing Iranian aircrafts to land during the Hajj in spite of the GACA ban, and, since both its embassy and consulate have been torched and diplomatic ties severed, visas for Iranian pilgrims could be obtained through the Saudi embassy in Dubai. However, ‘Tehran wants visas to be issued inside Iran.’  Therefore, the Iranian delegation ‘refused to sign the agreement to finalise preparations for this year’s Hajj…..insisting on their demands’. This is another example of arrant obstinacy even when your opponent is holding all the aces.

Iran’s declaration that it will not send pilgrims to this year’s Hajj was therefore a unilateral decision contrived long before the arriving of its Hajj delegation for the deadlocked meeting in Saudi Arabia.  Tehran is solely responsible for preventing its citizens from coming to Hajj as Riyadh does not debar any Muslim regardless of their nationality or sectarian leanings from observing their rites as guests of Allah in His inviolable places of worship! Serving the pilgrims is a responsibility and an honour to the Kingdom and its leadership! After burning a country’s consulate and embassy within your country, you must be under some sort of delusion to insist that country should issue you visas in your country. The Saudi government values the lives of their citizens and cannot guarantee their safety in a country, which sanctions attacks on another country’s embassy for executing a sentenced criminal.

What Iran could not achieve through stirring up the ire of Muslim world by attributing incompetence and incapability to Saudi Arabia’s handling of the pilgrimage after the Minaa crush of Hajj 2015, it is trying to resuscitate by the refusal of its Hajj delegates from ratifying the outcome of their four-day meeting with Saudi Hajj authorities. Tehran is ceaselessly looking for an opportunity to hamper the Kingdom through outright blackmail or presenting a facade impregnated with political manipulation of Hajj and Umrah matters.

Every country participating in the Hajj, as stated above, must attend this annual meeting with the Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah officials and sign the agreements reached in preparation for the year’s Hajj.  If a country decides to stay away from the pilgrimage in protest of, for example, the execution of a terrorist, as is the case of Iran, such country should say so, rather than using a pillar of this religion for political blackmail.

In a Cabinet Meeting chaired by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Salman at the As-Salam Palace on Monday, May 16th, 2016 it was decided that ‘the decision of preventing Iranian citizens from coming to Haj was due to Iranian officials who will be responsible in front of Allah Almighty and the whole world’.

I am sure their followers will react, rather than respond to this piece. I will be insulted and called unprintable names and a Saudi government stooge. It will not come as a surprise neither will it change the facts of what I have written. What I will be surprised to get is a rational, logical, sentiments-free response, which will pick holes in my piece with facts and decorum. Is anyone up for that, please?

Sunday, April 17, 2016


                                                                             His Eminence, The Sultan

The Jama’atu Izalatil Bid’ah Wa Iqamatis Sunnah in conjunction with The Muslim World League (Raabitah), organised a two-day International Islamic Conference on Peace and Stability from March 17th - 19th, 2016 at the Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Centre, Abuja.

The organisers showed gratitude to both President Muhammad Buhari , who declared the Conference open, and King Salman Ibn Abdul Aziz Al Sa’ud, Custodian of the Two Holy Masjids for facilitating the Conference which brought together dignitaries from many countries as special guests, paper presenters, members of the press and participants. The Senate President, Abubakar Bukola Saraki together with a multitude from the National Assembly formed part of attendees. His Eminence, the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar, as well as the Emir of Kano, Alhaji Muhammadu Sanusi II graced the occasion. 

Participants at the Conference cut across regions from Africa, Asia, the Gulf states and the United States of America.

Izala is no longer a local Islamic organisation. Izala is an international movement with members in myriad countries around the world, especially now that it has got the stamp of authority from the Custodian of the Two Holy Masjids, King Salman Ibn AbdulAziz Al Sa’ud, depicted by this alliance with The Muslim World League.

This international conference, the first of its kind by any Muslim group in Nigeria, has opened a new phase in the development of Izala from a movement, viewed by not a few Muslims, with penchant to expelling people from the fold of Islam because of its strict adherence to the principles of monotheism, to a modern Islamic body which pledges allegiance to peaceful exchange of ideas, and engaging the other on scholastic and intellectual platforms.  

It was gladdening to sit in a hall with Christians of various denominations, and  Muslims from Darika groups attending a conference organised by Izala. Just 10 years ago, one may be pardoned for deeming such meeting impossible. Not anymore. Izala extended invitations to Qadiriyyah and Tijjaniyyah leaders for their participation in the conference, and they all honoured by attending in large numbers. I sat close to Sheikh Tijjani Bala Kalarawi who informed me after one of the sessions at the conference that he came with a lot of other Tijjaniyyah followers like Imam Nasiru Adam, Chief Imam, Sheikh Ahmad Tijjani Mosque, Kano, Sheikh Shehu Shehu Mai Hula, Kano and many in a handsome delegation sent by Khalifah of the Tijjaniyyah Order Worldwide, Sheikh Isyaku Rabiu.

Another powerful delegation was sent by Sheikh Qaribullah Nasiru Kabara, Head of Qadiriyyah Doctrine, West Africa.

This is what we desire: burying the hatchets of rancour. Our disputes on any matter should be referred to Allah and His Messenger, if we really believe in Him as our final arbiter (Qur’an 4:59).

One important lesson from the conference, which I believe the Izala leadership should learn well is the tolerance and maturity our Darika brothers displayed. The mere fact that Darika people agreed to come together with Izala brothers in a conference is a huge leap. Those who did not know the level of acrimony between the two broad groups cannot appreciate this well enough.

These were groups of people who once did not see eye to eye. They used the pulpits of their respective mosques to hurl insults at each other. Somehow, maturity is setting in these days as evidenced by an invitation to the Darika people from the Izala side; something no right-thinking Izala man would do a decade or two ago. Indeed the acceptance of the invitation and subsequent attendance of the big guns in the Darika stables probably led to the silence of their leaders who normally took swipes at the Izala after such  conferences in audio and video recordings. The Izalas too would have found a way to do a rejoinder recording and so the vicious cycle would continue, ad infinitum ad nauseum.

One of the more virulent ones among the Darika made it his pastime to insult His Eminence, the Sultan at regular intervals. He once called His Eminence the Sultan of only the Izala because he felt the two factions of Izala were to be considered as one but the Sultan considered them to be two groups and thus gave each representation in the yearly Hajj committee along with representatives from the Darika. Ironically, I am aware that some of the Izala view the Sultan as a closet Darika!

In fact, Sheikh Abdul Mohsen of the Raabitah remarked that this new understanding between the two groups should give rise to a change of name for the Izalas. The current name of Jama’atu Izalatil Bid’ah Wa Iqamatis Sunnah (Society for Eradicating Religious Innovation and Upholding the Sunnah) could henceforth become Jama’atu Iqaamatis Sunnah (Society for Upholding the Sunnah) without the Izaalatul Bid’ah (Eradicating Religious Innovation); a phrase which he deemed rather confrontational and no longer necessary since, in his respected opinion, the bid’ah (wrong innovation) has been cleared away now. 

The respected scholar and Secretary General of the World Muslim League urged all the groups to work together to educate their followers properly and to collaborate in the fight against religious extremism; a statement I found somewhat at cross purposes with the advice to stop mentioning the eradication of bid’ah. This is because there is no way you can fight against religious extremism without fighting bid’ah, since it is bid’ah which leads to religious extremism to begin with.

The point he was trying to make was clear, the context and application will be subject to many considerations. I foresee a future where Darika would invite the Izala to their own conferences and the Izala would attend and present papers and vice versa. I foresee a point in time when the two can sit and thrash out any issue in a scholarly fashion; in a way which shows both sides have been schooled in the etiquette of disagreement in Islam.

A situation where a so-called scholar would mount the rostrum and tell the leader of Nigerian Muslims, the Sultan that his forebears’ jihad did not reach Guru and so he does not regard the Sultan as his leader is sad and avoidable. When senility takes away discernment, it is the duty of the students of such, who as his children should guide their parent who has become a child.

“And God has created you and in time will cause you to die; and many a one of you is reduced in old age to a most abject state, ceasing to know anything of what he once knew so well. Verily, God is all-knowing, infinite in His power” Q16 (An-Nahl): 70

Friday, April 1, 2016


The Zaymar Islamic Research and Development Education Centre held a two-day conference on national stability through constructive social relations with constituted authority, at the Abuja National Mosque from March 29th to 30th. The organisers invited me to present a paper on 'UTILISING CONTEXT SPECIFIC RELIGIOUS TOOLS TO PROMOTE CONSTRUCTIVE SOCIAL RELATIONSHIP WITH CONSTITUTED AUTHORITY'. This is what I said:

May Allah reward Zaymar Islamic Research and Development Education Centre for organising this conference at this trying time of our country’s history, and for inviting me to present this paper. 

Permit me to modify the latter part of the topic by replacing ‘Constituted Authority’ with ‘Those Who Are In Authority’, as contained in verse 59 of Suratun Nisaa. Thus, the topic will now read, Utilising Context-Specific Religious Tools To Promote Constructive Social Relationship With Those Who Are In Authority. 

Constituted Authority’ conjures up the experiences we had years ago during the Muslim Students Society (MSS) days of abominating anything that has to do with the constitution. Two words in the Hausa Language - kwance, and tushe, were joined together to form kwance tushe which, phonetically, sounds like constitution but which actually means severing of the basics, or destruction of the foundation. Since the constitutions came to replace the Shari’ah with the advent of colonialism, we rejoiced in the usage of this coinage and in the malignant description it gave to the constitution in both sound and meaning. 

Other events around the world, created in our minds a fantasy of some sorts; like the unjust incarceration, and, later, martyrdom of Sheikh Hassan Al Bannah, Sayyid Qutb, etc., enflamed in most of us this hatred of the constitution. Reading some books authored by the duo, and many like them, as well as the Iranian Revolution of 1979 liberated our benighted thoughts, or so we assumed, to the realisation that: 1) with the abolition of Shari’ah and its replacement with the constitution by our colonial masters, Nigeria has become Daarul Harb, an Abode of War, and not Daarul Islaam, the Abode of Peace anymore 2) it was mandatory on all of us, therefore, to either fight the Nigerian State in order to establish an Islamic one in place thereof or make hijrah, migration from this territory of war to that of peace by any means necessary; 3) Nigeria as a whole, and its apparatus of government was a personification of infidelity because, in it, Allah’s Laws were brought low, thus being part of the system in any form, be it as a civil servant, a policeman, a military officer, and whatnot was disbelief; not only that, entertaining any doubt concerning the faithlessness of people in government was riddah, repudiation of one’s faith; 4) the education system in Nigeria became the veritable conduit through which disbelief was injected into people who later graduated and became civil servants in government establishments and thus ensured the continuity of the kufuristic system; 5) on account of all these, therefore, Muslims must stay away from all forms of kufr as represented by Nigeria and its administrative and education systems; 6) waging war against the government, its workforce and institutions was a duty on all Muslims, and anyone that opposes this noble jihad was part of the kufr, and as well, a legitimate target. 

This flawed state of mind was further exacerbated by ceaseless free supplies, from Iran, of magazines such as Echo of Islam and Mahjubah. Reading whatever Islamic literature came our way was an honest attempt, laced with ignorance, to live according to the dictates of Allah, and to avoid subservience to manmade laws.  We entertained this colossal utopian idea of routing the Nigerian authorities, toppling the government through Iranian style Islamic Revolution, and living happily ever after in an egalitarian society under the rule of Allah! 

Our attachment to Iranian publications made some to people think we were leaning towards Shi'ism; many even said we were Shi’ah, which we were not. We were only concerned with that bond of brotherhood that bound all Muslims together, thus the name Muslims Brothers. 

When the Izalatul Bid’ah Wa ’Iqamatus Sunnah movement started in the 1980s they made the mistake of repelling us from their hold by falsely accusing us of Shiism, something about which we knew nothing then. That was a pricey error. ‘Izala failed to embrace and to save from the wilderness of jumbled understanding of the Deen, a generation of genuine lovers of Islam. Thus, we viewed Sunni scholars of the Izala stripe, at the head of them the late Sheikh Abubakar Mahmoud Gumi, as the ‘government mallams’, who advocated remaining in the kufr system with the aim of effecting corrections from within. We rejected that approach challenging its protagonists to show examples of any success recorded in that kind of arrangement, in Nigeria or elsewhere. They wanted gradual reform; we wanted complete Islamisation as witnessed in Iran.

We advocated and spearheaded the call for a total boycott of Boko as kufr because it was based on Judaeo-Christian foundations, according to our derailed perception and limited knowledge. Most of us dropped out school on our own volition or were rusticated due to unruly conduct by the university authorities, like ABU, BUK, etc., but we remained within the campus trying to save others from the perdition we saw in pursuing western education. It was only decades later that people like Muhammad Yusuf plagiarised what we initiated and through which we caused otherwise great brains to abandon their studies, by abhorring and describing Boko an Islamically forbidden enterprise.  

Even when Tehran started getting interested in what we were doing and invited some of us to Iran, we were sceptical of their intent. However, gradually some of us inclined towards Iran’s consistent ideological overtures to Shiism. Conversion of some us to Shiism brought with it the split of the Muslim Brothers into two. Jama’atu Tajdeedil Islam (JTI), which refused to tow the Shi’ah line, and the Shi’ah faction of Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN). This later witnessed further division when some of its members returned from Iran after their studies only to realise that the leader of the movement was ill-educated and, according to them, was only using the cause for his personal ends and self-aggrandisement. Therefore, this Shi’ah elite left IMN to form two other Shi’ah organisations, namely the Rasulul A’azam Foundation (RAAF), and the Darus Saqalaini (DS), which operates under the umbrella of Ansarul-Mahdi Organisation.

Unfortunately, what started as a genuine love for Islam in the form of Muslim Brothers has ended with one Sunni group, the JTI, and three Shi’ah organisations: IMN, RAAF and DS. 

Addressing the topic of this presentation, which is seeking ways through religious tools to promote social interaction with those in authority, will be impossible with some Shi’ites, because of variations in the creed. For example, the attempt for any meaningful discussion will be futile with a group which thinks the Glorious Qur’an in our midst today, is incomplete because it suffered interpolation and removal of some verses at the hands of the early caliphs after the demise of the Messenger of Allah (SAW), in order to advance their political interests. These honoured companions were with the Messenger of Allah at the beginning; they gave their best to the cause of Islam until he left this world well pleased with them.

To the Shi’ah, as a doctrine of the creed, these companions were renegades who should be cursed because they betrayed the Messenger of Allah after his demise, and usurped from Ali (RA) the right of the caliphate. What religious tools will you quote to the Shi’ah when they do not see the wives of the Prophet as their mothers as established by the Glorious Qur’an (Al-Ahzaab, 33:6). Our mother and consort of Allah’s Messenger, Aishah is maligned as an adulteress by the Shi’ah. Where you say ‘labbaikallaahummah labbaik’, Shi’ah will chant ‘labbaika yaa Husaini!’ These are only a few examples of discordant voices between Islam and the Shi’ah creed.

Therefore, this discussion will be of scant benefit to the Shi’ah adherents with their weirdest set of doctrines and ‘hadeeth’ collections. You can hardly converse logically with a group which its individual members have imprisoned their reasoning and ability to take a decision on any matter without referring it, not to Allah, or to their analogical deductions of His ordinance, but to the whim of a single person. The Kaduna State Judicial Commission of Inquiry (KSJCI) was brought to its knees due to continuous adjournments as requested by the legal team representing IMN because members were not able to have access to, and assent of the leader, Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, and which, after procrastinating submission of its memorandum, withdrew from any further appearance in the KSJCI. 

Ironically, the group, which has spent over 30 years goading young Muslim undergraduates to forsake their studies because Boko was not Islamic, is now enjoying the services of non-Muslim lawyers in its existential debacle with the Nigerian Army! 

Dividing the world today in terms of Daarul Harb, Abode of War and Daarul Islam, Abode of Peace is something of an anachronism, since you can hardly find a country that does not have, at least, a minority population of Muslims, or a Muslim country without a Christian population no matter how negligible. That is why Shaafi’i scholars averred that any place where Muslims reside and they are able to practice their religion and even call others to it, cannot be described as Daarul Harb. Such countries, according to them, should be called Daarud Da’wah, Abode of Propagation, because through proselytisation people may answer the call and thus strengthen the Ummah and help convey Allah’s messages to multitude others.

Our situation in Nigeria, in the opinion of Late Sheikh Abubakar Mahmoud Gumi, is that of Daarul Amaanah, Abode of Trust, where colonialism came with new terms of engagement after conquering the Islamic State established by Sheikh Usman Dan Fodio. In Amaanah setting, unlike Dhimmah (where non-Muslim residents pay jizyah), nobody is to pay for protection, etc., as both Muslims and non-Muslims were subdued by the colonial forces. Here, Muslims are allowed complete freedom in the practice of their religion - rituals, personal laws of marriage, inheritance, etc., -  with the exception of the criminal aspect, which, as demonstrated in the Zamfara Shari’ah extension of same, showed even the exception to be ineffectual.

Hijrah is not an option as the above reasons have shown. Boko Haram forsook the town and relocated to the outskirts of Maiduguri, but their goings and comings, back and forth, to meet certain needs in the city occasioned the genesis of their crises, first with the police, and later with the army. The rest is what we are witnessing today.

Another group was Daarul Islam, which established a mini Islamic State in a remote place between Minna and Mokwa in Niger State. Of the hijrah examples that I know, Daarul Islam was a good attempt. I visited the community twice, and I was impressed with what I saw of their independence from the rest of the world, their tolerance and non-violence. Nevertheless, the former governor of the state ordered their expulsion on the false charge of being Boko Haram. 

Proper observance of Islam is not tied to making hijrah to anywhere. There is no place that is not under the control of one authority or another. The reality in the world today is Muslims must live with non-Muslims under systems that may not be Islamic. You can count on your fingers the number of countries that are living under Islamic Shari’ah; many are under a constitution like our own, including the country with the highest Muslim population, Indonesia. 

What will happen if Muslims boycott participation in democratic processes because they are not purely Islamic? How will Muslims fare if they refuse to work in usurious financial institutions or keep their monies there? We need Muslims everywhere: in the banks, the presidency, the National Assembly, the courts, ministries and agencies, as well as in the private sector. 

Decades ago, we did not have options for Islamic banking. Now we boast of full-fledged Islamic financial services, thanks to His Royal Highness, the former CBN Governor and the Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi II, his predecessor, Prof. Chukwuma Charles Soludo and  Dr Kingsley Moghalu, who started the inclusion of the Islamic non-Interest banking in the windows recognised by the CBN. Incidentally, the last two persons I mentioned are Christians.

Therefore, those in authority deserve our allegiance in as much as the Messenger of Allah (SAW) has admonished us to give absolute obedience even if a slave becomes our leader. The purpose of Islamic Shari’ah is to bring benefit and avert evil in all circumstances. 

Muslims are part of Nigeria and will remain to be so until Allah accomplishes His purpose. We shall form political alliances with other Nigerians be they Muslims or non-Muslims by coming together in the democratic process, to reach those in authority with a view to making this country better. Taking up arms against the state or forming a parallel government is both foolhardy and exposing the Ummah to ridicule.

This is not to say this is the ideal and end in and of itself; far from it. This is a stopgap, which the Muslim must never mistake for the goal. The goal is as spelt out in the Glorious Qur’aan in several verses, one of the most famous of which is verse 44 of Suratul Maaidah (Q5:44). The Muslim knows and must never forget that his real constitution is the Shari’ah. He works and prays towards its actualisation but he will not carry arms or instigate others to carry arms to achieve this aim.

Now, let us examine the ways we could use religious tools to engage constructively with the government, in the Nigerian context. The main objective of this paper is to enlighten everyone on the tools available and how they can be used to forge constructive social interactions with the government at various levels.

There are many tools available to the Muslim living in a non- Islamic state like Nigeria to help him interact peacefully and meaningfully with those in authority. Some of these tools include but are not limited to:

As-Sam’u wat tā’ah (Hearing and obeying): As long as what those in authority are instructing does not contradict a direct injunction of Allah or His Messenger, the Muslim must hear and obey. Thus, the Muslim will not disobey traffic laws and will pay his taxes and levies and conduct himself in an orderly manner. He will not instigate civil disobedience and will not join protests and riots.

An-Naseehah (Sincere advice): A Muslim will give the government and its agents sincere advice on whatever he has observed requires such. Thus, he will inform the authorities when a crime is brewing and prevent people from breaking the law. He will assist the police to arrest anyone fomenting trouble.

Participation: The Muslim will participate within the limits set by Allah in the running of the state. Failure to do so will bring dire consequences upon the Ummah. Imagine a Nigeria where there is no Muslim in any position of authority. Surely that would be a disaster. Especially as the populace are not matured enough to tolerate each other’s’ faith. Even where there are some Muslims in important positions, people of other faiths hardly let an opportunity to short-change Muslims go. The same can be said of Muslims in places where the non-Muslims have no representation.

Al-Mushaawarah (Mutual Consultation): This tool is closely linked to the last one. The Muslim is expected to participate in mutual consultation with those in authority. An example of this is when there is a referendum or confab. Muslims will be the losers if we do not actively lend our voices. Many laws, which target certain rights of the Muslims, have been quashed, adjusted or rejected by the Muslims who were part of the mutual consultation that occurs before such laws are made.

I urge my learned brothers and sisters to add to these tools and help spread the word. May Allah grant us our desires as an Ummah. Thank you for listening. Jazaakumullahu khayran.

Saturday, March 19, 2016


From right to left: Mr Fahad bin Abdallah bin Muhammad Sefyan, Saudi Ambassador in Nigeria, Mahmoud Al-Mahmoud, Ambassador of United Arab Emirates in Nigeria, H.E Dr. Abdullah bin Abdulmuhsen Al-Turki, Secretary General, Muslim World League, Dr Abdulaziz Al-Sharrah, Ambassador of State of Kuwait in Nigeria, Mr. Muadheb Enad Al-Masloukhi, Cultural Attache of Saudi Embassy, and Ustaz Abubakr Siddeeq, M.D Comerel Travels, Abuja.

His Excellency, the Ambassador of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques to Nigeria, invited me to a dinner on Sunday, March 14th. I arrived in time to see the arrival of a tranquil, aged man who walked in and took a seat close to me. We were exchanging pleasantries and small talk in Arabic, as the distinguished Sheikh did not speak English. Suddenly, he took me off balance when he asked me, “Where did you learn Arabic?” I told him I learnt it from the late sage and scholar of Islam, Sheikh Abubakar Mahmud Gumi (may Allah have mercy on him). At the mention of the name, Sheikh At-Turki replied, “Oh! You knew Sheikh Gumi! May Allah have mercy on him. That was a good man. He was one of the founding members of the Raabitah (a short name for the Muslim World League)”. It tells a lot about my late teacher and the mental acuity of the great scholar who could remember that detail in an instant.

That dinner was in honour of my questioner and his name is Dr Abdallah Ben Abdel Mohsen At-Turki. He was appointed Saudi Arabian Minister of Islamic Affairs, Waqfs (Endowments), Appeals and Morals in 1995 and in 2000 he became General Secretary of the Muslim World League (MWL). May Allah preserve him. He is in Nigeria to attend the International Islamic Conference organized by the MWL from 17th to 20th March at the Shehu Musa Yar’adua Centre. The theme of the conference is Security and Stability in the Face of Contemporary Challenges. 

In 2014, Sheikh At-Turki gave a talk at a conference organized by the King Abdullah Bin Abdul-Aziz International Centre for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue (KAICIID). I want to share parts of that speech with you here:

In the Name of Allah the Most Gracious, the Most Compassionate. Gentlemen, I greet you at this encounter which brings together personalities keen on spreading peace in the world and on extinguishing hotbeds of conflicts and I thank those in charge of King Abdullah Bin Abdul-Aziz International Center for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue, led by the Secretary-General His Excellency Brother Faisal Bin Abdulrahman Bin Muammar, for organizing this meeting as part of the distinguished activities undertaken by the Center. These activities are an extension of the initiative of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah Bin Abdul-Aziz Al-Saud, which laid down the foundations of interreligious and intercultural dialogue.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia accorded great importance to the topic of dialogue and to the dissemination of its culture, domestically and globally, and made it a priority in its cultural endeavours. In the area of dialogue, the efforts of the Muslim World League, which is a popular Islamic international organization, sprang from the initiative of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, the activities of the World Islamic Dialogue Conference in Makkah Al-Mukarramah, and the Madrid World Conference, to lay down the firm foundations of a successful and sincere dialogue. These conferences were followed by other encounters, such as the global encounter in New York at the United Nations General Assembly, the Vienna and Geneva encounters, and others.

The phenomenon of violence is deeply rooted in history which is replete with accounts of peoples enfeebled by oppressive foreign or local powers, and forced to throw their citizens into the flames of crushing violence in countless numbers.

We are mostly interested in focusing attention on the reasons that contributed to the formation of the phenomenon of violence of various forms and manifestations, and on how to address them objectively and impartially. There are in our contemporary world many reasons that instigate violence in human beings or contribute to the formation of violent orientations. These reasons include injustice and aggression, violation of sanctities and religious symbols, adopting double standards in dealing with prominent issues, global justice influenced by nonobjective standards, and the proliferation of the culture of hate and discrimination on the basis of religious or national affiliation.

Religion comes to the limelight when we speak about instigators of violence, and justification of violent behaviour and acts. Undoubtedly, religion has a great influence on human beings’ behaviour and ethical orientations due to the inner value of religion itself and how it reflects in people’s perceptions. Those who show animosity against religion interpret every aggressive behaviour as being religious, based on the belief that religion plays a negative part in people’s lives and that it imparts them with aggressive and rancorous feelings that can never make peace with others. Therefore, it is believed that religion is the source and one of the main reasons of violence.

Unfortunately, this passive stance towards religion finds evidence, which it uses as a pretext, such as the persecution of the Rohingya in Burma, the horrific massacres against Muslim communities in Central Africa, the treatment of Palestinians by the Israeli occupation forces in Gaza, Jerusalem, and Al-Aqsa Mosque, the sectorial violence in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and other areas, and the hostile acts practised by a number of Muslim groups under the name of Islam and Jihad. This is an unjust perception of the religion revealed by Allah the Almighty through His prophets and messengers to various nations in various eras in time.

Religion according to the understanding of the Muslim culture, and as expressed in the messages of a large number of messengers, was revealed to worship only Allah, and to liberate people from the paganism fabricated by reason of ignorance and myths, purging souls of the ailments of rancour, envy, selfishness, conceit, hate, and of giving in to fanciful whims and restraining aggressiveness that takes over when one feels the absence of discipline. On the other hand, religion came to disseminate virtues and promote refined ethics, a love of goodness and treating others fairly and kindly, without discrimination.

There are in the Glorious Quran dozens of texts that stand evidence to this, including verse 90 of Surat Al- Nahl which says, “God enjoins justice and the doing of good and generosity towards [one's] fellow-men and He forbids all that is shameful and all that runs counter to reason, as well as envy; [and] He exhorts you [repeatedly] so that you might bear [all this] in mind”

Based on a positive perception of religion, we hope that different religious leaderships would seek to give the religion the standing that befits it and to enable it to perform its true function in individual and collective lives, namely to pave the way for human beings to become more refined and more attached to their Creator in a relationship that constantly becomes more and more mature, charging the soul with a spiritual energy that disciplines behaviour and crowns the soul with virtue and noble values, and guides human civilization in an ethical and rational direction.

I also call on religious leaders to keep religion from being used to achieve personal ambitions or political purposes or sectoral intentions, and from being transformed into an energy that breeds rancour and animosity and instigates vengeance. I would like to articulate on this occasion that acts of violence perpetrated under the name of jihad by a number of networks which claim affiliation to Islam have no place in the Muslim religion and do not represent the intellect of the nation and the march of its civilization, the proof being that these acts are decried by the majority, prominent political and religious leaders and that in most cases, this violence is directed against Muslims who are the first victims to fall.

Therefore, we strongly denounce this behaviour and see in it a clear deviation from the path and guidance of Islam, and from the intentions of its message, which has been revealed to bestow mercy and bring light to human beings. May Allah the Almighty grant us success in our endeavours.