Nigeria On the Road to Bangladesh and the Boko Haram In Us, By Majeed Dahiru
Nigeria is on the road to Bangladesh where honour killings and blasphemy laws are firmly rooted and practiced. Boko Haram is not restricted to the insurgency in the North-East. There is a bit of Boko Haram in some of us. Any Muslim who hates Christians and wishes death unto them is a Boko Haram. Any Muslim who disrupts church services and prevents Christians from worshipping freely is a Boko Haram.
Nigerians are generally regarded as religious but in the negative sense. Our religiosity is devoid of faith in God almighty because it is more physical and symbolic than spiritually faithful. We disobey God in the process of our religious display, which in more cases are more self-serving than serving God. We hold beliefs that are contrary to the will and command of God. Our religious conducts are devoid of any form of humanism and love for mankind. We claim to love God but hate his most special creature, mankind, whom he loves so much, because he created them in his own image and likeness. We hate and seek to destroy fellow human beings in the name of God, which is contrary to the wishes of that God we claim to serve. Are we really serving God or ourselves?
I have observed with pain in my heart the recent killings and disruption of religious activities of some Christian faithful by suspected radical Muslims. Radical Islam is on the rise globally. If the Middle East Muslims have a clash of socio-economic interests with the Judeo-Christian West, which may have found expression in violent Islamic movements, Nigerian Muslims have absolutely no justification to be radicalised other than complete misguidance. I am a devout Muslim from a Muslim family of five preceding generations. Muslims enjoy total freedom of religion and practice of same. The entire Nigerian system is adapted to suit our Muslim lifestyle and make our religious life very convenient. Mosques are built in every public building for Muslims to be able to observe congregational prayers, during working hours. Public holiday is declared to mark all Muslim festivities. Women are allowed to wear hijab everywhere and anywhere. Our judicial system incorporates aspects of sharia law in family matters. All these privileges are despite the fact that Nigeria is a multi-religious country where Muslims do not have absolute majority but a slight simple majority. Therefore, rather than hate a fellow countrymen of a different faith from mine, I choose to love and appreciate them for their love, understanding and tolerance of me and the entire Muslim community in Nigeria.
Sometime in June this year, a seventy-four-year-old woman, Bridget Agbahime, a devout Christian of the Deeper Life Bible Church was killed in the presence of her husband, at the Kofar Wambai Market in Kano State. She was beaten to death on allegations of blasphemy by an irate mob of Muslims. This is sad because blasphemy laws are not Islamic but only practiced wrongly by some Muslims. One week later a young Christian man, Francis Emmanuel was beaten to pulp in the Kakuri area of Kaduna for eating in public during Ramadan by some Muslim youths. Before we can come to terms with these ugly incidents, another one happened. On Friday, the 15th day of July, a mob of Muslims straight from their Juma`at service invaded and disrupted the activities of St Philips Catholic Church located around the famous Zuma Rock in Niger State. The mob reportedly destroyed church property and beat up men and women who came to worship there. According to reports, their reason was that they disapprove of church activities on Friday, a day that is supposed to be the exclusive preserve of Muslims to worship. However, the most shocking was the case of sister Eunice Elisha, a Christian Evangelist and a member of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, who was brutally murdered in the early hours of the 9th of July in Abuja, the capital of Nigeria, when the 42-year-old mother of four went out to preach. Security reports on the incidence are still very hazy, but judging by recent happenings, it is easy to conclude that this crime is motivated by hate and intolerance.
Nigeria is on the road to Bangladesh where honour killings and blasphemy laws are firmly rooted and practiced. Boko Haram is not restricted to the insurgency in the North-East. There is a bit of Boko Haram in some of us. Any Muslim who hates Christians and wishes death unto them is a Boko Haram. Any Muslim who disrupts church services and prevents Christians from worshipping freely is a Boko Haram. Any Muslim who practices honour killing and executes blasphemy laws is a Boko Haram. All these negative beliefs, like Boko Haram, are not Islamic but Muslim. The Muslim community in Nigeria must do much more to inculcate the culture of religious tolerance in our Islamic religious studies curricula. Muslims must begin to teach religious tolerance and peaceful coexistence from the home front into the larger society. The mob of misguided Muslims perpetrating this crime are only products of the lager Muslim community in Nigeria. Enough of denial but time for positive actions to save our country from falling apart. The beautiful religion of Islam has been given a bad image by radical Muslims and this have greatly diminished the inherent virtues of mercy, grace, compassion, forgiveness, kindness, love and justice that are the hallmarks of this great religion.
I am also worried by the belated response from the Federal Government on each occasion. President Muhammadu Buhari must do more to reign in radical Muslims by showing good example of religious tolerance. It is condemnable that there was no Muslim representative from the Federal Government on condolence visit to the bereaved family of the slain Eunice Elisha.
I am also worried by the belated response from the Federal Government on each occasion. President Muhammadu Buhari must do more to reign in radical Muslims by showing good example of religious tolerance. It is condemnable that there was no Muslim representative from the Federal Government on condolence visit to the bereaved family of the slain Eunice Elisha. This crime happened in Abuja and I expected the president as a Muslim to personally attend the funeral service to send a clear message of religious tolerance and accommodation. Nothing forbids a Muslim from attending church services for burial rites. Remember that the president had actually attended some Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) programmes during his campaign for election. His relationship with the RCCG is quite profound because his Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbanjo is a pastor of that congregation. Sadly, the president has not been seen in any church service after his election. Recall that former President Olusegun Obasanjo was always demonstrating religious tolerance by personal example. Obasanjo once chaired the committee of the renovation of the national mosque and he delivered on the task very well. Obasanjo, a Christian, was always quick to wield the big stick against fellow Christians whenever they appeared to transgress against Muslims.
In 2002, when Nigeria won the hosting rights for the Miss world beauty pageant but which many men of faith across religious divides where not very comfortable, controversy was stirred up by an article written by Isioma Daniel and published by ThisDay newspapers on November 16th, 2002, which the Muslim community considered blasphemous. There were violent demonstrations in some Northern states which recorded the losses of innocent lives. Obasanjo personally condemned the writer and the write up in its entirety. Obasanjo had also openly insulted a Christian leader over the issue of the 2004 Jos crisis between the predominantly Muslim Hausa-Fulani community and predominantly Christian tribes of the Plateau. He went ahead to declare a state of emergency in Plateau State, contrary to the wishes of his fellow Christians. These actions, even though extreme in some cases, went a long way to re-assure the Muslim community in Nigeria of justice and fairness. President Buhari should consolidate on these gains and not reverse them.
I pray for the souls of the departed servants of God to find rest in the bosom of God almighty. They are no doubt martyrs. They died in the service of God. They were unknown and insignificant in life, because they were humble and obedient servants of God, who cared less for this world but more for the life after life, and became globally famous in death. Such is the sign of sainthood. They have joined the legion of saints and their souls will be heralded before God, their creator, by the Cherubim and Seraphim at the head of heavenly choir of joyful angels, singing songs of praise to the Highest. The Holy Quran describes them thus, “and nearest among them in love to the believers would you find those who say we are Christians, because amongst these are men devoted to learning, and men who have renounced the world, and they are not arrogant.” – Q5vs 82. God bless Nigeria.
Majeed Dahiru, a public affairs analyst, writes from Abuja and can be reached through firstname.lastname@example.org.