By: JACOB ONJEWU DICKSON
The Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC)has strongly condemned the massacre of 86 people in Barkin Ladi Local Government of Plateau State which occurred on Tuesday 26th June, 2018.
Though the group acknowledged the fact that the killings have been blamed on unscrupulous and disenchanted politicians, it said that it was unacceptable. “It is brutish, barbaric and inhuman. There can be no justification for such merciless brulality. We frown on the killing and rustling of cows, including all acts of cruelty to animals. In like manner, we find the destruction of farmers’ crops unacceptable, wicked and provocative.”
In a statement made available to our correspondent and signed by its director, Professor Ishaq Akintola, MURIC said there had been several complaints from time immemorial of the destruction of crops, cattle rustling and cruel attacks on cattle leading to wasteful death and injuries on the animals. It said herdsmen sometimes react to these hostilities by attacking those responsible for them. Some communities retaliate by killing the herdsmen.
The human rights organization said it focused its attention “on two of the usual casus belli of these recurring calamities, namely, the destruction of farmers’ crops and the ignorance of the average Nigerian regarding the denial of Allah-given fundamental rights of the animal kingdom in particular and the whole of nature in general.”
MURIC lamented that “Nigerian farmers have for long been complaining that herdsmen were destroying their crops. Their complaints have hitherto gone unheeded. This is very unfortunate because it seems successive regimes have failed to realize the implications. Destruction of crops by grazing cattle is a potential harbinger of scarcity of food. This may lead to sharp rise in the prices of food items and the attendant hunger and starvation particularly among the poor.”
Going further, the Islamic group said, “Nigerians are used to hearing of the fundamental rights of human beings but only a few are aware, not alone recognize the rights of animals and other forces of nature. This failure has often led to disasters of various types. Exampli gratia, flooding and the concomitant loss of lives and destruction of properties worth billions of naira are often caused by man’s disregard for the right of water to flow freely in its ordained path. This happens when we carelessly obstruct waterways with buildings or when we fill drainage with waste.
“Unknown to many, Islam has provided teachings on the relationship between man and other forces of the environment like rivers, forests, trees and animals. The Glorious Qur’an reminds us that birds and animals also form their own communities like us and that nothing has been omitted from its records (Qur’an 6:38; 16:5 – 9). Itreveals Allah’s magnanimity in creating all the natural resources necessary for human survival (Qur’an 16:10 – 11) and exhorts mankind to use forest resources judiciously (Qur’an 12:47).
“The Glorious Qur’an also affirms that nature exists for the purpose of serving mankind. Qur’an 16:66 – 68 describes the animal kingdom and their various utility values to man. But at the same time it disapproves of all forms of disservice to nature (Qur’an 7:56), e.g. dumping waste to block the path of a flowing river or stream. Islam therefore regards the animal kingdom as a community which must be nurtured and preserved. The destruction of crops is equally retrogressive just as it is an attack on nature.
MURIC therefore contends that man is the custodian of nature by virtue of his being the vicegerent of Allah on earth. The custodian will be doing a disservice when he wilfully destroys any part of the environment. Akintola argued that this fact is clearly exemplified in the creation of Adam (peace be upon him Qur’an 2:30) and it is further demonstrated with the example of Noah who was instructed to put each pair of animals in his ark (Qur’an 11:40) for the survival of the animal kingdom.
Advocating kindness to animals and other forces of nature, the director said, “We assert that the custodian of nature must care for it since he benefits from it as well. This is why attacks on animals and the destruction of crops must be condemned by all right thinking Nigerians. It is criminalized in other climes and considered uncultured. Islamic eschatological teachings hold that man is accountable to Allah who made all animals subservient to man. He will be rewarded or punished yawm al-Qiyamah (on the Day of Judgement) depending on how he treats the forces of nature while on earth.
“Examples of this abound in stories from the hadith. A woman entered hell for tying down a cat and refusing to feed it, yet she did not set it free to fend for itself (Bukhari (54:15). Allah forgave a prostitute just because she gave water to a thirsty dog by tying her shoe to her scarf and fetching water for the dog from a well (Bukhari 54:16).
“Such stories teach mankind kindness to animals. Prophet Muhammad even said, ‘If you must kill an animal, kill without torture’ (An-Nawawi). The Prophet (SAW) forbade the practice whereby animals are incited to fight each other for the enjoyment of human beings (Bukhari and Muslim).”
Akintola also cited portions of the Bible which promote good treatment of animals. “We jog the minds of Christendom in Nigeria regarding biblical teachings on man and his environment, particularly animal species. Genesis 1:28 lays emphasis on man’s dominion over nature while the Book of Isaiah teaches man to allow animals to graze.
“It says, ‘The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid, and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them (the herdsman?). And the cow and the bear shall feed, their young ones shall lie down together, and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. And the suckling child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice’ den’” (Isaiah 11:6 – 8). See also Levticus 19:23 – 24; Deutronomy 22:6 – 7.
MURIC submitted that wildlife population will thrive if both Christians and Muslims follow the teachings in their scriptures and show kindness to animals. “Whatever form of hatred we feel for the owners or the herdsmen,” Akintola maintained, “cattle rustling, killing and maiming of cows are grievous acts of wickedness to the animal kingdom.”
MURIC also frowned on states which has rejected cattle ranching, saying, “Rejection of ranching is denial of animal rights and such denial can be compared to plotting the extinction of the animal kingdom. Yet we may be cutting our noses to spite our faces when we endanger the lives of animals unduly because man is an integral part of nature and nature is interdependent. For so long as we enjoy the milk and beef which come from cattle, a sense of appreciation combined with self-preservation should propel us towards caring for them.”
MURIC therefore called on governments at various levels to strentghen the existing laws on cruelty to animals. “We charge environmental agencies like the Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF) to step up their enlightenment programmes and to prevail on the Nigerian authorities to give teeth to laws protecting animals from torture, maltreatment and extinction. In the same vein, governments at various levels should criminalise the destruction of crops. The National Assembly should be able to enact laws to this effect.
“On a last note, we appeal to Nigerians to change their attitude to animals, to stop all acts of wickedness towards them and to do everything possible for their preservation. Herdsmen are advised to respect human life and to desist from destroying farmers’ crops.”