Days after the New Zealand terrorist attacks that saw 50 Muslim worshippers dead and 50 injured, Sheikh Abdur Rahman Ahmad has called on the Nigerian Muslim community to safeguard all Islamic institutions, particularly mosques, against imminent attacks.
Sheikh Ahmad, who is the spiritual head of Ansar-Ud-Deen, Nigeria’s first elite Islamic society, stated that it has become pertinent for places of worship to build emergency response guilds, where worshippers will take solace or exit via escape routes during emergencies.
In an exclusive interview with Muslim News, Sheikh Ahmad said such attacks could happen anywhere and anytime, hence the need to be trained, informed, aware and sensitised on how to prevent such or control their occurrence.
He condemned the Christchurch incident, describing it as wicked and uncalled for, while calling on the security agencies in Nigeria to investigate a Twitter user, Comrade Chidi who called for the similar terrorist attacks at the Abuja National Mosque.
Elucidating on the workability of such safety guilds, Sheikh Ahmad said the first step is to put a document in place. Essentially, such a document will be a practical manual on how people should respond to cases of fire or threats from active shooters like the New Zealand scenario, or intrusions that have occurred in mosques or other institutions.
According to him, it is the standard in western countries, even for buildings, and periodically, they carry out drills. They would just simulate a scenario where someone wants to attack them. Their would be prior notification. Where would they exit the building from? What would they do in such emergency situations? Such are the issues to train building users on.
“For instance, there is a boom in the mosque while prayer is on, what should be the next move? Everyone should run or lie down? Just like during Solatul Khauf (prayer of fear), some would be praying while others would be watching. All these are some of what should be contained in the document.
“Secondly, the Imams and their followers should be trained on such a document regularly and periodically. There are 9 screens. If they break the first, the second shouldn’t be broken, and so on. There must be an alarm system. These are the things the response plan should contain.
Sheikh Ahmad said the notion that many of the mosques and Islamic institutions can not afford the emergency response guild is a great problem the Muslims forced on themselves.
“Muslims are not supposed to take things for granted, especially matters of security. We should not wait till they enter the mosque and start killing us like animals. That would be too costly. Most of these things we are suggesting are very practicable.
“One is knowledge, information and awareness. Two is constant sensitisation on what could happen. We have been in this illusion of security for so long. If you visit Maiduguri, Bauchi and other places, you would discover that misfortune has taught them to be proactive, while we down South are still in the realm of ‘Allah will protect us.’
“Yes, Allah will protect us, but we need to take steps. Just that at the level of implementation, the local masjids might not be able to do more, but the bigger ones should do something more elaborate.”
He called on the leaders of, Muslim organisations and mosques to break out of their shells and forget about all their illusions of security, saying there is so much hate around us and the world is changing.
“The rise of the far-right, white supremacists is a very big danger to everyone in the world. It is a great indication that Islamophobia is real. So, first and foremost, we must have a consensus among the Muslim Community before we can promote this. What is Islamophobia? How do you identify it? How do you respond to it? That’s one. Two is how do we respond to actual incidents?” he added.