Today, criticizing Islam has become a dangerous undertaking even when such criticisms are warranted. Islamic clerics and intellectuals freely voice out their oppositions and criticisms of other religions or moral philosophies to the extent of inciting violence and hatred of whoever they perceive to be an 'enemy' of Islam. But anyone who dares point out the abuses and crimes being committed in the name of Mohammedan religion risks being accused of blasphemy or islamophobia- a term recently coined by those who want to make criticizing Islam a crime around the globe.
Such accusations make a critic of Islam look like a criminal. They make the fellow an endorsed target for murder and elimination by the ubiquitous foot soldiers of Allah, seeking slots in paradise.This development has created a climate of impunity and apprehension in many places as Muslim extremists rampage, kill, maim, loot and destroy in furtherance of their own interpretation of Islam, Sharia and the will of Allah.
So what we have in many countries is a situation where local authorities and governments turn a blind eye on atrocities being committed by Islamist because they do not want to offend Muslim sensibilities. They do not want to be portrayed as anti-Islam.
One such place where Islamic extremism is raging and wrecking havoc is northern Nigeria. Most parts of northern Nigeria are currently under siege from fanatics, jihadists and theocrats with competing and conflicting ideas of Sharia implementation and Islamic state. To put the situation into perspective, a brief historical background is helpful here.
Shortly after Nigeria's return to civil rule in 1999, Muslim majority states in the north imposed Sharia law. The process was marked by bloody clashes between Muslims and Christians in states with significant number of non Muslims like in Kaduna and Bauchi, Many lives were lost. Many people were displaced and property destroyed. At the end of the day, Sharia ruled -fully or partially- in many of the states. Right now the situation remains volatile. Tension and unease calm reign across the region. Hatred, division and suspicion caused by the introduction of Sharia law is not going away too soon. At the beginning of Sharia implementation, governments in these states assured the people that the law would not apply to non Muslims; that the law was for Muslims only. But this is not the case today. Most Sharia implementing states have become full fledged Islamic states where non Muslims are treated as second class citizens. In fact many Sharia implementing states have made Islam a state religion and promotion of Islam a state business.
Recently the government of Katsina state voted to spend 359 million in building mosques in 34 local councils in the states. Building mosques? What is the business of the Katsina state with building mosques? What makes building mosques in local councils a priority today? Is that how the government is tackling poverty and unemployment in the state?
Meanwhile in Kano state, Sharia implementation is getting serious nowadays. Kano state has a state funded Sharia police called Hisbah. Hisbah have been very active in the state. The Sharia police have literally usurped the role and duties of state police. They enforce Sharia law in ways that flagrantly violate the constitutional rights of non Muslims as well as Muslims. Apart from compelling- and teaching- Muslims to fast during the month of Ramadan, Hisbah arbitrarily arrest and detain those whom they perceive to be prostitutes or homosexuals. They clamp down on the sale and drinking of alcohol.
Not too long ago, the sharia police destroyed over 240,000 bottles of beer as part of its latest crackdown on 'immoral practices' in the state. Some of these goods belong to non Muslims or are for consumption by non Muslims. Who says that sharia implementation does not apply to non Muslims?
Sharia states have also been funding the propagation of Islam in the country. Two governors of sharia implementing states- Sokoto and Bauchi- were among those who gave cash rewards to mainly Igbos who converted to Islam in Abuja National Mosque. Couldn't they have made better use of this money in developing there respective states? What is the business of state governors with the conversion of people from Christianity to Islam or vice versa?
Some of the reasons advanced for the Islamic insurgency in northern Nigeria are poverty, unemployment and marginalization of northern states. But here is a situation where the so called poor and marginalized states have enough money to waste building mosques and rewarding converts to Islamic religion. Is that really a wise way of spending or investing the scarce resources of these poor states? Today Sharia states have two layers of policing and court system. The Sharia layer of police and court is funded by the state government. Is that not a waste of limited resources?
The time has come for Sharia implementing states to call their politicians to order. They need to divest from state funding of Sharia and invest in building schools, colleges and skill acquisition centers. Sharia states should invest in schemes that create jobs, tackle poverty and empower the people; schemes that address the development needs of persons of all faiths and none. Sharia implementing states should check the activities of Hisbah and other quasi Sharia policing organs in the region. These groups are spreading Islam-based hatred, fear and intolerance.If as they say, there is no compulsion in Islam, then there is no need for Sharia police at least in indigent Muslim majority states in northern Nigeria. Sharia agitators declared in 1999 that the destiny and development of Muslim majority states was tied to Sharia implementation. Going by the developments in northern Nigeria since then, one may ask: Is Sharia implementation now an asset or a liability?
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of SaharaReporters