Abuja — President Muhammadu Buhari at the weekend in Abuja decried violent extremism, describing it as the single image crisis confronting Islam today.
The president, in his goodwill message to the Muslim Ummah, on the occasion of today's Maulud in celebration of the birthday of Prophet Muhammad, said violent extremism had been hijacked by a few "misguided elements" who hide under the cloak of religion to perpetrate their criminal agenda.
Buhari also criticised indiscriminate killing of innocent people, kidnap of female students and forcing them into marriage and conversion, describing these as antithetical to the teachings of the prophet.
This is coming as the All Progressives Congress (APC); President Senate, Dr. Ahmad Lawan; Speaker, House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila; former vice president, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar; and National Chairman of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Prince Uche Secondus, urged Muslims to embrace peace and love.
A statement by Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu, said the president called for greater vigilance as a weapon against further spread of the scourge, which he said had been causing havocs across the globe.
Shehu said the president further likened violent extremism to a cancer which must be attacked from its root before it goes out of control and become harmful to the society.
He said: "Violent extremism is the single biggest challenge facing the image of Islam today, which has been hijacked by a minority of misguided elements who are using religion to cover-up their criminal agenda.
"There is the urgent need for increased vigilance by Muslims in order to frustrate and stop the spread of violent ideologies that are causing human havocs and tragedies around the world.
"Extremism is like a cancer that needs to be attacked in its early stages before it grows malignantly out of control and harm the society."
The statement said Buhari also remarked that "the greatest honour Muslims could do Prophet Muhammad is to follow his shining examples of non-violence, peaceful disposition and remarkable virtues of patience."
It also said Buhari remarked that exhibiting the virtues of Muhammad would be more effective in altering a wrong mindset than the best sermons.
"Putting into practice the great virtues for which the Holy Prophet Muhammad is historically famous and revered would have a far greater impact on changing our attitudes and behaviours than the best sermons ever will.
"The indiscriminate killing of innocent people, the kidnapping of female students and forcing them into marriage and conversion is contrary to teachings and personal examples of the Prophet Muhammad," Buhari was further quoted.
The statement added that the president also advised Muslims not to allow their children to be lured and recruited by extremists who will ultimately destroy them and their future.
It also said the president wished the Muslim Ummah a peaceful celebration, urging them to use this occasion to renew their resolve in promoting tolerance, love, harmony and peaceful co-existence in the country.
The statement added that Buhari sent special goodwill messages to the Emirs of Daura, Alhaji Faruk Umar Faruk; Kazaure, Najib Hussaini Adamu; Hadejia, Alhaji Adamu Abubakar Maje Haruna; and that of Gumel, Alhaji Ahmed Mohammed Sani, whose people, he said, celebrate this festival, named Sallar Gani, with greater fervour as well as prayers for the unity, progress, and prosperity of Muslims in Nigeria and around the world.
Meanwhile, the President of the Senate, Lawan, has also felicitated with Muslim faithful on the commemoration of this year's Eid-el-Maulud.
Lawan, in his goodwill message, urged Muslims and Nigerians in general to imbibe the virtues of peace, tolerance, justice and love for one another as exemplified by Prophet Muhammad.
Lawan said the birthday of the Holy Prophet should be an occasion for renewal of commitment to ideals that will enhance peace and prosperity in Nigeria.
He charged Muslims in particular to always emulate the virtues of Prophet Muhammad which include honesty, love for others and peaceful co-existence.
"Prophet Muhammad preached and lived for peace and that is the virtue expected of every Muslim, particularly in a diverse society such as ours.
"This year's occasion is another opportunity to further thank the Almighty Allah for his continued guidance and intervention in the challenges in our society," Lawan said.
Also, the APC has called on the Nigerian Muslims to use the occasion of Eid-Maulud celebration to pray for continuous peaceful coexistence in the country.
The party's National Publicity Secretary, Mallam Lanre Issa-Onilu, in a statement yesterday said that the special day is very significant for all Muslims and, indeed, all lovers of peace, a noble virtue which embodies the life and times of the Prophet.
The ruling party urged Muslims in particular and Nigerians in general to continue to live together in peace, be law abiding and eschew hate and bitterness to enable us build a country that we can all be proud of.
Also the House Speaker in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr. Lanre Lasisi, said Maulud was a time for sober reflections.
He urged Muslims to imbibe the good teachings and the leadership qualities of the Holy Prophet, which he exhibited during his time.
Gbajabiamila urged Muslims to use the occasion to promote unity among the diverse people of Nigeria, noting that peace and unity were key to the development of the country.
Atiku urged Muslims to use religion as a vehicle for the promotion of love, unity and understanding in the country, noting that religious tolerance was a prerequisite for stable and peaceful country, adding that religious leaders should use their positions of influence to spread love, tolerance and respect for others.
"Given our ethnic, cultural and religious diversity in the country, our religious leaders should at all times be alert to any threat to peace on account of incendiary utterances in the name of preaching," he added.
In his message, Secondus charged Nigerian Muslims to pray that Allah would touch the heart of leaders in the country to be sensitive to the deteriorating plight of the poor.
Secondus argued that the worsening condition of Nigerians called for an intense supplication to God for the much needed succour.
The PDP national chairman said in a statement by his media office and signed by Mr. Ike Abonyi that only prayers could save Nigeria from the obvious collapse of governance and justice in the country.
"The increasing number of people dropping to the extreme poverty level in our country in the last four years and the inability of the government in power to deliver good governance entails that we return to God for help," he said.