I attended the prestigious Salzburg Global Seminar in Salzburg, Austria in 2008. The theme of the programme I attended in the Salzburg Seminars was titled “Islamic and International Law: Searching for Common Ground: Session 457. The Salzburg Global Seminar was originally founded in 1947 by a group of Harvard Graduates to encourage the revival of intellectual dialogue in post second war Europe. The mission of Salzburg Global Seminar is to challenge current and future leaders to solve issues of global concern. To this end, it design and facilitate and host international strategic convening and multi-year programmes to tackle systems challenges critical for the next generation.

While attending this programme, I met one of the participants from India, a Lawyer and Muslim. In the course of our engagement and discussion on current issues, he told me that India has many laws regulating the practice of religion. One of these laws is the law that proscribed the mounting of public address system or loud speakers on the minarets of mosques to call the faithful to prayers.  India has one of the largest Muslim populations in the World. India is also reputed to be the largest democracy in the world.

The Bill laid before the Kaduna State House of Assembly to regulate the practice of preaching by Governor Nasir El-Rufai which has generated much controversy and heated argument in the country is very much in order and indeed a step in the right direction in so far as it seek to keep in check those that exploit religion to divide us and infringe on the rights of others. All the hype and propaganda that Governor El-Rufai is Anti-Christian is hogwash!

The Bill applies to both Muslims and Christians in equal measure.  So what is all the brouhaha, about this very innovative and progressive Bill meant to curb extremism and exploitation of religion by some people to cause trouble?

Why must some misguided people continue to exploit religion to cause dis harmony in society? Why should some people think that religion is a cart Blanche to infringe on the rights of others?

Let me say that no fundamental right is limitless and absolute. In as much as we espouse our rights; we must also appreciate the fact that others are equally entitled to have their rights protected and respected. Why should a preacher or a Church or a Mosque in my neighborhood use a loud speaker to disturb my peace or arouse me from sleep without any iota of qualms in the name of religion?

Have we not seen how some people have continued to exploit religion to cause so much mayhem in the country and the world at large? The Constitution also provides that fundamental rights can be limited in circumstances where public safety, public morality, public order, pubic health and the will being is under threat. For example the law of slander and libel is a limit on the right of free speech and expression
There is nothing that violates the Constitution about the licensing of preachers. Are there no laws regulating the practice of medicine, law, engineering, accounting, nursing, pharmacy etc. So what is wrong in regulating the Christian and Islamic Clergy?

Law is organic and not static. Law must always change to reflect the dynamic and change that occur in society every day. For now the exigency and dynamic of the country demands that we should have a law in Kaduna State to regulate the practice of preaching.

Okoi Obono-Obla

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