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Islam And Islamism: In Search Of A Strong Counter Doctrine By Femi Owolabi

May 20, 2014

The misfortune that Muslim faithful are traumatized with is how terrorism has impoverished the religion of Islam.

In one of my religious related articles, I talk about how I am sometimes, jokingly however, addressed as a Boko Haram member because of my [rough and long] beards and my trousers that barely reach my ankles. I had observed how, in malls and other public places here in Lagos, people cast suspicious gazes at me, especially when I’m in a kaftan and a particular cap my friend brought for me from Kano. I was traveling in company of a few friends, and when we were stopped at a military checkpoint, the soldier, keeping an eye and the muzzle of his gun around my head, asked to check no other bag inside the boot, but mine.

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In that article, I argued that; such looks is supposedly Islamic, so, why address me as a Boko Haram and not a Muslim?

Recently, I stumbled on a piece where Ahmad Salkida narrates his experience, being a journalist and a close friend to the [extra-judicially killed] founder of the Boko Haram sect, Muhammed Yusuf, who almost got framed as a member of the sect. On his (Salkida) arrest in Maiduguri, he says, ‘…one Yusuf in the office of the director of press dragged me into the office of the Chief Security Officer to the Governor, insisting that the governor’s aide wanted to see my face for the first time. The aide wanted to know from me why I did not shave my beards and lower my trousers below the ankle to avoid the wrath of security agents.

‘…I was then driven to the Police Headquarters in the state where I was kept in a cell with fifty eight others. After spending thirty hours in the cell and about forty eight hours without food or water. I was then allowed to wash up the urine that had dried up on my pants…’

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Salkida, like me, too, in a witty tone, says he now keeps shaved beards. And, of course, I had since adjusted my trousers length from 37inches to 40.

The unprofessionalism of the security institutions in Nigeria is the reason why one shouldn’t risk the keeping of long beards. If some [Boko Haram] prisoners are allowed fair hearings, you will be disappointed at what led to their arrest.

On Friday, The President of Church of Christ in Nations (COCIN),  Rev Dachollom Datiri, described Boko Haram as “a child of Islamic fundamentalism.” He is reported to have said, “Muslims should note that they cannot and will not Islamise Nigeria nor achieve their Jihadist movement; therefore Christians must rise up and defend themselves and not give in to threats and intimidation.” The warning is “Muslim should note,” and not “Boko Haram should note.”

The misfortune that Muslim faithful are traumatized with is how terrorism has impoverished the religion of Islam. Muslims worship Allah. Boko Haram, marauding, says it does so in the name of Allah. Muslims, when praying, say, ‘Allahu akbar.’ One particular gory video I saw; a tied man is lowered on his knees. A Boko Haram militant recites some Quran verses above his head, and when he raises his knife, starts to slaughter the man, other militants cheerfully chant ‘Allahu akbar.’  Why are Muslims killing people in Maiduguri? This is what my teenage sister often asks.

Over the years, it has been difficult, especially for non-Muslims, to sieve out terrorism from Islam. Sometime ago, a church was reportedly burnt in Ilorin. My friend who shared the news on his Facebook wall, without any credible evidence, linked the attack to Is’haq Oloyede. I, immediately, weighed in, questioning his allegation. The undertone in his response was that Is’haq, being a professor of Islamic studies and at the time, I think, was heading a body responsible for reconciling some Christians and Muslims over land disputes, had become unhappy when the church got the possession of the land. How silly could this be? I have met Professor Is’haq Oloyede once. I have followed his scholarship. And I have attended one of his public lectures. He is an advocate of religious tolerance. It is sheer silliness for someone to tag Is’haq as the master-mind of such attack based on epileptic reasons.

Frustrated Muslims continue to dissociate Islam with this sect which violently demands for hegemonic sharia rule over the Nigerian northern states. Boko Haram members are not Muslims, they insistently cry. However, my friend, Gimba Kakanda, the satirist who sometimes humorously prides himself as an ustaz, in a Facebook post, dismisses such thoughts that Boko Haram ain’t Muslims.

Writes Gimba, “See, what the Boko Haram insurgents perpetrate is understandably un-islamic but they are Muslims. Like you and me. Disqualifying them as non-Muslims is not only a cheap escape but questions the authenticity of your own faith too. First, Islam is unambiguous in its condemnation of alcoholism but a day without a beer makes you sick. Yet you still parade yourself as Muslim. Second, Islam forbids fornication and adultery, yet your life is woven around sex, hard drug and ill-gotten wealth – all the things actually considered haram. Yet, ignorant of the decrees that your acts of worship are of no rewards in all the times you’re intoxicated, you pass fatwas on fellow sinners.

“See, my friend, the more we dismiss Boko Haram as non-Muslims the more we ridicule our intellect. They are Muslims who, like you, and of course me, have gone astray. They’re Muslims whose doctrines are flawed and dangerous and, obviously, against the teachings of orthodox Islam but they’re Muslims nonetheless!”

The summary of Gimba’s argument is that, taking to violence is akin to fornicating and other immoralities that Islam frowns at; and violators in anyway haven’t become non-Muslims.

We could (dis)agree with my friend, but it is important to understand that, a fornicator who while fornicating, something still pinches his heart, bringing his consciousness to the sin he’s committing. And he does not commit the sin in the name of Allah, rather he’s confined in his shame. How do we draw a similarity with the Boko Haram, who, to him, killing is not a sin but an obligation to be rewarded by Allah?

Taking Muslims as co-conspirators of terror, perhaps, is the reason why Ayaan Hirsi Ali, in her piece recently published in the Wall Street Journal, asks “Where are the Muslim college-student organizations denouncing Boko Haram? Where is the outrage during Friday prayers?” We can take this as a faulty generalization. Ayaan may have missed the May 8th report of Nigeria Leadership newspaper where “The Muslim Students Society of Nigeria (MSSN) yesterday described the activities of the insurgent group, Boko Haram, as un-Islamic and devilish. President of the group in the North, Malam Yusuf Arrigasiyyu, made the condemnation in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).” Or, is Ayaan still hooked on the December 8th incident in ATBU, Bauchi, where Muslim students attacked Christian students and murdered Sunday Nache Achi, an evangelical campus leader?

I should also mention that the woofer atop the mosque’s minaret on my street delivers the Imam’s sermons through my window. The Imam does not condemn Boko Haram on Friday prayers only, he does at every assemblage for prayers that are; fajr, zuhr, asr, maghrib and isha.

Robert Spencer, in reacting to a (US) State Department official, Robert Jackson [who asserts that Boko Haram’s philosophy is not Muslim] argues that “Boko Haram is operating in accord with widely accepted understandings of the Qur’an and Islamic law. Muslim writers who have claimed that Boko Haram is in violation of the Qur’an have not even mentioned its verses sanctioning sex slavery of captive women.”

Spencer may have deliberately chosen not to understand that, sects in the religious circle are founded on diverse interpretations of their religious books. My friend, an Izalat does not pray in an Ahmadiyyah mosque. He says the latter’s interpretation of the Qu’ran does not conform to his. The interpretation of the Sharia law in Sudan is the reason why Meriam Yehya Ibrahim, a twenty-seven year old woman has been sentenced to death for renouncing Islam and marrying a Christian.

While Pentecostals preach the message of Christ’s love, the Lords Resistance Army (LRA), which says it is fighting for a state based on the Biblical Ten Commandments, in 1996, attacked the dormitories at St Mary’s School, Aboke, in northern Uganda and abducted 139 girls. In Qur’an 4 vs 19, we read “…O ye who believe, ye are forbidden to inherit women against their will. Nor should ye treat them with harshness…” Can’t Spencer spare his criticism if the Muslim writers premise their belief on this verse, and go silent on ‘verses sanctioning sex slavery of captive women?’

Most times, I imagine what the world would have turned into if the other major religion, Christianity, centers its teachings on the Old Testament alone; if Christ had not come, that is. We read in the Bible [1Samuel 15], “Samuel also said to Saul, “The Lord sent me to anoint you king over His people, Israel. Now therefore, heed the voice of the words of the Lord. Thus says the Lord of Hosts: ‘I will punish Amalek for what he did to Israel, how he ambushed him on the way when he came up from Egypt. Now go and attack Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and do not spare them. But kill both man and woman, infant and nursing child, ox and sheep…”

It is unbelievable that God ordered even the killing of infant and nursing child. This verse, however, is a ‘Godly mandate’ a [Christian] sect could hold onto when on a reprisal attack. It is in the New Testament that we see one of Christ’s aides who cut off the ear of a man from the enemy’s camp, and Christ in a violence-rebuking manner, picks the ear and fixes it back.

I have always argued that religion is secondary. Common sense with a feeling of being human is why no man would kill on religious order. Terrorism may be ruining the religion of Islam, but instead of asking the Muslim writers to amplify the pro-violence verses in the Qur’an, the scholar and critic, Pius Adesanmi, unlike Spencer, argues that, “Islam is the faith, Islamism the ideology threatening it with a bad name all over the world: Al Qaeda, Al Shabab, Boko Haram. These Islamist (as opposed Islamic) ideologies corrupt and pervert the faith they claim to be defending or spreading.”

Since the abduction of more than two hundred High School girls in Chibok, Borno state, there have been lots of outcries, and calls on the Nigeria government to #BringBackOurGirls. The international community is almost taking the ownership of the task to finding these girls. The world has never paid this much attention on the Boko Haram insurgency that has, in the past, done deadlier things. While we are at finding the girls, there have been bomb attacks in Abuja and Bornu. So, what some people are worried about is, beyond the recovery of these girls how do we clamp the wings of this sect?

Despite the reported efforts of Sheik Ja’afar Mahmood Adam and other Islamic scholars in convincing the late Boko Haram leader, Ahmad Salkida says, “I will always maintain that since this is a problem of doctrine then it must be tackled through a coherent, profound counter doctrine.

“If the sect members say the Qur’an allows them to kill Christians and fellow Muslim security agents, politicians, teachers, vaccinators and opposing clerics. I think it is wise for Muslims that disagree with them to understand their arguments clearly and bring a superior one to counter it…”

A memory that still lives in head makes me agree with Salkida. In 2005, a riot broke out in FUT Minna where I was at the time, an undergraduate. Some Muslims students who paraded themselves as Jihadists woke up that morning and stormed one of the lecture theatres at the Bosso campus and started to flog girls who wore trousers and armless tops. While students fled, a fight ensued between some [radical] liberal comrades [I inclusive] and the jihadists. We were exchanging bullet of stones. A few properties were damaged and the school authority under Professor Sa’ad Tukur expelled and suspended some students, mainly the jihadists who instigated the fight. 

The jihadists, again, mobilized themselves, and marched to the Senate Building to deliver a 24hour ultimatum for Professor Tukur to recall the expelled jihadists. They then returned to the mosque which was close to the Senate Building and began a long series of prayers, I later heard such prayers are taken when one is prepared to fight, to die. The authority had already brought in the Moblie Police, who, heavily armed, surrounded the mosque with even armored tanks. The jihadists were unshaken as they prayed on, waiting on the expiration of the ultimatum. Many thoughts ran through my mind. Would these students go into combat with heavily armed policemen? We all stood behind the police, watching, until Dr. Umar Farouq Bahago, the Emir of Minna arrived. He entered the mosque, and after a few minutes, came out with the jihadists, their faces now softened. And that was the end. Dr. Bahago must have brought these jihadists a profound counter doctrine.

Like Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor boasts, that during the Niger-Delta crisis, he went into the creeks to talk with the boys [militants]. Although, the Niger-Delta crisis wasn’t religious, something could work out if people like Dr. Bahago in the company of other emirs and the Sultan take a profound counter doctrine to the Boko Haram (That is not to say the Sultan and the emirs have not condemned the beliefs of this sect). The jihadists in Minna weren’t clamped by armored tanks stationed above their heads, it took a profound counter doctrine!

And, for the lots of Muslims who argue that BokoHaram is un-Islamic, here is what Professor Adesanmi says to you, “My friend, before you put up another ignorant post alleging conspiracy against your faith, apply yourself to a little google study of the difference between Islam the faith and Islamism- the murderous ideologies out to ruin its name. You will come to know that the conspirators against Islam are to be found in the ranks of Islamism. Islamism should be the target of your ire.”


The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of SaharaReporters

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