By Rasheed Abubakar

I have read so many eyewitness accounts about the new year eve attack in Ilorin, the Kwara State capital, which affirmed that it wasn’t a case of Muslims versus Christians, as shamelessly described by The Punch of yesterday, Wednesday, January 3, 2018.

On its front cover banner, the newspaper featured a screaming headline: “Kwara mayhem: CAN accuses Muslims of attacking, raping Christians”, reporting in paragraph 3 that the attackers were “Muslim fundamentalists”. The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) report published by many mainstream Nigerian media called them “miscreants” and “hoodlums”.

Also, there was no where in the NAN report, and as published by other media, where the hoodlums shouted “Allahu Akbar” as they attacked the worshippers, as erroneously reported in paragraph 4 of the Punch story.

Obviously, the Punch reportage was a continuation of the campaign of calumny by the newspaper and its partner in crime, CAN, with the intent to ridicule Islam, the religion of peace and paint Muslims RED.

The beautiful word; Allahu Akbar, meaning God is Great has been badly misrepresented by the mainstream media to mean a battle cry, and The Punch has once again affirmed that it is Islamophobic.

Check out the Premium Times headline: “How churches were attacked in Ilorin on New year day by CAN”. There was no where in the 17-paragraph story where the CAN Chairman in Kwara State, Prof. T. O Opoola used the word “Muslim fundamentalists”. According to the story, he instead called them “some miscreants” and “fanatics”.

In a similar manner, The Sun’s report, with the headline: “Tension as hoodlums attack church in Ilorin” didn’t use the term “Muslim fundamentalists”. It instead used “mischief makers”, who also attacked not only the Christian worshippers, but members of QAREEB, one of the leading Muslim groups in Nigeria, who were also holding their programme.

The Sun wrote: “Some vehicles belonging to both worshippers (Muslims and Christians) were damaged.” It also quoted the Kwara State Police PRO, Mr Ajayi Okadanmi, saying; “It is important to note that the attack has no religious undertone. It is simply an unlawful act by disgruntled youths in the area, as both the Christian and Muslim gatherings in the area were attacked.

I then wonder where The Punch got the term “Muslim fundamentalists” and the phrase “Allahu Akbar”? Was it at the same press briefing that was attended by other media? Or did the CAN Chairman exclusively issue the anti-Muslim words to The Punch alone? Or could it be that while other media decided to bury those words, which are capable of overheating the polity, The Punch gladly flaunted them?

Irrespective of the situation, the incident further affirmed my previous findings that The Punch is in fact an unjust media outfit, and is indeed Islamophobic. It shows that, to display its intrinsic and pathological hatred for Islam, The Punch can compromise its ethical values to satisfy the ever-problematic Christian body.

Considering the latest Punch banner headline, coupled with its biased position over the recent controversies on the Sukuk bond, one cannot but conclude that there exists a significant relationship between the CAN “of trouble” and the Nigerian king of sensational journalism, The Punch newspaper!

They are nothing but partners in lies and propaganda.

I remember that, on September 15, 2017, I raised alarm over how The Punch and some of these irresponsible media downplayed the attacks on Muslims at the famous Oyigbo Central Mosque, Port-Harcourt, Rivers State and other parts of the SouthEast by the Biafran “Jewish” Terrorists.

Some of my colleagues gave the Nigerian media excuses, saying the attacks on the Muslims were downplayed to “douse what could lead to an outbreak of major crisis”, quoting Mr Nwokolo Ernest, Ogun State correspondent of The Nation.

I grudgingly agreed then, even when I knew that wasn’t the intent. I knew that the anti-Islam media would have flaunted the story on their front covers if the culprits/perpetrators were Muslims or Northerners. The Ilorin incident was a practical example of their parochial and irresponsible journalism. Despite the fact that the attackers were not Muslims, The Punch shamelessly implicated the Muslims in its headline, quoting the troublesome CAN. Even if the attack were carried out by some “Muslims”, let’s assume, why not downplay such in order to wade off reprisals, as claimed by our colleagues in the media? Is this what you guys call journalism?

Unfortunately, the news of 21 people massacred during the new year eve in Rivers State didn’t get wide coverage from the media, because the attackers were neither Muslim fundamentalists nor Fulani herdsmen. Has CAN issued a press statement to condemn the murder of innocent Nigerians? What a pity! I weep for this country, where lives have no value and ethical conduct has been thrown into the bin.

Let it be known to all purveyors of lies in the name of journalism that, in Islam, killing a single soul, (not to talk of several lives) and attacking adherents of other faiths or places of worship is forbidden. Both the Qur’an (5:27-34, 17:33) and several Hadith strongly kick against such.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) warns: “Don’t kill the monks in the monasteries. Don’t kill the people who are sitting in places of worship. Don’t kill any old person, any child, or any woman….” (Abu Dawud)

In spite of all these facts, why does the media keep misrepresenting Islam? Why is there so much prejudice and stereotyping against Islam and the Muslims in the media? Why the continuous Muslim bashing in the Nigerian media? How does media ownership influence the negative Muslim narratives in the media? These, among others, will be the thrust of this year’s annual conference of the Muslim Media Practitioners of Nigeria (MMPN), Lagos State Chapter.

The conference, with the theme: Islam, Muslims and the Nigerian Media will feature three great speakers and 6 discussants on different mind-blowing topics. Prominent among them are Alhaji Liad Tella, Prof Lakin Akintola, Dr Ibrahim Ismail and Abu Umar Al-Faruq. The event will hold on Saturday, January 6, 2018 at the Alausa Secretariat Mosque Multipurpose Hall, Ikeja. Time is 10am.

– Rasheed Abubakar is a journalist and the author of “Muslims and the Threats of the Media”.

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