The Injustice Done To Muslims By Azuka Onwuka
One thing a Nigerian hates is to hear: “Nigerians are fraudulent” or “Nigerians are drug traffickers.” Most Nigerians take offence at this unfair generalisation and stereotyping. Most Nigerians are always quick to say that it is unfair to use the activities of less than one per cent of the population to describe 170 million people. That is true.
Ironically, the same people who take offence when their nation is stereotyped do not think twice before stereotyping Muslims. To such people, there is a justification for that: Most suicide bombers are Muslims. But when you point out to them many Muslims that have never been associated with violence or religious intolerance, they tell you: “Those ones are different.” You are then left to wonder: If those ones, who are Muslims, are different, why then tar all Muslims with the same brush?
But then, many people enjoy stereotyping and taunting others that have a different culture, religion or race. It makes them feel superior.
Religion is one sure-fire means through which a person with only elementary school education can make a professor commit suicide willingly and happily. The reason is that there is no nobler act than that which is presumably done to satisfy the Almighty, thereby attracting the reward of eternal bliss to the individual.
On November 18, 1978, about 920 people were killed through a combination of murder and mass suicide, ordered by Jim Jones, an American who had broken away from the Sommerset Southside Methodist Church in Indianapolis, to found the Peoples Temple Christian Church. After ordering the killing of Congressman Leo Ryan, who had visited his church to investigate claims of abuse, Jones ordered his members to commit suicide. On the evening of November 18, in Jonestown, Jones ordered his congregation to drink a concoction of cyanide-laced, grape-flavoured drink. Parents were instructed to inject their children with the same drink.
The mass suicide and killings at Jonestown resulted in the greatest single loss of American civilian life in a non-natural, non-accidental disaster prior to the al-Qaeda attacks of September 11, 2001.
In a similar vein, on March 17, 2000, the Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God, a breakaway religious movement from the Roman Catholic Church founded by Credonia Mwerinde, Joseph Kibweteere and Bee Tait in Uganda, orchestrated the mass murder of about 778 members because of revolt about the non-fulfilment of their prophecy that the world would end on January 1, 2000. Members were made to sell off or give away their possessions. When the world did not end on January I, they shifted the date to March 17, and orchestrated an explosion that killed many members. The corpses of some members were found at other sites with signs showing that they had been poisoned, stabbed or strangled before the explosion.
These examples show how religious leaders can indoctrinate and manipulate their followers to either kill others or commit suicide in the vain belief that they are executing a divine assignment.
There is no doubt that there have been many people who have engaged in terrorism or violence in the name of Islam. The most notorious of them all is Osama bin Laden. In Nigeria, such a figure is Abubakar Shekau, who took over the headship of Boko Haram after the death of the founder, Mohammed Yusuf. One would look at the blood-thirstiness of such men and ask if they are human beings at all. What is their mission? Why kill innocent citizens for a cause that people don’t understand? These and many more questions gnaw at the hearts of many non-Muslims.
But then when you look at the people who work with you or have been your friends, you discover that many of them are devout Muslims who pursue peace and love in all their dealings. Whenever there is an act of violence involving a Muslim, such peace-loving Muslims feel as sad and angry as you do, or even more, because they get condemned and cursed for being Muslims.
Before the declaration of emergency rule in Borno, Jigawa and Adamawa states, many people in the South believed that most Northerners supported the violence of the Boko Haram. It did not matter that many Northern Muslims had been killed by the extremists. Many Northern leaders were urged to vehemently condemn the activities of the sect. But it was like a Catch-22: Condemn them and get killed; keep quiet and be called a sympathiser or sponsor of the sect.
It was only when the army got an upper hand in the fight against the sect that youths of the North came out in their hundreds as “Civilian JTF” to fight against the sect. They complained that Boko Haram had killed their relatives and destroyed their communities. They mounted roadblocks and also passed information to the army regarding members of the Boko Haram. A man was even said to have invited the army to come for his Boko Haram son, and when the son was killed, the man was said to have expressed happiness that such a deviant son had been eliminated.
In retaliation, the Boko Haram members have unleashed their wrath on these youths that had risen against them. They have killed many of these youths whom they believed had made it easier for the military to smoke them out and kill them, including their leader, Shekau, whom the military announced must have died in a confrontation with the army.
It became clear that it was fear of being wiped out with one’s family that made many people in the North to keep quiet about the Boko Haram until now.
Religion is a thing of faith and belief. It comes with passion. It comes with submission. Most times you are not meant to question anything. If you ask questions, it could attract dire consequences, depending on your religion or religious leader.
In addition, most people are adherents of a particular religion because they were born into it. The percentage of people who move out of their parents’ religion is low. For example, a Christian may change from the denomination of his parents to another Christian denomination but the percentage of Christians who become Muslims or Buddhists is small, and vice versa.
If one was born to Sokoto parents, one would most likely be a Muslim. If one was born to Anambra parents, one would most likely be a Christian. If one was born to Jewish parents in Israel, one would most likely practise Judaism. Likewise, someone born to Indian parents has a high chance of being a Hindu. Nobody chose his or her parents, state or country.
Furthermore, every religion believes that it is the best: the one ordered by the Almighty. Therefore, it is futile for you to believe that you can force or cajole others to see the light and leave their religions for yours. Once in a while, someone would move to another religion, but it is impossible for all human beings to convert to one religion.
But even though the minority Muslims who have guns and bombs tend to overawe other Muslims, the peaceful majority need to also fight back, not through guns and bombs, but through a type of demarketing strategy. One key way of doing this is to mount a persistent campaign of branding the violent and extremist Muslims as enemies of Islam. The reason these people kill others and themselves are because they believe they are carrying out a divine assignment. If increasingly, they are portrayed as those working against Allah, and those who will end up in hell, it will help to make their activities less popular and attractive.
There is also a need to always identify any preacher who directly or indirectly preaches hate, and report him to the authorities. Such preachers are the ones that sow the seed of hatred in people and make them think that they have a divine duty to kill or destroy. No man is born a terrorist or a hate monger. People get indoctrinated by others.
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