A Muslim group, Nasrul-Lahi-L-Fatih Society, also known as NASFAT, on Tuesday commenced a campaign to end violence against children, stressing that underage marriage is against the tenets of Islam.
NASFAT’s Second Vice-President, Alhaji Abdul-Rauf Adedeji, said in Calabar at the commencement of the campaign that no parent had absolute control over the future of the girl child.
The campaign, scheduled for three local government areas of Cross River State, is being carried out by NASFAT in collaboration with the United States Agency for International Development and United Nations Children’s Fund.
Adedeji said the two international agencies decided to partner NASFAT to ensure that the campaign gets to the grassroots.
According to Adedeji, while children should be well nurtured to adulthood, it is the duty of parents to ensure that the girl child is given western and vocational education before she is given out in marriage.
Adedeji said, “It does not mean that because you gave birth to the girl child that you have absolute control over her life. In Islam, you have a level you must train your child up to before you give her out in marriage. We believe that the issue of underage marriage is largely due to poverty.
“At this point, we must separate people’s culture from Islam. We are going to engage our leaders to drive home this campaign to end violence against children by 2030. One of our vehicles for propagating Islam is education. Cherish your children because Islam does not encourage violence against them.”
The Cross River State coordinator of the campaign, Alhaji Abdulsalam Abdullateef, said failure to send a child to school as well as encouraging underage marriage was an aspect of violence against children.
“Islam does not permit underage marriage. It is not everything that is done in a Muslim-dominated society that is Islam. Islam supports western education and not sending children to school is violence against children. That is why you see a lot of almajiris (beggars) on the roads.
“We need to change this perception by sending our children to school. Islam is recognised as an educated religion. So, we must continue to keep it that way,” he said.
In his contribution, the Leader of the Hausa/Fulani in the Nasarawa community of Calabar, Alhaji Sani Baba-Gombe, said underage marriage was as a result of illiteracy.
He said a girl child should be given the opportunity to be educated so that she could make meaningful contributions.