FG outlawed Shi’ites’ criminality, not freedom of worship – Presidency

The Presidency said Sunday that proscription of Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN), also known as Shi’ites, had nothing to do with banning the larger numbers of peaceful and abiding Shi’ites in the country from practicing their religion.

In a statement issued in Abuja, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity Garba Shehu said the proscription was to discourage wanton violence, and wilful destruction of public and private .

He said contrary to the claim by IMN that it had been banned from practicing its religion, the Buhari administration did not ban Shi’ites from observing their five daily prayers and going to Mecca to perform the Holy pilgrimage.

“Their position is blatantly false and deceptive. The IMN is deliberately changing the narrative in order to gain sympathy and divert the attention of the world from its terrorist , including attacking soldiers, killing policemen and a youth corps member, destroying government ambulances and public , consistently defying authority of the state.

“We are fighting lawlessness and criminality and not pursuing a policy of against any group. You cannot be in court while at the same time engaging in violent protests, molesting people and inflicting pains on others, which includes taking innocent lives,” he said.

He said the banned organisation was taken over by extremists who didn’t believe in peaceful protests and instead employed violence and arson, driving fear and undermining the rights of others and constituted authority.

Shehu  said the constitution protects freedom of worship, but not to the detriment of the society, especially where such freedom harms others and breaks and order.

He said such behaviour and disregard for rights of others and human life would not be tolerated by any responsible government, stating  that “everywhere in the world, protesters operate within legal boundaries and conduct themselves peacefully without molesting others or engaging in and killing of security personnel or destroying public and private .

“The Presidency regrets that despite all efforts by the government and other well-meaning Nigerians to make the IMN militants to see reason and abandon violence, such appeals fell on deaf ears as they killed, maimed and destroyed wilfully, constituting daily nuisance to , commuters and other innocent citizens.

“Having defied appeals to operate peacefully, and given their seeming determination to destabilise the country, the government had to act before the situation goes out of control, after admonishing many times over that people should not use religion to perpetuate  lawlessness.”

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