Concluding part of the remarks at the National Stakeholders Roundtable on Partnership on Strengthening the Role of Religious Experts and Scholars in Countering Violent Extremism in Nigeria Held at NTI Kaduna.
Organised by Office of the National Security Adviser between 19th and 21st January 20, 2015
As I adumbrated earlier, it is curiously unjust that people commit felonies when Government is insulted but when God and His Prophet are insulted, it is freedom of speech. Does it make sense in a world where a vast majority are religious? Muslims love Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). They do so naturally and as a religious duty. According to the Qur’an, “the Prophet is closer to the believers than their own selves” which means that they would prefer the Prophet (PBUH) to their lives.
Therefore, there is no normal Muslim that does not feel hurt when the Prophet (PBUH) is castigated or ridiculed. There is no normal Muslim who does not feel the pains deep in his marrows. It is only the degrees of reaction to the hurt that vary. While 99 per cent of Muslims would consider it as one the suffering they bear in this unjust world being controlled by unjust leaders, part of the remaining one per cent might react in a manner that is often presented as representing the attitude of the vast majority. Islam is aware of the natural inclination of insulting other peoples’ objects of worship and it forbids Muslims from doing so (i.e. And insult not those who they (non-Muslims) worship besides Allah, lest they should wrongfully insult Allah without knowledge. Thus we have made alluring to each people their own doings…)
To drive the point further home, let us consider the Charlie Hebdo issue. Despite the fact the leaders of Muslims in France and beyond have condemned the act, it did not matter to the initiators of the provocation. They went ahead to print additional million copies in order to spite and hurt 1.7 billion Muslims for what two people did. This provocation had the tacit support of governments and people that would otherwise be considered responsible. How do you condone one evil and condemn a similar evil? Evil is evil and all evils by all persons should be countered.
We assume that everyone has a fair knowledge of terrorism, a term seemingly reserved for deviant actions perpetrated by those who bear names associated with Islam, which is part of injustice. A crime committed by a Jew is not blamed on his religion. No one took Judaism to task on trial as a result of Israeli atrocities against the Palestinians. A crime committed by a Christian is not blamed on his religion. No one blamed Christianity when Anders Behring Breivik killed 85 people in one swoop in July 2011 at a summer camp in Oslo. It is whatever people who bear Muslim names do wrong that is blamed on Islam while the infractions of others are treated as non-issues.
There are four causes of contemporary terrorism in my opinion. They are 1) widespread injustice and its glorification, including imbalance 2) Corruption, a cankerworm in the global community; 3) Forced cultural assimilation through which globalization is used to advance the jaundiced philosophy of might is right or the aggressive pursuit of making everyone conform to a single norm; and 4) Lack of leadership, structure and hierarchy in the Islamic community globally and locally, which makes Muslims individualize what should have warranted a collective response.
It is on the basis of the last point that I believe the Nigerian Muslims should boycott all French products. At least, we must look for an acceptable way of registering our collective disgust for what happened regardless of how effective or otherwise it will be. Let Muslims boycott French products even if this is not satisfactory or adequate to some people. The NSCIA is also forwarding a letter of protest to the French embassy to register its disgust on the re-printing of the offensive cartoons while sympathizing with the country on the tragedy. I don’t know how many people have sympathized with us on the horrific massacre at Baga and Doron Baga which happened around the same time where hundreds of our countrymen were killed and “over 3,700 structures were damaged or completely destroyed”, a situation that Amnesty International described as “devastation of catastrophic proportions”.
Another relevant issue here is the speed with which our Federal Government reacted to the Charlie Hebdo tragedy. If the Government had responded to the Boko Haram murderous campaign with the same speed after the abduction of the Chibok girls, we would not be where we are today. It is for this same reason of selective interest in dealing with issues bordering on human life and security that many people believe that the Government is directly or indirectly involved in the spiral of violence being unleashed by the murderous gangs tormenting our peace and security as a country.
Before I conclude, Mr Chairman, let me use this opportunity to call on Nigerians to come together and defy all ethnic and religious contours that are often exploited to divide us to ensure that the forthcoming elections are peaceful and successful. It is in our collective interest that we promote democratic ideals and contribute to the process of governance, part of which is elections. We should discharge this civic responsibility as a religious obligation and we should make the process violence-free. Politicians don’t actually fight wars, they rely on ordinary people. Nobody’s political ambition is worth the blood of any Nigerian as we were all born equally.
Let the world be fair and just. Let the Government of Nigeria be fair and just. Fairness and justice complemented by good governance in all situations are effective counter-terrorism measures. The Nigerian Muslim community will continue to offer sincere advice to the government, even if the Government does not listen to our own advice. We wrote that the Federal Government should postpone the National Conference held last year because nothing would be implemented from its outcome because the timing was wrong and it would affect the preparations for the forthcoming elections. Yet, the Federal Government went ahead to organize it and people are counting it already as part of the failed promises regarding the implementation of the reports. The Federal Government rather prefers to listen to self-serving religious merchants who are concerned about their comfort and pockets. They readily serve as money launderers and gun-runners while pretending to be men of God. They cannot deceive God and wise men and women.
Lastly, I learnt that three magic expressions are “Please”, “I am sorry” and “Thank you”. I plead with the Government to please save Nigeria and Nigerians that are dying like fowls especially in the North-East. I am sorry to those who expect more from some us religious leaders because we can only advise and God is a witness that we do so as sincerely and as frankly as we can. I want to appreciate the National Security Adviser/The SSA and their teams for inviting me to this occasion. And to all of for your attention, I say, “Thank you”.
Prof. Is-haq O. Oloyede, OFR, FNAL,
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