The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami, has offered explanations for his support for the Boko Haram group.
Pantami said this on Saturday at the An-Nur Mosque while responding to the criticism that had followed his past support for Boko Haram and a recent news that the United States of America had put him on a watchlist for supporters of terrorism.
He said like a lot of Muslim scholars, he had while growing up held radical views, adding that this had however changed over time.
In a viral video recorded many years ago, which was later confirmed by his lawyer, Michael Numa, Pantami engaged the late Boko Haram leader and Founder, Mohammed Yusuf, in a discussion publicly.
Pantami, an Islamic scholar who was appointed by President Muhammadu Buhari from his first term in office, according to Peoples Gazette, also once declared that he was always happy when infidels were massacred.
Peoples Gazette said Pantami’s comments were contained in three audio recordings of his teachings in the 2000s, when he took extreme positions in support of the brutal exploits of Al Qaeda and Taliban elements on a campaign to obliterate the West and conquer other parts of the world.
But speaking on Saturday, Pantami said his views on religion had since changed.
He also said no Islamic preacher both in the past and in recent times has criticised and condemned the activities of Boko Haram terrorists than he did.
Pantami, noted that as a Muslim, he has never supported the Boko Haram sect, neither has he promoted terrorism.
He said: On the claim that I am a Boko Haram sympathiser, I want to say that people who have been following my religious evangelism, as a scholar, dating back from 2005 and 2006, know me better.
“They know what I often preached about.”
The Communications and Digital Economy Minister said within the last two decades, he was invited and travelled to Niger Republic, Katsina, Borno and Gombe, among other northern states, where he “vehemently” condemned Boko Haram’s ideology.
“Besides these evangelism missions I embarked on to speak against religious fundamentalism, I also published pamphlets on the nefarious activities of the terrorists’ sect,” he added.
Pantami said that though some of the media attacks on him were motivated by political and economic reasons, he would not be perturbed.
He further noted that he has never been fixated on issues, but rather changes his stance immediately he discovers that his viewpoints and verdicts on such issues are wrong.
He pointed out that though he started preaching as early as when he was 13 years old, his viewpoints have consistently changed as a result of acquiring more knowledge, exposure, travelling and maturity, as he advanced in age.
He said: “I have changed my stance on some issues based on additional facts even after expressing Fatwa, a non-binding religious opinion in response to a question posed to me.”
Pantami disclosed that as a scholar he was able to preach to many fanatical youths who shunned terrorism and went to acquire quality education, becoming engineers and other professionals.
Pantami said he does not tolerate injustice, adding that every Nigerian has the right to practice the religion he likes, in line with the constitution’s provision for freedom of religion.
He said: “If we recalled, President Joe Biden of the United States, then as a Senator in America, did not support the invasion of Afghanistan by his country.
“And at that time, I also did not.
“So, anything that will lead to war is what I have always been against.
“That is why I don’t like injustice.
“Barrack Obama as American President then sought for understanding between the Muslim nations when he realised what he was thinking about them was wrong.
“So, in any given time, the last position is the right position, and that represents my views.
“I once saved two Corps members who were about to lynched in Bauchi State during a fight between Christian and Muslims.
“I personally took them to the mosque to save their lives.
“So, anybody who will protect Christians will you still call him a fanatic?
“Also, I want to say that I was never suspended or expelled from any school as a student or lecturer because of my views, especially on religious matters.”