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General Board / A call to Boycott Thisday Newspaper
« on: November 20, 2002, 07:22:28 PM »
Beyond Apology: Addressing the Thisday Blasphemy

By Abdullahi Bego

Last Saturday 16, November 2002, the now infamous Thisday newspaper did a story deliberately designed to provoke Muslims and conflate the tension and unease that have already made Nigeria a tinderbox waiting to explode. The story, which made the paper?s cover for the day, cast aspersions on the character of the Prophet Mohammad (Sawa). I seek refuge in God from having to restate the wordings of that ignoble write-up.

From the reactions of the Supreme Council on Islamic Affairs, other Muslim bodies and individuals alone, one would know that Muslims in Nigeria and over one billion others in other parts of the world have been extremely incensed and offended by the Thisday story.

The Supreme Council on Islamic Affairs has given the paper an ultimatum to issue a comprehensive apology by next Saturday. Given the prospect of financial loss to the paper from the threats of boycott already made by a number of Muslim groups, it is highly likely that Thisday management will yield to the ultimatum and make an apology that feigns more concern than the ?terse, indirect and lame? one they made last Monday.

But apology alone is not the issue. Without doubt the editorial echelon, if not the entire management, of Thisday was quite aware of every word and its import in that cover story and certainly, they can?t pretend not to assume that the story would generate anger amongst Muslims. That they therefore went ahead to publish the story means it is another calculated attempt to cause further religious disharmony in Nigeria. And the provocation must be squarely addressed for what it was.

For Muslims worldwide, faith in Prophet Muhammad (sawa) is not simply a matter of mentioning his blessed name during prayers. Prophet Muhammad (sawa) is Islam embodied and every Muslim worth the name is ready to sacrifice his life, possessions, family and all to defend him. As Muslims we believe that humanity from the beginning has never seen anyone like Prophet Muhammad (sawa) and no one shall come even eons close to the noble status, dignity and nobility of the blessed Prophet. Thus when a newspaper as widely circulated as Thisday disregards the intense attachment of Muslims to the blessed Prophet and makes a mockery of him, the entire Muslim Ummah is tasked to respond beyond the acceptance of false and inconsequential apology.

As a Muslim youth, I am not in a position to issue religious verdicts. That is for our religious and political leaders and intellectuals who must regard this as another plot to plunge Muslims into crisis and take attention away from the welter of socio-economic and political problems for which Nigeria is becoming more prominent by the day. They are the ones whom Allah shall bring to question if they let this ignominy simply pass like that.

But the boycott note sounded by a number of Muslim groups has to be repeated here. Muslims in Nigeria must boycott Thisday newspaper ad infinitum. Whatever anyone might say. There is simply no excuse in buying the paper, and thus strengthening it, to continue in blaspheming the sacredness of our religion.

More importantly the boycott here must take the form of refusing it any advertorials. Not just for a day or two or until when it tendered an apology for what it has done to us. The boycott must be total and final. That is what Thisday actually deserves from us.

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