What is MPAC all about?
MPAC is about empowerment, advocacy and outreach within the community. It was formed in 2001, though it started off as a media monitoring group which came together because we were responding to the reactions of people to the tragic events of September 11, 2001.
If you can remember, a lot of attention was focused on the Muslim community as probable collaborators with the terrorists. A lot of people had the misconception that it was justified in the religion to commit such heinous act. So, we sought to respond to this through countering some of the misconceptions as well as wrong characterization of the religion.
There are a lot of people who may not agree with what they have seen or read about Muslims, they need to be educated on those things. That is why I said the organization is about empowerment in terms of educating non-Muslims as well as Muslims about some of the things they believe, including concepts like the jihad. Some people may be involved in criminality and believe it is jihad, doing it in the name of religion or to promote Islam.
We also engage in a number of community projects. One of them is the flagship project of MPAC, which is the Sakinah. It is a medical outreach project. Through that project, we’ve been able to provide free medical care to indigent Nigerians, Muslims and non-Muslims alike to the sum of about N60 million to date. We are launching a new campaign in Kaduna next month to provide free cataract surgical operation to a hundred blind and partially sighted people.
What effort has the organization made in alleviating the plight of IDPs?
We have done a number of things in Masaba. We’ve given out a number of relief and emergency materials to the camps in Maiduguri, Borno and Yobe, including nutritional items for children. What we have done has actually impacted so much that another organization, NASFAT, approved us. The NASFAT Agency for Zakat and Sadaqah actually came to us and said they were so impressed with the effects our programs were having in camps and wanted to partner with us. Through that, we shipped three trucks load of materials to the North-East.
How is the MPAC funded?
Interestingly, it is actually funded through consensus donations of ordinary Muslim Nigerians. Our funding has always come through either Zakat or Sadaqah from Muslims in Nigeria and diaspora. We have a policy against collecting donations because we want to retain our financial independence.
As a Muslim Media Center, how have you been able to ensure that the concept of peace and tolerance is actually entrenched, especially in a society like ours?
Nigeria is blessed with a huge population of both faiths. About 90% of Nigerians claim to be either Christians or Muslims. Unfortunately, we haven’t allowed that to bring about development of a country we will all like to see. As an organisation, what we have been trying to do is to preach the word of peace and co-existence in terms of the way we relate with the people of the other faith and what we say about each other. MPAC holds an annual event called MPAC convention. We always invite a Christian speaker to also speak on their religious beliefs and what they think about ours.
The issue of hijab has generated a lot of controversy lately, what is your take on this?
It is a huge disappointment for me, not only as a Muslim but also as a Nigerian, to see a pattern of behaviour where a child will face the threat of exclusion from state education only because of a piece of cloth on the head. I have seen examples across the world where people live in secular states, and state education is funded through tax payers, yet the right of a child to wear the hijab is protected by the state.
Most of the injuries and misgivings we have seen in this country are entirely self-inflicted. I’m talking now to the Christians and Muslims. We have an opportunity to change our behaviour and commit to the principles of our faith which calls us to do what is good and collaborate on it.