Re: The Poor Husband, The Rich Wife and Boko Haram
6/24/2012 7:36:32 PM -
Chief Femi Fani-Kayode's piece titled 'The Poor Husband, The Rich Wife and Boko Haram- 22nd June, 2012' would have worth a celebratory dance if it did not end with a factual error, and sadly, what appears to be a strong plea for ethnic cleansing. With the energy and high spirit that the article was written, how come the author was not able to steer clear of divisive languages? Chief Fani-Kayode is calling for a policy of 'the end justifies the means', a jackpot justice and possibly a crime of ethnic cleansing; I wonder if as a member of the Federal Executive Council, this was the way he influenced decisions on behalf of Nigerians.
Chief Fani-Kayode's strong opposition to Mr Mujahid's suggestion (in ''How To Address The Boko Haram Problem In Nigeria'', 25th June, 2011) that President Goodluck Jonathan should seek dialogue ' to resolve the Boko Haram crisis is a direct oxymoron to Chief Fani-Kayode's own challenge to the 'True muslims like Mujahid Asari Dokubo' who 'would do better by trying to educate and enlighten their more extremist Boko Haram islamist brothers to stop the violence, to stop the slaughtering of christians and true muslims alike, to stop destabilising the Nigerian state, to stop trying to islamise northern Nigeria, to stop trying to return our country to the dark ages of the 17th century and to stop trying to wage a global war of terror against the rest of humanity from northern Nigeria.' This is a self-defeating argument; so the President should not seek dialogue, but the Muslims should dialogue with the Boko Haram? Maybe there is something I am getting wrong here- perhaps President Jonathan should not dialogue with the Boko Haram because, unlike us, he is not a Muslim. And if that part of his article is simply exhorting Muslims to condemn the sinful crimes of Boko Haram, such condemnation, in line with mainstream Muslim scholarship and sentiment, has always come in torrents.
There is need to dissociate from those elements seeking to mischaracterize Islam, those violent individuals that have become agents of death, why do we, as responsible and peace-loving Muslim Nigerians, have to repeat for the umpteenth time the fact that we are as much victims of Boko Haram terrorism as any other Nigerian? Muslims have been killed directly by this terrorist group, Muslim community leaders have been hunted down and murdered even inside mosques, and Muslims continue to die from reprisal attacks when these terrorists hit their targets. Why do we have to say these things when they are so self-evident? Perhaps, as the British author, George Orwell, once said, 'We have now sunk to a depth at which the restatement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men.'
Admittedly, Chief Fani-Kayode made a clear distinction between what he called a true Muslim and the terrorists, this is a very good and praiseworthy act, however the very notion of 'Islamizing' as Chief Fani-Kayode alludes to is antithetical to the timeless Islamic tradition of freedom of religion and conscience and completely out of line with mainstream Muslim scholarship. This point is very important and needs further comments. Whatever anyone may say on this issue, the Qur'an, the highest source of religious instruction in Islam is unequivocal on it; 'If your Lord had willed, all the people on the earth would have believed. Do you think you can force people to be believers?' (Surah Yunus, 99). 'O Mankind! We created you from a male and female, and made you into peoples and tribes so that you might come to know each other. The noblest among you in Allah's sight is that one of you who best performs his duty. Allah is All-Knowing, All-Aware." (Surat al-Hujurat, 13). 'Let there be no compulsion in religion. Truth has been made clear from error. Whoever rejects false worship and believes in God has grasped the most trustworthy handhold that never breaks. And God hears and knows all things.' (Quran Bakarah:256); 'So if they dispute with you, say 'I have submitted my whole self to God, and so have those who follow me.' And say to the People of the Scripture and to the unlearned: 'Do you also submit yourselves?' If they do, then they are on right guidance. But if they turn away, your duty is only to convey the Message. And in God's sight are all of His servants.' (Quran 3:20). Some people might be wondering that if Islam indeed advocates freedom of conscience and worship so blantantly, then how about the warfare that the Prophet (AS) and his Companions waged against the pagans? Yes, defensive and pre-emptive warfare is allowed in Islam (with clear rules of engagement) but for all the different reasons why the Muslims might engage in war, compelling people to accept Islam is simply not one of them. More so for Muslims, Judaism, Christianity and Islam are but three forms of one religion, which, in its original purity, was the religion of Abraham (AS). It follows, therefore, that all three monotheistic religions are called to cooperate with one another for the common good of humanity, serving the case of justice and peace in the world. Of course nothing in the evil ideology of the Boko Haram group is in consonance with this prophetic teaching and tradition.
Let us examine briefly the Prophet's (AS) treatment of the "People of the Book"; he showed religious tolerance as well as prudence. In the free state of Medina, the Prophet (AS) produced the Constitution of Medina - first of its kind in the intellectual and political history of human civilization.
Envisioned in this document was a modern pluralistic, religiously tolerant state. To regulate the relationship between the Islamic state and its minority citizens, prophet Muhammad (AS) spelled out Jews' rights as non-Muslim citizens. As a result, the Prophet (AS) managed to establish a multi-faith political community in Medina based on a set of universal principles. The rules set out in the constitution were meant to maintain peace and cooperation, protect life and property, prevent injustice and ensure freedom of religion and movement for all inhabitants regardless of tribal or religious affiliation. Among the clauses relating to the Jews are the following:
the Jews shall not be wronged, nor shall their enemies be given aid
the Jews will be treated as one community with the Muslims, but each has their own religion
the Jews have the same status as the parties making the pact
This constitution (
http://www.mpac-ng.org/specialtopic/386-the-medina-charter.html) written in Gregorian year of 622, more than thirteen hundred years before the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), established the pattern for the future relationship between Muslims and non-Muslims, specifying non-Muslim citizens as equal partners with Muslim inhabitants.
This attitude of tolerance was further exemplified at a time that the Prophet (AS) ruled the Muslim nation, adjourned by a Christian valley called Najran in the south of Arabia. Najran had a Bishop called Abu Harithah ibn 'Alqamah who was considered an authority on the Christian faith. In response to a letter sent by the Prophet inviting them to Islam the Bishop sent a delegation of 60 people to Madina in order to get first-hand information about the Prophet. Their discussions dragged on till the evening when the delegation had to offer their normal prayer. Seeing this, the prophet offered his Christian guests the use of the mosque, the 2nd holiest mosque for the entire Muslim world, where they worshipped before the discussion continued. At the end of their stay, with each side holding firmly to its respective positions, the prophet Muhammad (AS) dictated and signed a pact with the Najran Christians. This important document, in part, reads;
'Najran has the protection of God and the pledges of Muhammad, the Prophet, to protect their lives, faith, land, property, those who are absent and those who are present, and their clan and allies. They need not change anything of their past customs. No right of theirs or their religion shall be altered. No bishop, monk or church guard shall be removed from his position. Whatever they have is theirs, no matter how big or small. They are not held in suspicion and they shall suffer no vengeance killing. They are not required to be mobilized and no army shall trespass on their land. If any of them requests that any right of his should be given to him, justice shall be administered among them. He who takes usury on past loans is not under my protection. No person in Najran is answerable for an injustice committed by another.'
Almost 15 years later, when Muslims conquered Jerusalem from the Byzantines, Caliph Umar Ibn al-Khattab granted its people, who were mainly Christians, safety for their persons, property and churches. The truth is that none of these clear examples of tolerance are being put into practice by violent extremists like the Boko Haram group; rather they interpret religious scripture in the way they will like to see it written- to justify terrorist attacks against innocent individuals. Yet history reveals that Islam as preached in the Qur'an and exemplified by the life of the Prophet Muhammad and his companions actually accepts, celebrates and even encourages pluralism and diversity. What the terrorist will like us to forget is the fact that it was the Christian nation of Abyssinia (present day Ethiopia), that provided refuge for the first group of Muslim political asylum seekers. The Prophet Muhammad (AS) had instructed his Companions to flee to Abyssinia due to their violent persecution by the Meccans. The Prophet had called the Abyssinian king, a just ruler. All these are very important resources in the two faiths that we can rely on to live amicably, and contribute to nation building efforts, and the progress of our nation.
Against the fantasies of those calling for Boko Haram group to be crushed by brute military force alone (and this is problematic also on the premise that so many individuals have been caught attempting to bomb churches whom the media later confirmed to be Christians. There are credible reports of such individuals either marauding as Boko Haram members or simply out to cause their own mischief), they have not learned from United States of America's bitter experience in its own dangerous adventures where the poisonous ideology of the Al Qaeda organization alone has proven more powerful than the armies of the world's sole superpower. In each country that America is conducting its discredited war of terror, the Al-Qaida terrorist group has proven effective in bleeding America slowly and wearing it down to such a point that, the only sensible way out of the quagmire for the Americans seems to be retreat. Through the foolish decision to bomb without regard for the devastating consequences of 'collateral damage' America continues to help Al Qaeda recruit more volunteers.
Therefore, Chief Fani-Kayode's call for the Nigerian Armed Forces to crush the Boko Haram 'regardless of the collateral damage and immense infrastructural destruction that this will cause in various northern cities' is therefore a very frightening and excessive fantasy that borders on ethnic cleansing. How many people is Chief Fani-Kayode ready to accept as worthy collateral damage in those Northern cities? 10, 20, 100, 1000, 10000 or simply whatever number it takes for the job to be done? This twisted idea that innocent human beings can be called collateral damage (America should feel ashamed it invented this concept in the first place) as part of actions against legitimate targets is not different to the crimes against humanity committed by Bush and Blair (despicable war boys who created heaps of 'collateral damages' in Afghanistan and Iraq on what they knew was a pack of lies). The unfortunate reference to the Odi massacre in Chief Fani-Kayode's article as a 'remarkable success' notwithstanding, the very idea that he, a former federal minister, or anyone for that matter genuinely believes that the only way to keep the terrorists at bay is by slaughtering innocent Nigerians is not only grotesque, it is also sickening. There is a real danger that such a dangerous idea may find respectability only because of its source(s), and the unfettered access he(they) may have to influence public opinion.
Finally Chief Fani-Kayode's reference to a '17th century Islamic fundamentalist caliphate' in his article is a factual error. The Islamic Caliphate of the 17th century, the Ottomans, had uninterrupted centuries of control of a vast empire under great leaders, and an elegant tradition that Turkey has inherited today. The repeated reference to a 17th Century Islamic fundamentalist caliphate in his article is unsupported and merely a myth that is probably picked up from lazy scholarship.
The Boko Haram group has become loose cannon that are difficult to control and it doesn't make a different to them whether you are a Muslim or not. Once you do not subscribe to their evil ideology you simply become a legitimate target, or in the cases of attacks targeted specifically against Christians, you either become expendable or a 'collateral damage'. Breaking the back of such a group will entail more than sheer military might. Anyone who truly believes that as long as defeating terrorist is concerned, and destroying their poisonous ideology, the bigger the bomb, the clearer the message is either being insincere or simply living in his cuckoo land.
Combating terrorism wherever it manifests itself will require all peaceable people (Muslims, Christians, idol-worshippers, Atheists- all Nigerians) to contribute to the basic acceptance of a simple fact: that ALL human lives are sacrosanct. This is why in the Qur'an God describes Himself as 'King of mankind, Lord of mankind' (Surah Nas:2-3)' Tolerance and mutual respect must also be taught and integrated into the educational system and school curricular. Muslim Nigerians have totally and openly rejected the extreme and violent ideology of this Al-Qaeda franchisee, but we need sincere partners within the Christian community who are willing to reign in their own extremist elements, and co-operate towards integration and national security in order to achieve mutually acceptable progress. Thankfully, a number of courageous Christian leaders are showinggreat examples, and they need all the encouragement to remain courageous leaders even at very dark moments. At a time like this when Boko Haram is a scourge on all Nigerians, what we need are leaders that will speak and act with courage, not with rage.
Any group or individuals throwing bombs into churches packed with innocent worshippers, or strapping bombs to the body to savagely kill children are a despicable breed and hate-filled maniacs who hold life, law and human rights so cheap that unleashing terror on the nation is not a problem to them. It is impossible for someone who fears God and has grasped the morality of Islam to engage in this horrible sin or support it. What Boko Haram deserves from all Nigerians is an absolute and merciless rejection in both words and deeds. This will not be possible if we continue to allow Boko Haram to keep us bickering about our own culpability in their crimes- crimes we are not parties to. Certain aspects of Chief Fani-Kayode's article must therefore be read with artistic licence in mind; more so, readers should beware of politically motivated hype. While on the surface, Chief Fani-Kayode's call to action may seem sound, the devil is always in the details.
Director of Media and Communications
Muslim Public Affairs Centre, MPAC