Authorities of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) 2016/17 Batch A Stream 2 (II) has announced 13th June as the new date of opening camp.
We of the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) hereby reject this date because Muslim corpers will still be fasting at that time. It is illegal, unlawful and unconstitutional for NYSC to hold camp at a time when its Muslim members will be deprived of their freedom of worship and the liberty to practice their creed without fear. This planned camp is exclusive, discriminatory and parochial.
Any Nigerian institution dealing with schedules and programmes particularly the NYSC whose programmes are of such magnitude is expected to consider the dates and periods of important festivals, rituals and religious practices. This should form the core of its logistics. It is our humble opinion that NYSC headquarters has failed in its strategic planning by allowing its next camp to clash with the Ramadan period.
What happened to 21st May, 2016 which was the date earlier picked for the orientation? We do not want to believe that the shift was deliberately planned to coincide with the Ramadan season with a view to excluding prospective Muslim corpers.
MURIC is not trying to indulge Muslim youths. Fasting is no joke and it certainly cannot be combined with the physical challenges which characterize the NYSC camp. Eligible Muslim graduates will definitely want to be part of the service but the obstacles standing in their way are gargantuan.
Firstly, morning drills in NYSC camps are known to be rigorous and the soldiers in charge will not take excuses. Dehydration sets in later in the day particularly in the hotter regions of Nigeria. Ramadan period is therefore not the best time to hold NYSC orientation camp.
Secondly, adequate sahuur (early morning meal taken approximately between 4 am and 5.15 am) cannot be guaranteed in the NYSC camp. Neither can the futuur (meal taken at sunset to break fast ) be timely as camp schedules are bound to ignore and subsume this very important period.
Thirdly, attending orientation camp and partaking in the energy-sapping activities on empty stomach is an indubitable invitation to health crisis. NYSC may therefore be inviting Muslim corpers to step on landmines in the planned orientation camp if it holds as presently scheduled.
The fourth issue is the spiritual angle. There is more to Ramadan than ordinary fasting. That is on the surface. The whole month of Ramadan is a period of spiritual dedication. There are so many other spiritual exercises in which Muslims engage, the tafsiir (exegesis of the Qur’an) session, the taraawih (late evening supererogatory prayers) and nawaafil (night supererogatory prayers). Only the deep can call to the deep. All these cannot be possible in the NYSC camp.
Can this timing be a trap waiting for Muslim corpers who dare to complain about delays in breaking their fast? A hungry man, they say, is an angry man. Can NYSC authorities assure the nation that hungry Muslim corpers will not be constrained to vent their spleen? Can they further assure us that no Muslim corper will be sanctioned on account of such behavior?
Unlike the Islamophobic climate expected in an NYSC camp organized in Ramadan, what happens during Ramadan in Muslim-friendly environments is that both primary and secondary schools close for the day around 2 pm. Lectures in tertiary institutions stop from 3 pm while civil servants also leave their offices by 2 pm. If Muslims are not asking the Nigerian government to do this, its agencies should not become blatant tools of oppression.
Religious crisis is common in Nigeria due to the overzealousness and insensitivity of some government officials. Official policies in this country often fail to take our cultural and religious plurality into consideration.
For the avoidance of doubts, we affirm that fasting is compulsory for every Muslim adult (Qur’an 2:183) and any obstacle put in the way of Muslims to make it impossible for them to fast is an encroachment on their Allah-given fundamental human right and a flagrant violation of Section 38 (I) & (II) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The clear message we are sending to NYSC officials here is that the camp planned to begin on 21st May 2016 constitutes a serious impediment to the religious observation of Muslims. It is exclusive, sectional and parochial.
The planned camp should be put in abeyance for now in the interest of peace. A stitch in time saves nine.
Muslim youths throughout the country are bitter and furious at the thought of being disallowed to fast in the month of Ramadan. The best which NYSC headquarters can do for Nigeria now is to postpone the camp till the end of Ramadan. This country needs peace and stability to develop. We have had enough religious crises. NYSC should not stoke another.
Professor Ishaq Akintola,
Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC)