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Sunday, December 12, 2010

ANOTHER RELIGIOUS CRISIS…?

Another incident of religious unrest was averted penultimate week in Kano when one Mr. Patrick of Sabon-Gari was reported to have blasphemed against the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). The police must be commended for their timely intervention in preventing carnage in the name of a religion that teaches peace. I do not believe that a non-Muslim living in Muslim dominated area will risk doing anything that will provoke the Muslims let alone author blasphemous words against the persona of the Prophet (SAW); and after knowing about the infamous This Day newspaper article that occasioned the Miss World crisis in this country, or, the most recent, (Danish) pictorial representation of the Prophet (SAW) that sparked off demonstrations in the Muslim world.
Muslim scholars should sit up to their responsibilities by using the mosque as a place of scholarship and a conflict resolution centre. Today, in Nigeria, Islam has a new set of defenders in the ranks of okada riders, local manicurists, hooligans, restive youth and what not; people who hardly, if at all, pray and know nothing about Islam but its name. If the rumour is not about defilement of the Glorious Qur’an by a non-Muslim, it will be that of blasphemy against the Holy Prophet (SAW). An argument may start between two people who, by chance, may belong to different creeds (Islam or Christianity), and before you know it everything turns to conflict in religion. There are cases of sheer envy of hardworking, industrious people who settled in the North and are successful in their businesses. Some sedentary rascals who prefer to beg rather than start businesses or acquire skills will impute falsely or put blasphemy on someone else’s tongue because they happen to be non-Muslims. These self-anointed defenders of faith will spread the rumour and urge people on to unrest which often times leads to killing the innocent, burning/looting of property and the destruction of places of worship. In one such incident in Abuja during the Miss World riots, these miscreants smashed windscreens of cars parked at the National Mosque and went on the rampage in the Wuse Market looting, breaking into liquor shops and consuming alcohol in the day of Ramadan. Voodoo mujahidin!
Moreover, there are others who frequent the mosques for salah, etc. This group consists of brothers who love Islam in ignorance. They worship without knowledge, misrepresent their faith in numberless ways and are ever ready to join the first group of mischief makers to cause mayhem in the name of Islam. Unfortunately, our imams are weary of addressing the problem in their khutbah for fear of being tagged: the enemies of Allah, the ‘government malams’. We have allowed the ignorant among us, without any training or scholarship, to lead. They dictate to the imam what course of action to take or what to say in any given issue. The Imam must support the distorted jihad of their muddled dreams or will be called names or dealt with in some other ways.
What is blasphemy in Islam? Is it only when a non-Muslim insults the prophet (SAW) or can a Muslim be guilty of blasphemy? Does describing the Plateau State governor as Jesus, for instance, by a Muslim group in Jos constitute blasphemy? Yes, it does. Can you imagine what will happen were a Christian to describe, say, the Kaduna state governor as Prophet Muhammad? Then, why are we silent on the Jos blasphemy against Jesus Christ (peace be upon him)? Blasphemy is blasphemy.  It is not confined to maligning the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) or the Glorious Qur’an. Blasphemous libel means vilifying any of Allah’s messengers including Jesus Christ (peace be upon him); it covers defiling any of Allah’s revealed scriptures to His Prophets (peace be upon them all). ‘ Say O Muslims: “We believe in Allah, and the revelation given to us, and to Abraham, Isma’il, Isaac, Jacob, and the Tribes, and that given to Moses and Jesus, and that given to (all) Prophets from their Lord: we make no difference between one and another of them: and we bow to Allah (in Islam). (Al Baqarah, 2:136).  
Kano, like many states in Northern Nigeria, is implementing the Shariah Law under the aegis of the courts and the ulemaa (Muslim scholars) who know how to handle any genuine case of blasphemy or denigration of the Qur’an by those who profess or repudiate Islam. Nobody should be allowed to take the law into their own hands!
At the aftermath of every crisis in this country, the government will set up committees of enquiry to look into the remote and immediate causes of the problem and advise the authorities on how to avert future occurrence. Such committees will sit, undertake its task according to its terms of reference and submit report to government. The recommendations of these committees are never implemented and no one has ever been punished. If we really desire to forestall religious crisis in Nigeria, findings and recommendations of committees must be implemented to the fullest and the guilty ones punished so that miscreants will think twice before they kill or burn the property of law abiding citizens.
Another solution to the so-called religious crisis is the Kaduna model under Makarfi. The state has got more than its fair share of religious killings. No solution. If one crisis ends today, another will commence tomorrow with the attendant loss of life and property. Succeeding governments had tried many ways to arrest the situation- setting up committees, dusk to dawn curfews during crises etc- all to no avail. Governor Makarfi did something different: a joint taskforce of all the security agencies – Police, Mopol and Military (with permanent camps in myriad places) – was made to be conducting 24 hour surveillance of trouble spots in Kaduna Metropolis with a clear mandate to use any means necessary (including shooting at sight) to nip crisis in the bud.  And since then, Kaduna has been peaceful!

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