Of Religion, Extremism, And Peace By Olayinka Okelana
I touched down in Katsina for my NYSC with the determination to make it a memorable year of service to the nation. Don’t mistake ‘touch down’ to mean I travelled by air. No I did not. I decided to travel by road so as to see the different cultures, peoples, sceneries et al prevailing amongst the many ethnic nationalities along the way; Nigeria is blessed with over 200 of such.
To be sure, I secured a window seat at the Jibowu Bus Terminal so as to be strategically placed to see Nigeria, and of course learn. It was a lovely experience. It gave me the opportunity to see – respect, and appreciates – cultures other than mine. Respect is key here.
Meanwhile, the religious and ethnic riots of the past (then) made me gird my loins and to know that respect for other people’s cultures, and more importantly, religions, was a sure way to peaceful co-existence with my hosts. It is interesting to note that on arrival in Katsina, I was told of how the Emir of Katsina told indigenes to always embrace visitors. I was especially touched when told that he warned them to never spill the blood of non-indigenes. And though there is a long list of religious riots leading to hundreds of deaths, if look at the chronology of violence in the country, you would notice that Katsina is hardly ever mentioned. Save for a few misunderstandings here and there, which is quite normal, there was mutual respect, so my stay was largely peaceful, and I still have loads of friends there.
Enter the senseless, amateurish, vile, (add more adjectives here) anti-Islam video purportedly produced by a certain faceless Sam Bacile (maybe Imbecile) titled the ‘Innocence of Muslims’. The movie that mindless affront on the Prophet Muhammed (PBUH) which has seen the world grappling with equally-reprehensible acts of violence and killing of innocent people by protesting Muslims. The producer of the movie himself is of shady character; Sam Bassiel, Sam Bassil, Sam Bacile etc are some of his supposed names, but federal officials in the US describes him to be Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, who was convicted of bank fraud in 2009. Nothing, yet, is certain about his real identity.
Also, he must have tricked the film cast into believing that they were making an adventure film set 2,000 years ago, called ‘Desert Warrior’. Instead, scene after scene, the Prophet (PBUH) was portrayed as a womanizer, buffoon, ruthless killer and child molester. The Muslim world erupted in rage. Egypt, Yemen, Tunisia, Morocco, Sudan, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Palestinian territories rose in anger. Violent mobs attacked the U.S Consulate in the Libyan city of Benghazi and killed the ambassador and three other Diplomats.
Now, what caused such foolish and caustic denigration of a religion and its proponent? The producer was reported to have told the Wall Street Journal that it was “a political effort to call attention to the hypocrisies of Islam.” He also said “Islam is a cancer. The movie is a political movie. It is not a religious movie.” Seriously? Who is he trying to hypnotise? Okay peep these: Cindy Garcia, an actress in the film, told CNN what producer told her. “He said he wrote the script because he wants the Muslims to quit killing.” By denigrating their religion and casting aspersions on someone so revered? His infantile action has only engendered deeper animosity between Christianity and Islam; two religions that clearly preach peace.
Moreover, events of the past are enough to teach any right-thinking human being that it is never clever to fan the embers of discord by producing such provocative materials. He is not alone. Corpus Christi, Da Vinci Code, Salman Rushdie et al. Does these titles and name ring a bell? And if you ask me, the trouble makers won’t stop.
However, it is pertinent to note here, that the reactions are not stuff to be proud of. As a Christian, I would NEVER carry arms, in readiness to destroy, maim, or kill in response to someone calling Jesus Christ a bastard, gay or whatever. In the same breath, I know many Muslims who would not hurt a fly in defense of the Holy Prophet (PBUH). Abuse, criticisms, persecution, prosecution, crucifixion; both great Prophets have seen it all. And what were their reactions? Forgiveness. Jesus once said “Forgive them Father, for they know not what they’re doing”. Many times too, Prophet Muhammed (PBUH) forgave those who waged war against Him and used unprintable words against Him. Google (and read) ‘The Mercy of Prophet Muhammad'(PBUH) by Kamram Pasha.
So, what do we do? Violence or killing innocent people is out of the question. The slain US Ambassador to Libya was so loved in Benghazi. I have seen a picture of him and his wife dining with his Muslim driver, in the latter’s home. I say we MUST continue to educate people who are ignorant. This is why I was so impressed to see Muslims in the UK distributing literature on Prophet Muhammed’s (PBUH) Biography. We must shrink the agent provocateur to size. Shrink those who publish inciting literature with the aim to cause disaffection, shrink those who bring our religion(s) to disrepute by saying awe must kill in revenge for those foolish acts of provocation. We can alienate them by condemning them instead of defending them and giving excuses for violence. Quran 2 Verse 256 is explicit; there is no compulsion in religion. Both faiths expressly condemn killing and preach peace instead. If you kill one, it is like killing humanity. Let your voice be heard. Speak up.
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PS: Additional information from The Holy Quran, Wall Street Journal, CNN and The Huffington Post.
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