By Luminous Jannamike, Abuja
Religious intolerance in Nigeria has already assumed a deadly in 2022. Violence between Muslims and Christians in the country recently escalated with the killing of Deborah Samuel, a 200 level female student of Shehu Shagari College of Education, Sokoto. She was mobbed and killed before her corpse was set ablaze within the school premises last Thursday.
The violence evolved from spontaneous reactions to religious posts made on her class’ WhatsApp group to provocations and later to a deadly attack that eventually claimed her life.
The unfortunate incident triggered swift responses from both the Federal and State Governments as well as calls from the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar; the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), the civil society groups, and other well-meaning individuals for the perpetrators to be brought to book. Consequently, the Sokoto State Police Command arrested two persons in connection with the killing of Deborah Samuel.
Prof. Maqari’s tweet on religious red lines
However, alleged remarks by renowned clerics such as the Imam of the National Mosque in Abuja, Prof. Ibrahim Maqari, has bee perceived in many quarters to be an endorsement of the extra-judicial killing of the female student.
“It should be known to everyone that we the Muslims have some redlines beyond which MUST NOT be crossed. The dignity of the Prophet (PBUH) is at the forefront of the redlines.
“If our grievances are not properly addressed, then we should not be criticized for addressing them ourselves,” Maqari had stated in a viral post on his official Twitter handle on Friday.
Cross red lines, bear the consequences – MURIC
Backing the position of the Imam of the National Mosque, the Executive Director, Muslim Rights Concern, Prof. Ishaq Akintola, told Sunday Vanguard in a telephone interview: “There are red lines in every religion, including Islam. So, Prof. Maqari’s comments is nothing new. Moreover, the red lines apply not just to non-Muslims. When a self-professed Muslim also crosses the line, he or she will also bear the consequences.”
Sokoto youths protest
Less than 24 hours later, some Muslim youths in Sokoto State stormed the streets in their numbers to protest against those who condemned the resorting to self-help and jungle justice by those who gruesomely murdered Deborah Samuel for alleged blasphemy.
The youths also called on the Governor Tambuwal as well as security agencies to, as a matter of urgency, release those arrested in connection with the killing.
KDSG bans religious protests
Worried that the spiral of violence in Sokoto would spread to other Northern states, Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna banned all forms of religious protests in his domain.
In a statement issued on Saturday, Samuel Aruwan, the Kaduna State Commissioner of Internal Security, said the ban became imperative “in view of moves by some unpatriotic elements to organise series of for-and-against protests related to a security development in one of the northern states (Sokoto).”
Also, denouncing the violent demonstration in Sokoto as well as the alleged remarks by the Imam of the National Mosque, the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) said heads will continue to roll across the country, if clerics promoting religious intolerance, extremism and terrorism under any guise refuse to repent.
The CAN President, Rev. Samson Ayokunle, who spoke through his Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Pastor Adebayo Oladeji, said: “It is unfortunate. You can now see how the menace of insecurity is been promoted by religion intolerance, extremism and terrorism to repent occasion by the Islamic extremists has not ended.
“Those terrorists have some forces backing them up and it is expected of the security agencies to go after their sponsors, no matter how powerful, they are.
“Otherwise, they will push the country into another civil war and no country fought two civil wars remained the same. This is why we are calling on all religious leaders who are promoting religion intolerance, extremism and terrorism to repent or risk the wrath of God.”
In their reactions to the development, some civil society groups say the various governments have taken welcome but insufficient steps to halt the killings.
They, however, stressed that the immediate priorities should be to deploy more security units to vulnerable areas; prosecute perpetrators of violence; uphold the supremacy of the constitution as the grand norm over religious red lines and begin the development and execution of concrete plans to restructure the country.
Prof. Maqari’s stance condemnable – CHRICED
Speaking with Sunday Vanguard, the Executive Director, the Resource Centre for Human Rights & Civic Education (CHRICED), Dr. Ibrahim Zikirullahi, berated the Chief Imam of the National Mosque, Prof. Maqari for his controversial stance on the gruesome killing of Deborah Samuel.
According to him, “Prof. Maqari’s comments are fanatical and condemnable for an Imam to make comments that appear to justify extrajudicial killings.
“Such expressions can only be made in a society where there is gross impunity. In a system where the rule of law is held in high esteem, clerics will think of the le legal consequences of their messages before opening their mouths to speak. Islam is a religion of peace and total submission to the will of God.
“Gross violations of rule of law, human rights, and personal liberty as well as the degradation of justice, such as witnessed in the stoning to death and burning of Deborah Samuel by some students of Shehu Shagari College of Education, Sokoto (SSCOE) over alleged blasphemy constitute an affront to the humanity of all Nigerians, and further justify the demand for a National Conference to address the multi-faceted problems confronting the country.”
Zikirullahi also condemned the protests by the youths in Sokoto, saying that Prophet Mohammed suffered all sorts of maltreatments and dehumanisation from the people of Mecca, but chose to forgive all those who initially condemned his faith when he later had the power to deal with them.
Deborah’s death, a call to restructure Nigeria – Atoye
Also, reacting to the developments that have trailed the death of Deborah Samuel, the Executive Director, Adopt A Goal Initiative, Ariyo Dare Atoye, said to address the concerns raised by the killing of the female student, there is truly the need for the restructuring of the country.
According to him, “Religion is an ideology. It is important for those who kill for religion to realize that Nigeria is made up of diverse religious and ethnic view points, but with a constitution that should be the grand norm for all.
“So, unless we sit together as a nation to discuss and agree how we want to move forward, extra-judicial killings of the sort that happened in Sokoto will continue.
“The present arrangement is not sustainable. Nigeria needs a fresh start by means of restructuring, but if we can’t afford to let the constitution enjoy supremacy over our religious views; then, let each component unit go its own way.”
No one should take laws into their hands – Adeyanju
On his part, the Convened of Concerned Nigerians, Comrade Deji Adeyanju, cautioned the protesting youths in Sokoto state to desist from actions that could exacerbate the tensions in the hand.
He also urged clerics to quit making comments that seem to justify citizen’s taking of law into their hands in the name of religion.
“Even in the Middle-east and other Arab nations, particularly Saudi Arabia, which is the epicentre of Islam, no citizen is allowed to take the laws into his hands. When aberration is observed, only the state apparatus can dispense justice. So, why are the Muslims in Nigeria practicing the opposite?” He queried.
Nigeria remains a secular state – CISLAC
Speaking also to Sunday Vanguard, the Executive Director of CISLAC, Auwal Musa Rafsanjani, said that Nigeria’s secular governance and diversity in religion should never be undermined for there to be peaceful co-existence.
According to him, “Nigeria is a secular state with a supreme constitution that is above other laws. So, everyone should be allowed to practice his religion. Nonetheless, we must all respect each other’s religions.”
While the authorities appear to have taken measures to stop any further bloodshed, stakeholders unanimously agree that the principles of justice, truth, liberty, rule of law and respect for the human rights of all people, are essential for a peaceful and prosperous nation.