The Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) has rejected Mathew Kukah’s initiative to train almajiri children.
Kukah, bishop of the Catholic diocese of Sokoto state, had disclosed his plans to train 10 million almajiri children in the north.
Reacting in a statement on Wednesday, MURIC described Kukah’s proposal as a ploy for “modern colonialism and a potential time bomb”.
The group cautioned Muslims elders against accepting the idea, saying they should empower people of the same faith to cater for almajiri children.
“We all agree that something must be done about the almajiri children. We can welcome ideas from everyone but the implementation must be in the hands of Muslims in the region. We cannot pretend to be so naïve as to entrust our Muslim children to the hands of Christian gospellers. As far as we are concerned, Kukah’s almajiri dream is a Trojan horse,” the statement read.
“The devil we know is still better than the one we do not know and we expect Rev. Kukah to know better. Can any Christian community allow an Islamic organization to take their children away just like that?
“Whatever the situation may be, we wish to caution Northern Muslims, particularly the elders, never to allow it to happen. Instead of allowing Christian missionaries to seize this kind of initiative, Northern Muslims should empower available Muslim NGOs to cater for almajiri children.
“We therefore advise state governments in the region to rearrange their priorities and concentrate on the education and welfare of almajiri children.”
The group questioned why a foreign donor would be interested in funding a project targeted at Muslim children since they are known “for their preference for supporting Christian-oriented non-governmental organisations (NGOs)”.
It advised Kukah to gain the confidence of northern Muslim by allowing Muslim NGOs to implement the project while the reverend father and the donors monitor how the funds are used.
“Is Rev. Kukah telling us that he prefers to alleviate poverty among Muslims to doing same among Christians? Are there no poverty stricken children in the Christian majority Middle Belt particularly in Benue and Plateau? Why can’t he take his project there?” MURIC asked.
“Another question has to do with funding. Who will fund this gigantic project? Our guess is that the fund will come (or has come) from one of those foreign donors. This raises another major concern.
“Incidentally, Western donors are known for their preference for supporting Christian-oriented non-governmental organizations (NGOs). They dish out huge amounts of money to non-Muslim NGOs while Islamic organizations get pittance, and that is if they get anything at all. That is not to say we are blaming them. We have no moral right to do so.
“But we have every right to stand up against Kukah’s almajiri initiative and question the rationale behind a foreign donor or donors funding a project targeted at Muslim children particularly if the project is to be executed by a Christian organization.
“This project is repulsive. It has the tendency to portray Muslims as a bunch of unintelligent, irresponsible and carefree people. We cannot allow such a misleading impression to remain just like that. Muslims are responsible people, idealistic, pious, self-satisfied and integrity-loaded.
“We caution foreign donors to desist from exploiting our predicament. We invite foreign donors who are genuinely interested in helping the almajiris to do so through Muslim NGOs.
“To secure the confidence of Northern Muslims, Kukah should put his cards on the table. Who are the donors? How much are we looking at? What is the time frame?”