•To say Muslims are terrorists is balderdash’
•Why I risked my life to talk sense into Boko Haram leaders
•Praises Ahmadiyya for laudable achievements @ 100
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo has urged Nigerians to apply the Ahmadiyya principle of ‘Love for all and hatred for none’ in their day-to-day activities, adding that the doctrine was capable of bringing abundant and rewarding life devoid of strife and tension in the society.
Obasanjo who was a special guest of honour at Ahmadiyya Muslim Jammat Centenary celebration/64th annual convention held at Ilaro Ogun State recently also stated that he risked his life to talk to the leaders of Boko Haram merely because he believes Muslims are not terrorists; just as he stressed that those who perpetrate atrocities all over the world are far below 1% of the global Muslim population. He was received by the Amir, Dr, Mashuud Fashola and other leaders of the group.
‘Love for all, hatred for none’ principle
He said: “Due to its timeless relevance to our fragile world and complex country, I am particularly enamoured by your motto, “Love for all, hatred for none”. I believe if all Nigerians can internalise the message and apply it in our day-to-day activities and interactions, we would be living a more abundant and rewarding life, devoid of the strife and tension that characterise our socio-political experience. If we all hold “love for all” sacrosanct and we are “all for love” in spite of our real and perceived differences, we would all be happy and fulfilled. If we choose otherwise, the case would just remain like that of the proverbial chicken on the rope: ara o r’okun, ara o r’adie.”
“Love is the basis of faith as it constitutes the fundamental teaching of all religions, especially Islam. Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) was reported to have said, “The faith of each of you would not be complete until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself.” This is the same message of the Golden Rule in Christianity, which means “Do to others as you want them do unto you.” The world surely needs healing from its present afflictions and it is love, not hatred that can do it.
“As no one can be more Catholic than the Pope or more Islamic than Muhammad, the message of love and peace is crucial and I urge this noble Community not to relent in championing the course of good that was championed by the Prophet. I learnt that the lifestyle of Muhammad was that he did and encouraged all to talk softly, walk humbly, eat moderately, breathe deeply, sleep sufficiently, dress properly, interact politely, act fearlessly, work efficiently, think truthfully, believe correctly, behave decently, learn practically, plan orderly, earn honestly, spend intelligently, sacrifice regularly, serve diligently, worship, live peacefully and die faithfully.
‘To say Muslims are terrorists is balderdash’
While addressing the crowd of Muslims at the event, Obasanjo said he was not unaware how the global image of Islam is constructed by the actions and in-actions of a tiny minority urging the Jamaat not to be complacent when a fringe minority decided to give the religion bad image.
“However, as you are all aware, the global image of Islam is constructed by the actions and in actions of a tiny minority that grabs the headlines with their horrendous activities, whether they are ISIS, AI-Qaeda, Al-Shabaab, The Taliban or our own Boko Haram. Organisations like yours cannot afford to be complacent when the narrative or perception of Islam is dictated or informed by the fringe minority.
It is my strong belief that those who say Muslims are terrorists because of these groups are either ignorant, mischievous or wicked. I do not subscribe to such balderdash, which was partly why I risked my life at a time to talk sense into Boko Haram when I reached out to its leaders.
In 2013, the world population was said to be 7.2 billion people out of which 1.6 billion were Muslims, meaning that 23% of the world were Muslims. By implication, one out of every four persons is a Muslim. ISIS at its peak had 31,500 fighters, meaning that it was just 0.001969% of the world Muslims. Now that the world population stands at 7.5 billion and Muslims are 1.8 billion, all the crazy people that claim Islam and perpetrate atrocities all over the world cannot be up to 200,000 if we are generous with their figures. They are still far below 1% of the global Muslim population.
“Therefore, let the message of love, peace, compassion and kindness resonate and do not allow others to dictate the perception of your religion. It is now time to double and even quadruple your efforts in the areas of education, health, outreach and humanitarian services so that the world would know better the essential Islam. Let the message sound and resound that we should embrace love for all and all for love.”
Contributions of Ahmadiyya
Obasanjo said: “Whether people like it or not, the contributions of Ahmadiyyah Muslim Jama’at to Islam in particular and national development in Nigeria at large cannot be over-emphasised. Without equivocation, it was this great organisation that blazed the trail for Muslim education in Nigeria and laid a foundation for the emergence of highly respected Muslim intellectuals and professionals who have made, and are still making, Nigeria proud with their enormous contributions to nation-building and national development.
“While it could be stated that the Ahmadiyya Jama’at was formally established in 1916, other accounts suggested that a small band of individuals had accepted Ahmadiyya previously in 1914. Muslims in Nigeria, therefore, owe Ahmadiyya a debt of gratitude for first bridging the gap between Islam and Western education which was initially conceived as an interloper by the old order religious scholars.
As a matter of fact, there was a time during the colonial period when “a ‘good’ citizen in Nigeria and elsewhere…meant one who was African by blood, Christian by religion and British or French in culture and intellect. All others, who were Muslims, animists, etc., were only tolerated and accommodated,” as Fafunwa (1971) noted. Foremost among the organisations that proved that one could be a good citizen without being Christian by religion or being British or French in culture is Ahmadiyya, against the backdrop of the emphasis the organisation places on formal education without compromising the extant Islamic faith.
“It is on record, for instance, that the first Muslim school in Nigeria was established by the Ahmadiyya and the same thing is applicable to the first Muslim hospital and Muslim newspaper. Since the organisation became a rallying point for the Muslim elite when it birthed in Nigeria in 1916; there is no doubt that many successes have been recorded in all spheres of human endeavour in spite of the challenges the Jama’at has faced in its quest for existence, relevance and acceptance. We cannot deny the fact that the Ahmadiyya movement is regarded as heterodox by the majority of mainstream Muslims, and Ahmadiyya Muslims have been marginalized, discriminated against in various ways, and sometimes violently oppressed, particularly in Pakistan, where they were categorized as a non-Muslims minority in national law through the efforts of political and religious leaders in 1974. Nonetheless, Ahmadiyya Muslims and organisations are active in educational, missionary, and community efforts worldwide.
While congratulating the group on the centenary celebration, the former President advised the Jamaat to march decisively into another defining century of existence, charging the Jamaat to continue to uphold the very principles that have defined its tremendous growth and impacts over the past 100 years.