‘Allahu Akbar,’ the Arabic phrase used by Muslims to express faith or thanksgiving, means Allah (God) is the greatest. As a matter of fact, it is no more troubling than a Christian saying ‘Thank God.’ However, alarming events have left many to wonder if the Arabic phrase is a declaration of faith or a battle cry.
In a viral video, Deborah Samuel, a student at a college in Sokoto State, Northern Nigeria was stoned, beaten, and burnt to death by her classmates for allegedly blaspheming the prophet Muhammad (SAW). Her crime? Requesting that only academic posts be made to the class Whatsapp group instead of those religiously inclined.
Her request raised the ire of members of the group who, reports have it, demanded an apology for her tone in addressing the issue. She was met with an angry mob of students armed with sticks and stones threatening to kill anyone standing in their way. While her killers take credit for killing the infidel, the phrase Allahu Akbar is chanted repeatedly in the background.
A majority of perpetrators in similar scenarios claim to back their actions on directives from the Holy Book. This is conflicting, as the prophet Muhammad (SAW), on whom Islamic teachings are founded, was a man of peace. He returned his unfair treatments of mockery, assault and defamation with patience, forbearance and mercy.
In fact, the Quran warns Muslim against revenge when they are insulted.
It states: ‘We already know that your heart is constrained by what they say, so glorify the praises of your Lord and be among those who prostrate.’ [Surah al-Hijr, 15:97-98]. The Holy Book goes further to state that ‘You will surely be tested in your possessions and in yourselves, and you will surely hear from those who were given the Scripture before you and from those who associate others with Allah much abuse. But if you are patient and fear Allah, that is of the matters requiring resolve.’ [Surah Ali Imran, 3:186].
So, if Allah is the greatest, why go against His warnings of violence and killings?
It leaves the mind to ponder if something sinister is at play - terrorism masked under religious extremism.
It is one thing to kill, it is another to boldly film, admit to the crime and circulate the video knowing that you can get away with murder. This is what terror seeks: to project fear and dominance. And to prove that some are above the law.
The consequence of this has presented the peace preaching religion, Islam, as otherwise, seeing as the perpetrators of these crimes have one thing in common - killing for the prophet and the faith.
Since Deborah’s killing, there has been a national uproar demanding her killers be brought to book and for political players to lend their voices. In an attempt to pass justice, a few arrests were made.
However, this led to a series of violent protests demanding the suspects be released as they did nothing wrong. This is quite baffling and sad, to say the least. At the forefront of the protests were children holding sticks and machetes, and joining adults to destroy shops owned by innocent people while chanting ‘Allahu Akbar’.
And so the vicious cycle continues. Children are immersed in this pattern of violence and killings, imitating what they see and learning modified versions of the Quran adapted to suit ulterior motives.
Nigeria is still one of the poorest countries in the world. The education system is in shambles, insecurity has overridden security and our economic travails are getting worse. Yet, blasphemy tops the problems that need to be addressed. Who do we blame?
Claire Mom is a Nigerian journalist.
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