The French translation of Chinua Achebe’s epic novel, “Things Fall Apart,” may well be the most appropriate depiction of the current state of world affairs. The world does not only seem to be falling apart, the world has begun to melt, under the fire power of terrorist shells and bombs. The overall implications may be even more devastating as, according to Akintola Ishaq, a Professor of Islamic Studies at the Lagos State University, the possibility of a third world war may not be ruled out.
According to him, “there are so many conflicting interests plaguing the Middle East, Europe and America and, just how long is it going to take to reconcile these interests in order to have global peace? A third world war is not impossible. The West is divided between Communism and Capitalism. There is no love lost today between Russia and American or France. The cold rivalry is there.There is half-hearted reconciliation between Cuba and America. France has started bombing Syria and ISIS strongholds but Russia is equally in Syria defending Bashar Assad. America
wants Assad killed or removed. People are talking about peace but nobody is talking about justice. You cannot be unjust and enjoy peace. Those who want peace must be prepared to be just and handle the issue of human rights delicately.”
Whatever the case may be, the threat appears to be real as terrorism has taken the centre stage in many cities across the world. In Nigeria, in spite a certain level of international collaboration, government has not been able to effectively tackle the murderous activities of insurgents in parts of the country. It may no longer be possible to keep track of the number of their indiscriminate bombing campaigns and attacks just as it may also be virtually impossible to know the actual figure of the deaths arising from these attacks.
And, as in previous attacks in other parts of the world, the coordinated terrorist assault on Paris on November 13, 2015 was as devastating as they were apparently designed to be. A total of about 129 persons were reported killed and about 380 others injured after gunmen attacked seven isolated locations in the French capital. An Islamic group, the Islamic State (ISIS) based in Syria and Iraq claimed responsibility for the act which has continued to receive world-wide condemnation.
Over the past few months the acronym has become synonymous with violence, terror and bloodshed as the group continues to advance its cause in the Middle East and even beyond. Earlier in January, ISIS praised two gunmen who reportedly killed 12 persons at the Paris offices of a newspaper, Charlie Hebdo.
And, on October 31, a Russian passenger Metrojet Flight 9268 departed the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh and later crashed over the Sinai, killing all the 224 persons on board. ISIS has since equally claimed responsibility for the downing of the aircraft with reports indicating that terrorists planted explosives in it before take-off.
Way back on September 11, 2001, there were four coordinated attacks across the United States of America as suicide bombers hijacked four passenger aircraft and crashed them into high rise buildings including the twin towers of the 110-floor World Trade Centre in New York City. The attacks claimed the lives of 2,296 persons. Then there was the attack in London. The list is endless.
At the wake of the attacks in Paris, a Nigerian non-governmental organization, Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC), also joined various other groups and individuals from across the world in condemning the incident which it regretted may fuel universal chaos. According to the group in a statement, “the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) strongly condemns these attacks. They are despicable, vicious and barbaric. They take humanity back to the Stone Age, grant unfettered licence to lawlessness and fuel universal chaos.
“It is becoming more glaring that the main preoccupation of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is the shedding of innocent blood and the precipitation of religious war, particularly between Christians of the West and Muslims of the Middle East. “We dissociate ourselves from the violent propensity of ISIS and its blood-thirsty associates in Al-Qaedah and Boko Haram whose stock-in-trade is the misinterpretation of the peaceful message of Islam. We reject the hate messages of messengers of death who ask Muslims to kill Westerners. We affirm clearly and unequivocally that Islam neither teaches racism nor does it endorse terrorism.
“MURIC calls on Muslim youths all over the world to save Islam from an implosion induced by extremism. This they can do by distancing themselves from radical and violent groups.”
Motivation for terrorism
In virtually all the attacks, persons considered to belong to extremist Muslim groups have always claimed responsibility, justifying their actions by citing certain religious ideologies. But according to Ishaq, “we do not believe they are Muslims. These people are bastardizing the religion of Islam. They are masquerading under the guise of a divine religion to perpetuate their diabolical agenda. Islam is a religion of peace. It does not allow you to attack people. The Koran says in Chapter 5 verse 32 that if you kill a single person, it will be as if you have killed the whole humanity. And, if you save the life of a single person, it will be as if you have saved the whole of humanity.
Koran chapter 1 verse 51, forbids the killing of innocent lives, it pronounces the sanctity of human life and refers to those who take the lives of other people, without due process (by government), as criminals. The excuse they give, that they want to kill non-Muslims so that they can go to Paradise is an illusion. It is an empty excuse to satisfy their homicidal tendencies. “The Prophet of Islam said that a Muslim is one who does not hurt anyone with his hand or with his tongue.
So, how can these people be killing people, destroying churches, attacking people who have gone to worship God their way, and saying that they are doing it on behalf of Almighty Allah? You cannot fight for Allah and you cannot fight for religion. The attacks are acts of aggression and an infringement on the verses of the Koran. These people are further justifying certain view of some people who regard Muslims as extremists especially in the West where some people do not want to see Muslims at all. There are extremist Muslims and there are extremist Christians.
“But in some of these happenings, some things may be responsible because, as they say, there is no smoke without fire. When people are provoked or pushed to the wall, then they react. In these acts of terrorism, we are saying that, some of them may be due to provocation of Muslims and acts of injustice against Muslims to which the terrorists react. But that does not mean we support terrorism.
Islam does not support killing of people. If you are provoked, there are ways and measures you can take including dialogue and you can speak out against those who terrorize you. The press should speak out against the injustice in the world, otherwise, the reactions of extremists will continue unabated. Look at the way Muslim women are being embarrassed all over the world. In France, the authorities there enacted a law banning Muslim women from wearing hijab.
I think dressing is a matter of culture and it should be a matter of freedom. The world believes in freedom of religion, freedom of movement and these are recognized by the United Nations. If Muslims say they want to dress in a particular way, why must they be forced to dress in another way or in the European way?
“We believe our women are being molested and embarrassed. Unfortunately, Muslim extremists react in a different way. Britain also enacted a similar law but not as harsh as that of France. Obama described Islam as part of America and that there is no way anybody can marginalize Muslims and enact laws against them. We are happy with what is happening in America but unfortunately Muslim extremists attacked America. The Bin Laden group of Al-Qaida issued a statement asking Muslims to attack Americans and Westerners and we regard such statements as hate speeches, they are inconsistent with the message of love from the Prophet of Islam, Prophet Muhammad. They contradict the peaceful teachings of Islam enshrined in the glorious Koran.
“We reject the messages of Al-Qaida because Islam is not a native religion as there are Muslims in America, in Great Britain. Islam is the fastest growing religion in the West today. So, we reject such messages and we call on Muslims all over the world to continue to live in peace with their neighbours, regardless of where they come from.
The motivation for terrorism comes from provocation. Muslims are being provoked and the provocation has been building up over several decades. Injustice against Muslims tends to recruit fanatical Muslims as terrorists. The world must unite against unfair treatment of Muslims. If Muslims are maltreated anywhere, the world should speak out against it.
“These extremist groups have their hidden agenda, they want to rule the world with iron fist but the good people of the world must come together, from all the continents, and reject this intimidation from terrorists.”
The role of ignorance
Another Muslim cleric, Sheikh Haliru Maraya, a former Special Adviser (Religious Matters) to the Kaduna state governor, believes that those he describes as being ignorant of the true teachings of Islam are responsible for the current global terrorism initiatives. According to him, “absolute ignorance is responsible for the attacks by some people claiming to be Muslims. Islam cherishes the sanctity of human life.
The Prophet said that we should have the same love for mankind as you have love for yourself and by so doing, you become a true Muslim. The people currently perpetuating these devilish acts are not true Muslims. Retaliation is also a transgression against the Almighty Allah. Islam does not permit an individual to take the laws into his hands.
That is why the Koran says that it is an excellent virtue to use good to pay back somebody who may have wronged you. You cannot begin to kill people because some Muslims are being killed elsewhere in the world as form of retaliation which is also a transgression in Islam. Islam does not permit you to take the laws into your hands. If you are aggrieved, you are expected to take your case to a court of competent jurisdiction. This is what Islam says. If your brothers are killed in destination A, then you begin to kill people in destination B, it is wrong and it is anti-Islam.
“Allah says that somebody who worships Allah ignorantly is a disadvantage to the religion. Such people may have love for Islam but they do not know the tenets of the religion. They do not know Islam’s view on how to live peacefully with other people in the society. Relationship between Muslims and non-Muslims in society as far as Islam is concerned is always expected to be cordial.
The right to life, the right to own property, the right to live anywhere one wishes to live, the right to practice any religion one chooses to practice are sacrosanct as far as Islam is concerned. You are not expected to kill or antagonize anyone for the simple reason that the person does not practice your religion. Allah says in the Koran that there is no compulsion in Islam and this verse was revealed to the Prophet when he established the Muslim community in Medina.
He lived cordially with the Jews in Medina and Christians in suburbs of Medina. “A true Muslim is not expected to act at variance with how the Prophet acted or behaved. What is currently happening is very unfortunate. It is not Islam and those people doing it do not represent Islam because the Koran does not say so and the Prophet who established the religion of Islam did not say so. There was never a time that the Prophet attacked a non-Muslim community or a church or a synagogue.
In fact there was a time somebody in Medina killed somebody and ran away and the relations went to the Prophet to complain and that they wanted to kill the son of the runaway murderer. The Prophet told them that they should not kill the son because he did not commit the crime. You cannot punish somebody else for an offence he did not commit and this is the position of Islam.
“I have never subscribed to the opinion that poverty pushes the youth to become extremists. During the time of the Prophet, some of his companions were not rich but they did not embark on such devilish acts, killing innocent people. And, there is nowhere in Islam where it says that if you are poor, you should go on rampage.
In Nigeria here, if you go to the South-West, there are a lot of Muslims there and some of them are also poor but we have never heard of something like Boko Haram over there. I have always attributed this to the fact that a majority of the Muslim community in the South-West are enlightened as far as Islam is concerned. They know the religion and they also have Western style education.
So, one can say that what is happening is attributable to ignorance of the religion by some of people who claim to be Muslims.”