By John Amoda
Forty one associations make up the DCCN. Among these members are Abuja Muslim Forum, AMF, Abuja; Abu Sheriff Islamic Organization, Ilorin; Al-Amin Foundation, Kaduna; Council for Dwah and Welfare of Converts, Bauchi; Council of Ulama of Nigeria, CUN, Kano; El-Kanemi College of Islamic Theology, Maiduguri.
Others are Federation of Muslim Women Associations in Nigeria, FOMWAN, Abuja; International Institute of Islamic Thought, IIIT, Kano; Islamic Foundation, Kano; Islamic Medical Association of Nigeria, IMAN, Minna; Muslim World League and World Assembly of Muslim Youth, WAMY, Lagos.
The above is a partial listing of the associations that make up DCCN. The list illustrates the diversity and professional character of DCCN and provides an institutional portrait of Islamic intellectualism.
The monograph titled, “The Boko Haram tragedy” is the summation of the conclusions of the meeting held at the Da’wah Institute of Nigeria, Islamic Education Trust, Minna between August 1 and 12, 2009 by DCCN group of about 40 men and women to discuss the “Boko Haram” crisis and tragedy that erupted at the end of July in some of the North-Eastern states of Nigeria, particularly Bauchi, Borno and Yobe…
“Some of those in attendance were very well acquainted with the Boko Haram” movement and knew the late Muhammed Yusuf and some of his key followers personally. Others had been involved in dialogues and debates with Boko Haram members for some years and were well acquainted with the history, ideology activities and evolution of the group.
Others still were Muslim youth leaders who had a good understanding of Islam and Islamic movement and could contribute significantly to the quality of the discussion”. From the above quote we see that the August 2009 meeting at Minna was convened to examine the Boko Haram crisis and tragedy as an intra-Islamic matter and to examine its implication for the Nigerian Islamic community.
The August 2009 meeting is therefore critical in establishing the context for appraising the transformation of the discourse on Boko Haram from a Nigerian intra-Islamic “crisis and tragedy” into a discourse on international security crisis.
My examination of the discussion at Minna will therefore not take the form of content analysis of these discussions or of a review. My intention is to provide a way of appreciating the transformation of discourses as responses to the transformation of and in a movement that is now described in the press as Boko Haram. The agenda of those who met in Minna consisted of two issues, namely:
“1.To help the general public and Muslim youth leaders provide accurate answer to commonly asked or expected questions about the Boko Haram crisis and tragedy.
2. To help the Muslim community leaders with qualitative response to the arguments presented by the Boko Haram group to defend their ideology and perspectives. This document contains the responses to 26 of some of the most expected and commonly asked questions regarding the Boko Haram crisis and tragedy.
It does not focus on the responses to ideological basis and arguments presented by the Boko Haram group in defence of their position and interpretation of Islam. That is treated in another document titled, “The Boko Haram Arguments: Responses to the ideology of the Boko Haram Group”.
As seen in the delimitation of the scope of the Minna Meeting, MM, the concern was to define the Islamicness of the Boko Haram movement, and not its project of reform of Islamic practice and doctrine. The Minna Meeting was concerned with introducing the BH Group to the general Muslim public and to assist its youth leadership obtain accurate answers from the Muslim scholars on questions occasioned by the conduct of the BH group.
The Minna Meeting was, therefore, concerned with ensuring that the interactions between the general Muslim community, its youth leaders and the BH Group was mediated by the DCCN. From the above followed the second objective of the Minna Meeting: “To help the Muslim community leaders with qualitative response to the argument presented by the Boko Haram group to defend their ideology and perspectives”.
The monograph was thus an educational project to inform the Muslim community leaders on the BH group and to ascertain what the Quran teaches on how the conduct of the BH could be judged and what the Quran and The Prophet Muhammed teach on how movements like the BH are to be related to.
This is why the preamble ends with a prayer: “We pray Allah blesses the efforts of all those who have contributed to this humble document, and to forgive us all for any errors that it might contain”. The intended audience of the monograph was and is the Islamic community leaders and the Muslim youth leaders.
This introduction of the DCCN shows that in 2009 the BH challenge was primarily an intra-Islamic one, a challenge to the orthodox leadership of the Nigerian Islam and to the Islamic orthodoxy propagated by the Nigerian Islamic establishment.
In this endeavour it is made evident that the monograph of the DCCN displays the care and diligence with which what should be the response to the BH group was to be crafted. The monograph provides an example of tolerance and cool-headness in handling the BH as an Islamic reformist movement.
True enough Nigeria is a multi-religious society. That fact does not preclude inter-religious understanding of crisis management across religious divide. What the Minna Meeting sought to do provides an example for the Christian Association of Nigeria and the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria in addressing issues of reform.
This introduction will, however, be followed by two essays in the following two Tuesday columns. The first will deal with BH in terms of the Minna Meeting. The second will be concerned with the transformation within the BH resulting in the emergence of a political interest group with state power ambition.
The emergence of the interest group that has assumed the public identity of Boko Haram has of necessity entailed the transformation of the Boko Haram discourse. The current security discourse is a response to the course of change in the purpose of the Boko Haram group.