Alhaji Disu kamar, sits at the top of the hierarchy of the Muslim Public Affairs Centre, (MPAC) as the executive chairman of an incorporated public service agency working for Muslim Defence, Muslim Empowerment and Promoting individual liberties, religious, civil and political rights of Nigerian Muslims.
MPAC operates on the core Islamic values of justice, mercy, human dignity, freedom, and equality for all, forgiveness, sanctity of human life and working for good of the society.
In this interview with our team in Lagos, Disukamar, explains the activities, objectives, mode of operations and how the activities of the organization is funded. Excerpt.
What is the Origin of Muslim Public Affairs Centre (MPAC)?
The MPAC started in 2001 after the September 11 tragic events in America. It started as a medium to react to barrage of attacks on Islam and Muslims in general. The attacks actually got me thinking on how to challenge the situation. A week after, I basically set up a yahoo group for my friends, to chat share resources and information on the consequences of the attack. The number of friends who actually lend their support to the initiative was huge. Subsequently, I started sending them what I picked up from other media, the interest such attacks generate as well as monitoring and responding to media criticism of Islam and Muslims. We call it Shield of Faith. Within few months, I was able to grow the number of people on the mailing list to about 1000. Thus, Shield of Faith became the largest Muslim group that was dedicated to monitoring and responding to media narratives on Muslims. Couple of years later, we needed to be more organised and we then published our intent documents to become professional media monitoring group and political lobbyist for Muslims.
What is your mode of operations?
Interestingly, that is one of the interesting aspects of MPAC. Presently, we stand like a clearing house for a lot of Muslim issues. We function as an online group. Until recently, we do not have a physical office, what we did is that we keep the organisation going as an online platform for eight years. We have people around the globe who through the platform get involved with our activities via e-mails. At a point in our history, I also lived outside Nigeria, yet I was coordinating the activities, Alhamdulilahi It is working so well. If you may know, MPAC has just one full staff, the rest are volunteers till date. Similarly, MPAC is a project base organisation and not theological oriented. This actually creates opportunities for us to shake hands with large numbers of Islamic organisations with various theological backgrounds. We also do lobbying by getting in touch with political representatives and people in governments in order to guide them on how to formulate policies and educate them about things they may find confusing. For instance, if there is an issue we know that is affecting us as a community or as a nation we will get in touch with the policy makers and bring to bear on them pressure through organize effort to say we urge government not to allow such. For example, the Islamic banking debates, the Same-sex Bills etc.
How do you then have positive impacts on Nigerians?
Our impact is huge despite our abstract mode of operations. We might not say directly we have empowerment programmes, but if you look at the projects that we have done one way or the other they actually have impacts on many people. Recently, MAPC despatched three trucks load of relief materials to three Internally Displaced People (IDP) camps in the Northern part of country through collaborative efforts with NASFAT. We do secure scholarships for students, as we speak; we have people on scholarship in South-Africa. We also, have memorandum of understating with foreign Universities, to take care of need of Nigerians. Not too long ago in Jamaica, a Nigerian sister who is on our mailing list and resides there was embarrassed during a courtesy visit by Nigerian Muslim Community to the Nigerian high Commission, the High commissioner, openly called her a masquerade because of her dressing. She got in touch with us and promptly we set our machinery in motion, got in touch with ministry of foreign affairs and within a week, the high commissioner apologised publicly to her.
Sir, in which aggregate areas is MPAC impacting on the community?
Public affairs are about lobbying to influence, government policies on issues that affect Muslims and Non Muslims. For instance, during the last National CONFAB, organised by President Jonathan, MPAC served as a dedicated resources unit to the Nigerian Islamic Council of Affairs, where we developed papers on our position on specific issues. Again, during the debate on same sex marriage even though it was an issue that affect the generality of Nigerians, we developed a position paper based on Islamic point of views to help the National Assembly and told them why such should not hold in Nigeria. We also have been advocating for Muslim political empowerment. During the last general elections we published report basically to distil some of the major issues that affect us across board: Education, Security, Economy etc. We suggested to the voting Muslim public the areas they should direct their thoughts, before voting. Equally MAPC encourages Islamic organisations to invite politicians and engage them with their manifesto so as to make them to focus in areas important to the nation. So these are the type of aggregate roles we have been performing. Let me also add, that during the heat arguments on Islamic banking debacle ,MPAC did a lot of writings and file reports to policy makers and we bring to bear on them pressure through organize efforts which yielded positive outcome.
How do you manage the seeming hostile Nigerian Press and Christians?
What we have done over time is to engage the media and see it as partner creating a society that is inclusive for everybody, without losing our voice as a Muslim community. Through this we are able to clarify issues to those who have little or no knowledge about Islam and win their hearts and minds. We also published materials actually, about six of such and distributed thousands of it free of charge to media houses, professional bodies, human right organisations and to non Muslims on issues that appear controversial in their minds. MPAC exists to educate people about various issues. In reality, there are some people who genuinely misunderstand things that are very important to us. Similarly we do organise an open day programme, where we invite neighbours, companies and non Muslims to come to know more about us, Muslims and Islam. It provides us the opportunity to discuss issues that are of interest to peaceful co-existence. And during MPAC convention, which holds once in a year, we make sure we invite and put in front of Muslims audience powerful voices from Christian community to batter ideas and cross breed ideas.
Where is your source of funding?
As I speaks with you, the policy may change tomorrow we have a policy not to take money from governments and organisations. From inception till now, we have never collected a single kobo from any government here and outside the country; it has always be from public spirited individuals. Strictly, the money comes from individual donations and SEKINA, (community outreach project, of MPAC), which is one of the projects, in the last seven years spent over fifty million Naira just to provide free medical care’s to less privilege people in Nigeria. Last year we did 75 cataract surgeries free for poor people and gave 200 people free medication as well as glasses. The one for this year, will take place in Lagos, In-sha-Allah. Most times, I and other colleagues basically have to look for the funds together.
What is MPAC view (s) on Boko-Harram. These people are committing great sins. The Quran says, killing one person is like killing entire mankind and they have killed thousands of people. I don’t like what they are doing they are criminals. Al-ham dulillahi, I am glad they are now being taken care like common criminals. Sadly, they profess to be Muslims which one cannot ascertain or disprove. We just pray to Allah to wipe these people out of our country and grant us security and peace. They have wrecked a lot of damage.