By Rotimi Fasan
JIHAD as an Islamic concept must be one of the most misunderstood- all thanks to those practitioners of a muscular form of Islam who believe the one and only way to propagate their religion is through the sword. The impression this category of Muslims create is that force is the only means through which people with a view of life different from theirs could be persuaded.
The use of brute force thus becomes a legitimate means for the conversion of so-called infidels. In Nigeria, people with such views are not too difficult to come by and the fact that they have more or less succeeded in their ways, their idea of what Islam represents is, unfortunately for other peaceful followers of the faith, what non-Muslims believe the religion stands for.
But with the coming of insurgent groups like those that have turned Northern Nigeria into something of a no-go area, the impression is further strengthened that violence is the language of a religion that the apparent majority of Muslims believe proclaims peace as its central tenet.
There is no compulsion in religion is what we hear adherents of Islam say but the hawkers of violence that are fast taking over different parts of the North don’t share this belief in the voluntary conversion of others.
Not only have they been emboldened by their criminal pursuit of anarchy, killing and maiming innocent people in their hundreds, they now demand the resignation of a president they certainly see as an infidel simply because he proclaims faith in a religion different from that of the terrorists.
The demand by the group of terrorists who have persistently operated in the shadows- the demand of these terrorists that President Goodluck Jonathan become a Muslim or resign from office is one such face of intolerance that gives Islam a bad name.
It is such reckless display of intolerance that makes it difficult for an increasing number of Nigerians to separate the agenda of these terrorists from that of other peaceful but silent followers of the Islamic faith.
I have in this column, last week, talked about the anarchist agenda of the terrorists and how that agenda makes no distinction between Christians and Muslims, nobles or menials. But many Nigerians may not find such explanation persuasive, not only because of the activities of the terrorists who claim they are out to spread their brand of Islam which they claim is the authentic brand but also because of the manner some people have defended them in the past.
Some respectable people, not necessarily avowed members of the terror sect, initially talked about the terror campaigns embarked upon by the group as response to the persecution of Muslims by the Nigerian state. They felt and said the group was only responding to the violence unleashed on Muslims by Nigeria.
Thus they felt no pang of conscience even as Christian worship places and Christians became targets of attack. When the group’s activities were widened to cover state institutions and security personnel, again their apologists saw the matter as one of confrontation between the state and a section of society out to protect itself against the unconscionable onslaught of the state.
Rather than viewing the attacks against security personnel as a gradual drive by the terrorists towards downgrading the capacity of the state to resist its terror campaigns, a move towards anarchism, excuses were made for them. Until subtle attacks were launched against other Muslims, individuals seen as having offended against the unstated non-agenda of the terrorists.
Then did it begin to dawn on their supporters that something else might be afoot. But that realisation would take a long while to come. The attack on individual Muslims continued for some time before Muslim worship centres were subjected to the violent ministration of terror attacks.
The embarrassment this must have created within the voluble minority of the Muslim community that had thought the terrorists were for Islam can only be imagined.
Now the chickens have come home to roost with the ongoing attacks on both Muslims and non-Muslims. Are we to believe that those places with majority Muslim population that have been attacked by the terrorists are inhabited by false Muslims?
What of emirs emerging from prayer places only to be attacked by killer squads while others have been visited in their homes by the merchants of death?
Are these people not Muslims? Who are the true Muslims- the peaceful followers of a religion or the belligerent murderers in religious disguise? It’s not surprising therefore that prominent Nigerians, Muslims from the North, are beginning to cry out that the terrorists are not Muslims.
I’m sure not many of those who tried to sell Nigerians on the idea of mass poverty in the North being responsible for all these attacks- not many of such people, I believe, would be willing to follow their earlier line of argument that was in fact a mere excuse for terror.
It may, therefore, sound hollow to many non-Muslims that Junaid Mohammed, the Peoples Salvation Party chair, would want them to believe that these terrorists are not Muslims.
There had been an apparent conspiracy of silence in the North, a reluctance to condemn in the strongest terms the activities of the terrorists by leaders in this part of the country. This situation has led some religious and political leaders down South to take their Northern counterparts to task.
But whether such leaders speak out or not, the responsibility is that of the state, symbolised by the President, to take control of the situation and do what is appropriate before the law. The perennial debate over the need for state police has again come to the fore basically because of the sense of insecurity that many have that Abuja can no longer guarantee their safety.
Although the situation is not as simple as it may appear, especially for a leader, but President Jonathan must stand up on the side of law and order. He must do what is right and call the bluff of the mindless killers and their supporters that are bent on turning Nigeria into a lawless state.