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The War In The Cameroons

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How universities can teach

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Toyin Falola

There is no such thing as an authentic narrative in war and conflict situations. All “facts” in war are contested. Anger, hate, and resentment produce their messy narratives. Even the initial colors used in the advert poster for this Interview sparked a mini war, prompting me to change them. Now let me tread on lands that angels would not dare.

By composing this piece, I have started yet another war! A war of disagreement! Sure, I will suffer the consequences in the foreseeable future, one of which may be a ban from entering Yaoundé. However, before the government goes into full rage and rampage, I clearly state that this is the first part in a Series. An interview has been extended to the officials to present their case, rebut everything in this piece, and challenge the narratives of the Interview on July 18. Alas! Power does not like to explain itself, preferring to dominate forcefully. Thus far, there has been no response from the government. We shall see.

Following four years of civil war in anglophone Cameroon, official and rebel troops have failed to engage in genuine negotiation, endangering its residents, including children! According to statistics, the crisis in Cameroon has led to the displacement of over 750,000 citizens. Before you quote me, war figures are casualties of fact! The crisis and aggravations continue to be at the forefront of political debate when discussing the civil war in Cameroon; however, the crisis is engineered from colonial times. Thus, to understand the root cause of the Cameroonian crisis is to go deeper in history, back to the European scramble for Africa, back to the colonization of France and Britain in 1919, then to the unification of the Anglophone and Francophone Cameroons in 1961. All these historical milestones embedded in them a century of hostility, establishing a preset to “the war in Cameroon,” which began in 2017 when Anglophone Cameroon protested peacefully over the marginalization and discrimination of the North-West and South-West regions of the country.

African crises did not just start today, and in this case, the blame game is well deserved. Understanding the prevailing cause of almost all African civil wars should be traced to colonization and western imperialism. Colonization brought together people of different cultures, traditions, and languages without their consent. Previously autonomous nations found themselves in polygamous relationships with their former friends and enemies.

The War In The Cameroons

Photo: A cartoon image depicting the partition of Africa by European powers.
Source: Quizlet

People from different cultures merged to form a single colonial entity, without considering how people of different cultures and traditions could live together in peace and harmony. This situation becomes pertinent in light of today’s discussion about Cameroon. In 1884, Cameroon was shared with Germany. However, following the defeat of Germany after the First World War, the political history of Cameroon changed. German troops were forced out by the British and French soldiers in 1916, creating a new Cameroon. Three years later, they were split and formed a part of the colony of British and French, necessitating Anglophone Cameroon (20%) and Francophone Cameroon (80%). The subsequent 42 years saw the unification of these two colonial entities and formed today’s Cameroon. But Anglophone Cameroon felt marginalized as a result of the formation, and Francophone Cameroon has dominated the political space with Paul Biya becoming the leader of the Republic of Cameroon since 1982. The claim by Anglophone Cameroon is that the treaty regarded them as a separate country named Ambazonia.

READ ALSO: Dr. Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi And The Institutionalization Of Feminist Power

Cameroon’s formation, which happened in the 1960s when a hitherto French-speaking mandated territory was merged with an English-speaking region to become an independent country, was met with dissatisfaction and objection. After the formation, both entities were left to retain their language, culture, education, and judicial system. As a result, Cameroon now has two educational systems, two official languages (English and French), and two judicial systems. But Anglophone Cameroon was not happy with the unification. Their grievances began after reunification when Ahmadou Ahidjo, the country’s authoritarian leader at the time, systematically undermined major democratic institutions and expanded the repressive police state in French Cameroon to Anglophone areas.

In western Cameroon, the English-speaking minority (Ambazonia) felt marginalized, neglected, and repressed by the central government in Yaoundé. They blamed the British for abandoning them and handing them over to the French government, who eventually transferred power to Francophone Cameroon. In this context, Professor Carlson Anyangwe pointed out: “The Southern Cameroons was one of the territories set for decolonization in the context of the UN’s decolonization agenda. Britain’s devious handling of it and the British wheeling and dealing at the UN in 1959 and 1960 caused a great historical injustice to the people of Southern Cameroons.” Anyangwe continued, “That injustice continues to cry out for redress.”

Photo: A picture of Professor Carlson Anyangwe
Credit: Ambanews24

Altogether, the feeling of distaste, marginalization, negligence of the government, transfer of French teachers to English-speaking schools, and Paul Biya’s authoritarian rule as the president of Cameroon for 39 years are factors responsible for the outbreak of the civil war. Since November 6, 1982, Paul Biya, a ruthless politician, has been the president of Cameroon. He is ranked as Africa’s second-longest-serving president, the world’s longest-serving non-royal leader, and the continent’s oldest leader. He has a reputation as one of the most corrupt African leaders and boasts of a net worth of over 200 million dollars. He is known for making irrational decisions and carelessly employing the use of violence at the first opportunity. His approach to settling the dispute is said to have triggered the civil war.

READ ALSO: How U.S. Doctor Masterminded Murder Of Haitian President – Police

THE CIVIL WAR
“For civilians caught in the crossfire between government forces and separatists, the conflict is a brutal reality.”
Poor resource allocation and a lack of effective political representation are two of the most common complaints among the Anglophones, and this led to the beginning of the unrest in the country. They accused the government of “Francophonizing” the state through a planned cultural agenda. In late 2016, the Anglophone’s union of lawyers and teachers opposed the appointment of French-speaking teachers, judges, and prosecutors to their courts and schools. These demonstrations, which were influenced by social media, lasted more than one year. The North-West and the South-West, two of Cameroon’s English-speaking (minority) areas, have been embroiled in a terrible civil conflict that has gone mostly unreported. Anglophone rebels have been fighting for a new Republic of Ambazonia since 2017. However, in October 2017, the protesters’ harsh repression, labeling demonstrators “terrorists,” and authorizing the use of lethal force against unarmed civilians escalated the unrest into a full-fledged uprising and civil war. The violence started from the peaceful protests in Anglophone Cameroon, which stemmed from long-standing prejudice and marginalization in the North-West and South-West regions.

Additionally, the fighting became more intense in the spring of 2018. Separatists intensified their attacks on the military, prompting retaliation by Cameroonian forces, which left civilians trapped in the crossfire. The sound of heavy machine-gun fire awoke the southern village of Azi in the early hours of April 2018. It was claimed that government troops had arrived in the village to search for armed separatists. There were random shootings and killings. Soldiers on the ground opened fire on an older woman attempting to flee and burnt several houses. This was the height of Paul Biya’s aggressive approach to stop the Ambazonians from engaging in their secessionist movement.

 

The War In The Cameroons

Photo: Cameroonian military destruction of houses in Azi Village.
Credit: BBC News

On February 14, 2020, nothing less than 21 civilians, including 13 children and one pregnant woman, were murdered by government forces and armed ethnic Fulani in Cameroon’s Ngarbuh village. They also set fire to five homes, pillaged several other properties, and assaulted locals. Some of the victims’ bodies were discovered charred inside their homes. According to the Human Rights Watch report, a 32-year-old man witnessed his entire family, including seven children, being murdered. He said in the interview conducted with him that: “I heard gunfire and ran to the side of my house to hide. As they sought to flee, I witnessed the soldiers shooting my family members one by one. They started with our mum. The children were then shot, and their bodies all fell on her. Then they set fire to my house.”

Sadly, it has been denied that these crimes took place, adding to the survivors’ trauma and simply encouraging government troops to conduct additional atrocities. Nevertheless, these heinous murders of citizens, especially children, are crimes that should be thoroughly and independently investigated, and those responsible brought to justice.

The War In The Cameroons

On February 21, 2020, a memorial service for victims of the Ngarbuh massacre was held at the Saint Theresia Cathedral in Kumbo, Cameroon’s North-West region.
Credit: Human Rights Watch

The war in Cameroon continues to wreak havoc on southern Cameroon, and it is safe to say that the war does not appear to be enraging political leaders in Yaoundé as it formerly did. However, civilians caught in the crossfire between government forces and separatists continue to die due to the fighting. On January 10, 2021, in the South-West region, the Cameroon army killed at least nine members of the public and wounded four others. The following week saw the killings of more civilians.

Due to its complexity, the war remains one of the most complicated African conflicts. It is a territory with a history of three colonial masters, and there is an intense debate about who should respond to the crisis among the world leaders. Still, the killings and displacements keep increasing that in 2018, the UN cautioned that “there has been an upsurge in violence between the Anglophone and Francophone Cameroon.” Amnesty International recorded the death of over 400 civilians in 2017 and reports that at least 400 civilians were killed in the previous year. According to Col. Didier Badjeck, the spokesman for Cameroon’s army, as of November 2018, over 170 Cameroonian troops had been killed. The UN estimates that out of hundreds of thousands of people, about 30,000 Cameroonians have fled to Nigeria as refugees.

The War In The Cameroons

UNHCR – Displaced Cameroonians struggle in Nigeria
Photo: Displaced Cameroonians waiting to be relocated from Agadom Refugee Camp, Ogoja, Nigeria.
Credit: Wachiaya, 2019, (UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency)

In January 2021, the United Nations reported that over 3,000 people had been killed, more than 200 villages have been burned, more than 750,000 people had been internally displaced, and 1.3 million people require aid. The deadliness and complexity of the crisis have left the world in a plethora of awe of what could be done to settle the prevailing dispute. Various dialogues have been conducted in a bid to put an end to the crisis. For instance, on February 2, 2021, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s Secretary of State, went on a five-day visit to Cameroon and met with President Biya to address the Anglophone secessionist issue. This came after the initial calls for peaceful solutions from the European Union and US Senators. However, international attempts to convince aged President Biya to embrace a peaceful settlement have thus far been unsuccessful. Despite these appeals, Biya has continued to advocate using a violent approach to handle the crisis. Interestingly, when he addressed Cameroonians in December 2020, he claimed that the country had “returned to peace.”

READ ALSO: Property Looted, Burnt In South Africa In Protest Against Jailing Of Zuma

President Biya’s nonchalant attitude has continued to fuel the civil war and the aggression of secessionists to depart from the Republic of Cameroon and form the Ambazonian Republic. Would this movement and agitation for a separate state be possible? What are the various undertones embedded in the current civil war in Cameroon? What is the take of the French and British governments in the crisis that has affected Cameroon in the last four years?

Professor Carlson Anyangwe has been invited to the next Toyin Falola Interviews to answer these questions and to discuss the ongoing war in the Cameroons as part of a more extensive set of initiatives to attain peace. Do Please join us on:
Sunday, July 18, 2021
5:00 PM Nigeria/Cameroon
4:00 PM GMT
11:00 AM Austin CST

Register and Watch:
https://www.tfinterviews.com/post/prof-carlson
Join via Zoom:
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/85724413913
Watch on Facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/tfinterviews/live
Watch on YouTube:
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC2lvX7A2iVndiCq0NfFcb0w/live

 

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Opinion

The Treacherous Notion Of Insulting Religious Sensibilities

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The Treacherous Notion Of Insulting Religious Sensibilities

By Leo Igwe
I have been campaigning vigorously for the release of Mubarak Bala, who has been jailed for insulting the religious sensibilities of Muslims, some Muslims in Kano. In the past two years, I have engaged the notion of contempt for religion as a crime or an offence that warrants any sanction or penalty. I am of the view that criticizing religions and highlighting their misconceptions, shortcomings and absurdities is a moral and intellectual duty. I have encountered many religious apologists and fence-seaters who have tried to defend the notion that insulting religion is a transgression that should be punished. In this piece, I want to reiterate the implausibility and unintelligibility of the treacherous notion of insulting religion.

As expected the brutal murder of Deborah Samuel for making supposedly blasphemous statements has reawakened the debate on insulting people’s faiths. I have seen some educated Nigerians tacitly justify this obscenity implying that the alleged remark by Deborah Samuel constituted a punishable transgression. Sometimes they put it expressly stating that they do not support making disparaging remarks about others’ religious beliefs. Look, those who try to justify the notion of insulting religion either do not understand the nature of religion or are not good students of history especially the history religions in Nigeria and Africa. Do not get me wrong, I understand that people feel hurt when their well-cherished religious or philosophical views or icons are challenged, criticized, questioned, or ridiculed. But that is what is, and what it means to live in a free and open society.

READ ALSO: Bakare Condemns Killing Of Sokoto Student, Urges Unity

And this open-society feature is not peculiar to any people or culture. In a pluralistic society like Nigeria, people hold diverse views and opinions. These views may be offensive, hurting, or insulting to others’ beliefs and sensibilities, positions, and propositions. Some people’s religious sense is others’ religious nonsense. A person’s religious food is another’s religious poison. Clear and simple. People are bound to find other people’s religious or philosophical views and opinions objectionable and disagreeable. That is normal and should be expected. Nobody should expect to live in a society where there are no opposing or contradictory views and ideas. So instead of urging against insulting other people’s religious beliefs and sensibilities, which is a pretext for oppression, repression, and suppression of other religious and irreligious ideas, a case should be made for tolerance -tolerance of other religious and non-religious ideas and notions. A case should be made for respect for the rights of others to freedom of religion or belief, and freedom of expression, not respect for others’ religious notions. Ideas should not be respected. Human beings should be respected.

It is disingenuous to accuse people of disrespecting a belief or a religion, or to expect everyone to respect a particular religious icon. That is tyranny. That is a totalitarian tendency. Religious doctrines are to be believed or disbelieved, debated, confessed, and professed. Religions are made to be entertained, embraced or abandoned, renounced, examined and analyzed, accepted or rejected. In matters of faith, respect or disrespect is a factor of belief or disbelief. Christians who treat the Bible with respect do so because they believe that it is the word of God. Muslims respect Muhammad because they believe or are made to believe that he is the messenger from Allah or the greatest prophet of all times. Now, non-Christians and non-Muslims do not share these beliefs.

How does one expect an individual to respect a belief or doctrine that he or she rejects? What does it mean to insult a belief, that one thinks is mistaken, false, or untrue? Unfortunately, religion is replete with myths and misconceptions about the universe, nature, and how nature works. Many religious teachings are outdated and incompatible with many scientific and philosophical views. To be specific, how does one expect non-Muslims to treat the prophet of Islam with respect when they do not believe in his prophethood? How does one think that a non-Christian who is of the notion that Jesus never existed would treat Jesus with respect? The mistake many believers make is to expect non-believers to treat and respect their beliefs, objects, and personalities as they do. And as Germans would say: Das gehts lieder nicht(Unfortunately, that is not possible). That is not applicable. That is not healthy for society. Yes, that is not how religions operate.

READ ALSO: The Killing Of Citizen Deborah, Our Own Malala

Now think about it, the religions which demand respect are Christianity and Islam. Meanwhile, these are not the only religions and philosophies that exist in society. Why is it that believers, Muslims in this case, feel entitled to not be offended? Meanwhile, they espouse views and notions that going by their standards insult religious and irreligious beliefs and icons of others. For instance, Muslims claim that making disparaging remarks about the prophet of Islam is a red line. Understood. They claim that nobody should cross the redline without serious consequences. Fine. But in their everyday preaching and profession of faith, they cross the redlines of others; they make disparaging remarks about prophets and propositions of other religions and philosophies. In their profession of faith, Muslims dismiss other gods as non-existent; they downgrade other prophets. Don’t Muslims know that the recitation of Shahada is offensive, insulting, and provocative to many out there?

Muslims tell us that they love their prophets more than their parents, in fact, more than any human being. They tend to forget that people of other faiths and beliefs have a strong emotional attachment to their religious and philosophical icons too. And if people were to respond violently as Muslims often do to those who scorn their faiths and beliefs then there would be no peace in the world. There would be no Muslims or Christians, no believer or non-believer to respect or disrespect religions and philosophies.

It should also be noted that Christianity and Islam are faiths that missionaries, jihadists, and scholars from Europe, the Middle East, and Asia introduced to the region. These two religions owe their spread and dominance to the activities of those who ‘insulted’ and still ‘insult’ African traditional religious gods, prophets, and beliefs. So how does one make sense of the fact that the religions whose members ask that their icons be respected are out there relentlessly lampooning other religions and beliefs as a matter of divine mission and mandate? For centuries missionaries and proselytizers have in some cases, through physical and structural violence, and impertinent insolence toward African traditional world views and identities been furthering the cause of Christian and Islamic faiths.

READ ALSO: The Killing Of Nigerian Christian Student Has Everything To Do With Religion

The idea of insulting other gods, religions, and beliefs is embedded in the religious enterprise. Insulting religious beliefs is not alien to religions. Every religion blasphemes against other religions. Each religion claims to embody absolute truth and divinity as opposed to other religions that are fake or inferior, or custodians of minor/marginal gods. Interesting no religion is monolithic. Every faith is characterized by a plurality of views and doctrines; by competing and opposing sects, denominations, and traditions. These traditions have doctrines, and they make propositions that other faith traditions consider insulting or disrespectful. So insulting religious beliefs is part and parcel of the religious business. It is what religions do as a matter of fact. Instead of urging against insulting religious sensibilities, which is often a demand from members of a particular religion wherever they are in the majority, tolerant pluralism should be encouraged and fostered. Believers and non-believers should be urged to condone other religious and irreligious views. If anyone finds a view offensive or insulting, the person should challenge it, criticize it, scrutinize it, denounce it, examine it, and yes debate or debunk it. People of all faiths and beliefs should learn to accommodate and civilly engage positions and propositions that insult or disparage their faiths or beliefs whether they are in the majority or in the minority.

 

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Opinion

The Killing Of Citizen Deborah, Our Own Malala

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The Killing Of Citizen Deborah, Our Own Malala

By Hope O’Rukevbe Eghagha

Last week the video of a body set ablaze by a mob went viral on social media. It was preceded by the still picture of a lady dressed in red lying on the ground in a grotesque manner. Life was no longer in her. She had succumbed to savagery and jungle justice by overzealous morons who accused her, found her guilty and executed her in a most barbarous manner reminiscent of the Stone Age. She died a most horrendous death at the hands of her class or school mates. She was stoned to death by students at a College of Education. The barbarous act was carried out by some teachers of tomorrow. What kind of educators would these teachers be in future? Do they recognize Nigeria? Do they realise that Nigeria is not an Islamic Republic, that is, supposing an Islamic Republic will tolerate such a murder? How are the killers better than bandits or terrorists currently plaguing the northern part of Nigeria? We have allowed a monster out of religion, fighting wars for God who obviously did not ask us to fight for Him!

It turned out that it was the body of Citizen Deborah Yakubu, a student at Shehu Shagari College of Education Wamako Sokoto, who had been murdered because, according to her traducers, she blasphemed the name of Prophet Mohammed. In a class WhatsApp platform, she had complained that the platform had been inundated with religious posts and that the platform should be used for what it was created for. Her traducers claimed she made some uncomplimentary remarks about Prophet Mohammed. Later a sweaty nincompoop, with the dark looks of a savage, released a video in which he claimed gleefully that he was the one that killed the lady in question. This in 21st century Nigeria? This is unacceptable. It is indicative of the deep division between world view of extremists in the north and the rest of the country.

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The ugly news has not been carried by cable network stations. If it happened in Afghanistan or the Middle East, her death would be on the airwaves. Fortunately, and appropriately, the Sultan of Sokoto, leader of Muslims in the country, has spoken against the murder. But he should not stop there. We expect him to personally get involved and ensure that the killer is paraded before the press as a common criminal. Except he does this, we would see the condemnation as mere lip service. The irrepressible Father Matthew Kukah has also condemned the murder and called on the government to fish out the perpetrators for the right punishment, stating that ‘’the only obligation that is owed her immediate family, her fellow students and the school authorities is the assurance that those who are guilty of this inhuman act, no matter the provocation, are punished according to the laws of the land’. Writer Gimba Kakanda wrote on a Facebook post: ‘the barbarism that transpired in Sokoto today has no basis in Islam, and it indicts us all. This culture prevails because past self-appointed punishers of blasphemers got away with their crimes. Whether in Islamic jurisprudence or our secular law, there’s no place for jungle justice, no matter how any offended mob feels’.

But the misguided zealots don’t feel any remorse. Some posts which followed the gleeful announcement on social media are instructive. The killer whose photograph is prominently displayed on social media boasted: ‘I killed her. I burnt her. You can see the matchbox I used in setting her ablaze’. One Muhammed Mode Gagi wrote, just as Bilyaminu Ladan, Sirajo Isiya and Balkisu Umar Ibrahim that: ‘You have done well, may God increase the status of Prophet Muhammed (s.a.w). Sufiyenu Yabo then concluded it: ‘Praise be to God. May Allah reward you with paradise! Which God? My question is if the head of Muslims has called it murder, from which book did the young Muslim boys and girls learn that to inflict jungle justice on a woman who supposedly blasphemed is carrying out a divine injunction?

I must state from the outset that no one has the right to insult another religion, either directly or indirectly. Christianity and Islam are the two major religions in Nigeria. Adherents must know their boundaries. To insult Prophet Mohammed is unacceptable. But it is also unacceptable for an individual to take the life of another citizen in the name of religion. This is how religious wars start. Pause for a minute and imagine what it would be if Christians in Sokoto decide to take the life of a Muslim youth in vengeance. Or if in the Christian-dominated south a Christian family carries out a reprisal attack. An endless cycle will start, the end of which no one can predict. Therefore, the Sokoto State government must rise to the occasion and bring the culprit to book.

READ ALSO: The Killing Of Nigerian Christian Student Has Everything To Do With Religion

There had been other killings in the name of religion in the past. In 1995, one Gideon Akaluka was decapacitated by Muslim fanatics for blasphemy. Nothing came of it in the form of punishment on her killers. In June 2016 Mrs. Bridget Agbaheme was brutally murdered by suspected Islamic extremists in Kofar Wambai market Kano state, over allegations that she blasphemed the name of the Holy Prophet. Except the government takes a decisive action against such criminals, more of such acts will occur in future.

The killing is most incendiary. It is provocative. It could trigger off sectarian war. As we know, religious wars are difficult to contain. The Christian Association of Nigeria should get actively involved to ensure that Deborah does not die in vain. Justice must be pursued to serve as a deterrent. The NBA and allied associations must rise to the occasion. Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa (SAN) has urged NBA-SPIDEL not to hold any conference in the state where a Nigerian citizen has ‘been brutally murdered and burnt to death…we should make a statement to the government by cancelling the conference and hold it in a neighbouring State in the North’.

What has given Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai an international stature? It is the attack on her person by religious extremists because of her stance on education. Deborah is our own Malala, and she should be accorded that status. Her death at the hands of ignorant and defiant zealots diminishes all of us. I expect the president, the state governor and high-ranking state officials from the North to condemn the killing and order the arrest of the killer. The college management should suspend the suspect pending full a investigation. There will be no love lost between the killer squad leader and other Christian members of the class and indeed all other Christian students in the college. Some acts, small as they are, help to define a nation. Except the government punishes the killer, the government would inadvertently be promoting the emerging narrative that there is no ‘One Nigeria!

POSTSCRIPT: After submitting the essay, further developments made me return to my submissions. The culprits were appropriately arrested, leading to mass protests. There have been riots in Sokoto, with houses and property belonging to non-Muslims being targeted. Alhaji Atiku has withdrawn his condemnation of the killing of Citizen Deborah. He has lost votes, thereby. The state government has imposed a 24-hour curfew. But soldiers ought to be drafted to quell the riots that have led to the destruction of lives and property. This is no way to grow a federal republic! Government must stand firm! Mr. President must condemn the arsonists.

Professor Eghagha writes from the Department of English, University of Lagos.

 

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Opinion

The Killing Of Nigerian Christian Student Has Everything To Do With Religion

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The Treacherous Notion Of Insulting Religious Sensibilities

By Leo Igwe

Humanists are outraged by the gruesome murder of a female college student in Sokoto in Northern Nigeria. Such a horrific act is a sordid reminder of the threat of Islamic extremism in Nigeria. Muslim students at Shehu Shagari College of Education accused a Hausa Christian, Deborah Yakubu, of blasphemy; they beat their colleague to death and burnt the corpse. Ms. Yakubu reportedly protested against posting religious messages on the student Whatsapp platform. Her protest angered some Muslim students who mobilized and subsequently killed her.

The brutal killing of Ms. Yakubu is not an isolated incident. Many Muslims and non-Muslims adjudged to have insulted Islam or its prophet have suffered a similar fate in the region. In 2007, some Muslim students in Gombe lynched their female Christian teacher for desecrating the Quran. There have been other violent attacks and murders of alleged blasphemers in Muslim-dominated areas in Kano, Niger, and other parts of Islamic Northern Nigeria. Persons accused of blasphemy have been sentenced to death by sharia courts in Kano. Others like Nigerian Humanist, Mubarak Bala, have been given long prison sentences. Muslim clerics and state officials have openly and publicly endorsed the execution of blasphemers.

Police Arrest Two Over Killing Of Female Student For Blasphemy

The late Deborah Yakubu

For instance, in 2015, Islamic theocrat, Bashir Ahmad tweeted this comment after a sharia court sentenced nine persons for blasphemy: “I cannot pretend or keep silent. I support the death penalty for blasphemy. That is my belief and I will never support #SaveKanoNine”. So it is patently untrue and misleading for anyone to say that the brutal murder of Ms. Yakubu and other blasphemy-related attacks, sanctions, and bloodletting in Northern Nigeria have nothing to do with religion. No, they do. As the case of this Christian woman has shown, these bloodletters are usually motivated by their religious belief in the prophet of Islam; Islamic teachings and orientations, and by their quest to placate Allah and inherit the paradise in the hereafter.

READ ALSO: Police Arrest Two Over Killing Of Female Student For Blasphemy

So if Nigeria wants to end these horrific attacks and killings, it should take a critical look at how Islam is professed and practised in Northern Nigeria. Nigeria needs to determine if Islam is a religion or a death cult; if muslims operate within the law or above the law and if Islamic privilege is a state policy. Look, Islam has a history of violence and bloodletting that persists. The government must admit that jihadist Islam is entrenched and pervasive. Boko Haram militants are not only in the Sambisa forest. Islamic extremists exist and operate in several mosques, courts, police, and army stations. Boko Haram jihadists and their sympathizers are not a small minority as some people claim. They populate government houses, schools, colleges, and universities.

So it is high time Nigeria confronted this big elephant in the room, that is Islamic extremism. Muslim leaders should stop living in denial; they should stop pretending that jihadist Islam is not a huge problem. Muslim leaders should stop deceiving the world and saying that blasphemy killings and attacks have nothing to do with religion, in this case, Islam. No, these killings have everything to do with Islam as practised in Northern Nigeria. And the way Islam is preached and practised in Northern Nigeria must change. The government must address this toxic tendency and habit that makes muslims value their religious and prophetic icons more than human lives. Nigeria must tackle this savage and dreadful inclination of muslims to kill, attack or maim others at the slightest provocation. Nigerian authorities should monitor the activities of Muslim clerics because these religious actors use their preaching and Quranic indoctrination programmes to radicalize young Muslims and turn them into merchants of hate, violence, death, and destruction. The government should protect the rights of those who criticize the teachings and traditions of Islam and its prophet because it is through a critical examination of Islamic doctrines and practices that these extremist ideas and tendencies could be exposed and expunged.

READ ALSO: Female Student Burnt Alive Over Blasphemy

Nigeria should take measures to end impunity and ensure that those who indulge in blasphemy-related attacks or killings are brought to book. Those who carry out these barbaric acts should not go scot-free. They are murderers and criminals and should be arrested, prosecuted, and jailed to serve as a deterrent to others. Usually, when muslims attack or kill for blasphemy, no arrest is made, in cases where arrests are made, nobody is prosecuted; and in situations where some are charged to court, they are later acquitted. This culture of impunity must end if Nigeria must make progress in this 21st century. There should be serious consequences for blasphemy-related attacks. The Nigerian government should repeal blasphemy laws because as long as there are provisions that criminalize insults on religion, freedom of religion or belief and freedom of expression will not be guaranteed and these savage attacks in the name of Allah or Prophet Muhammad will continue.

 

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