Nwabuzor's Panorama

The truth must be told without fear or favor. Some adherents of Islam are engaging religious intolerance to cause a split in the social architecture of the country.
Saturday, November 23, 2002

Steve Nwabuzor


here is a violent streak about adherents of Islam in some Northern towns that provokes irritation and hatred from other Nigerians. Recurrently, this anomalous tendency takes the better part of human rationality by inflicting death and destruction on innocent citizens, churches and businesses of those with opposing religious views. This pernicious behavior has attained a threshold level whereby the peaceful coexistence of people of other religious persuasions in these northern cities can no longer be guaranteed. Consequently, the basis of nationhood is once again being questioned.

I marvel about the short fuses shown by Mullahs who arrogate to themselves the exclusive cognitive interpretation and meaning of the teachings in the Holy Qu'ran and who feed such warped understanding to their unthinking flock. Those who learn by rote without clear understanding of the teachings embedded in the Qu'ran are under spiritual bondage, hence the willing ease in which these are turned to Islamic 'zombies' by default. Yet, we are often bombarded with false propaganda from hypocritical Islamic scholars of the non-violence of Islam? If the latter were true, it is clear that the frequent resorts to maiming, destruction and murder by Islamic bigots in the cities of Kano, Kaduna and some other northern towns and cities do in fact have other causes beside the often touted excuse of provocation.

For if the truth must be told, it is obvious that adherents of different faiths from Islam are provoked incessantly by the idiosyncratic nature and episodic mania of some of these so-called Muslims that parade the socio-political landscape of the country. But those with divergent beliefs do not allow the brute to foreclose reason and tolerance? What is it in a newspaper opinion by an employee that invoked the worst in human form? Why are some adherents of Islam ever ready to violently defend their faith against the 'peaceful teachings' of the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH)?

Babbling that no religion encourages 'nudist' parades of beautiful damsels could have stopped in verbal and written protest, as other religious groups in the country have done regarding the current Miss World competition in Nigeria? The editor is within her purview to publish personal opinions. That is the power of choice which nature conferred on Homo sapiens. To do otherwise, in order to please a segment of society, is to mortgage conscience and to live in facultative bondage in a secular society! Subsequently, the apology made by ThisDay lends validity to the pseudo dictum that violence as a means of redressing issues pays in Hobbesian societies. ThisDay should have hinged its explanation on the journalistic blueprint that governs its professional ethos. Unfortunately, fear and pecuniary benefits appear to supercede the defense of professional ethics.

When a particular religious group decides to lord it over innocent others, then the flash for a social conflagration of unimaginable proportions has been lit. Ever since I was a child, under British colonialism through the independence years and until 1966 when the first military coup took place in Nigeria, Miss Nigeria contests were part of the annual sports. Those were the years when the triumvirate juggernauts of Nigerian politics (Zik, Awo and Ahmadu Bello) ruled their respective regions almost with unbridled power! Yet the same Ahmadu Bello (Gamji) whose great-grandfather, Othman Dan Fodio, brought Islam to overthrow the Habe (Hausa pagan) Kingdoms of old did not beat the drums of intolerance under this guise?

Nigerians now know that there is a social and political re-engineering being fabricated by the new breed 'Ayatollahs' (political and spiritual) in the epicenters of the Islamic North. Their ultimate aim is to cow expressions of others who believe that the corporate responsibility of the Nigerian state would guarantee the freedoms of speech, livelihood and religious practice. So far, that responsibility has not been fulfilled by the State, and the reign of Islamic zealots in form of 'Shariah' seems to be having a field day! Otherwise, how can one explain the Fatwah being solicited in some quarters against the publisher of This Day's newspapers and editor, Isioma Daniel, in 21st century Nigeria?

Without a doubt, the stimulus for co-existing with these aberrant practitioners of Islam in our plural society is being paralyzed with the constant religious intolerance unleashed in the land. Continuously, peaceful and law-abiding Nigerians are subjected to the specter of seeing brutes and monsters draped in Islamic toga as fellow citizens. These 'monsters' have virtually defined what to sell, how to dress, where to live, how to think and worship for others within their locus of habitation.

One must not lose sight of the fact that the work of Christian evangelism in the core north has been made rather difficult by the rabid behaviors of the almajiris, as churches become easy targets for razing at any opportunity, which is a pointer to the ruthless scorching of the efforts made, so far, to pull down the walls of Islam in the North. The Christian succor is in the Word which states that 'We should resist the Devil, and he will flee from us'. Resist! Christians must. Fighting to gain the Kingdom back is a mandate. For ever since the time of John the Baptist, the kingdom of God suffered violence and those who want to take it back must also use force. The latter is where Christians must pin their faith and tackle the brute with incessant prayers, and by employing the wisdom of the serpent. Christians cannot and should not allow the fanatical followers of Islam to divest them of their richly heritage to live free in their own land and kingdom.

The truth must be told without fear or favor. Some adherents of Islam are engaging religious intolerance to cause a split in the social architecture of the country. In their psyche is ingrained the 'secured' feeling that Nigeria is an Islamic state and they are bent in using any means necessary to ram the message into others. The recent camouflage of using an editorial opinion to protest the hosting of the Miss World Competition in such a bizarre and reckless manner is detestable and deserves the condemnation of sane people the world over, irrespective of religious persuasion.

Finally, the government of Nigeria and apostles of mutual cohabitation must be told unequivocally that This Day has not transgressed journalistic ethos and as such the clamor for prosecution of the Editor and Publisher is misplaced, sectarian and an affront on the journalistic precepts which have set Nigeria apart in Africa as a bastion of free press. It is those who unleashed mayhem, death and destruction on innocent citizens of our country that must be brought to book. To do otherwise would be sending a clear signal to other Nigerians that the time may be ripe to tell the Islamic zealots to find their level and seek a separate existence from Nigeria.