In this poignant article, Leo Igwe analysis the growth of Islamic extremism in Northern Nigeria and how fundamentalists aim to use violence, in the form of murder and terrorism to annihilate Christians.
The Islam that reacts violently to real or imagined offence has gone on rampage again. It has bloodied its hand. This time, the casualty was a woman.
The last time, not too long ago, it was a man. It was a Christian man in Kaduna who refused to fast during the Ramadan, or who dared to eat in public during the fasting hours. There is still no clarity as to what the crime was.
Is it that the Muslims who attacked him were not happy that he was not fasting in solidarity with them? Or they were angry that he was eating while they were fasting? One characteristic of this vicious expression of Islam is that it thrives in obscurity and ambiguity.
It finds expression in vagueness, vagueness regarding the exact nature of offence, vagueness regarding the exact number of cases of death that is visited on the religious or philosophical other in northern Nigeria.
In the case of the Kaduna man, he was fortunate. He narrowly survived. Though by all estimation he sustained serious injuries that might eventually prove fatal.
The latest victim is a woman whose offence is still clouded in mystery, in same inscrutability that has muddled the minds and consciences of fanatics and turned them into roving merchants of hate and horrific crimes.
It is still a Christian woman who was attacked and inflicted with fatal injuries. She was murdered for being different, for professing a different faith in a manner that angered those whose understanding of Islam has no place for a female preacher, and worse of all a female preaching the other faith that is not and should not be.
This raging form of Islam thrives by annihilating the other. We have seen this campaign of annihilation take different horrific forms that often put into question the claim to common humanity and equal citizenship by Nigerians.
This time it did not happen in Gombe, where muslims pupils lynched their Christian teacher, who was supervising a class, for defiling the Quran. Neither did it happen in Kano, a city and a state still haunted by the beheading of a Christian trader, Gideon Akaluka in the 90s. This time it happened in the capital city, Abuja.
Even the fact that Abuja is a city for all others has not kept these bloodthirsty annihilators at bay.
Once again, the Islam that is intolerant to different preaching was let loose and it devoured the preacher and her preaching. The mother of seven evangelizing on the streets of Abuja was attacked, killed and left her in the pool of her own blood.
What was her offence? What did this woman do to merit this vicious attack and murder in the hands of suspected Muslim fanatics? Has preaching Christianity become a crime? Some people would say that the attackers were not Muslims. Really? If they were not Muslims, who were they? Hindus? Were those who attacked the Christian man in Kaduna also not Muslims? What about those who killed the Christian woman in Kano? Were they Bori worshippers?
Others would say this is not Islam and what Islam preaches. Well, there are many verses in the Quran that sanctify violent reactions and treatment of unbelievers and other believers. Surely there are Muslims out there who do not subscribe to this vicious and murderous expression of Islam.
We must equally admit that there are Muslims who are in agreement with this form of Islam. And these Muslims are not an insignificant marginal few. They are not. Muslims who identify with the version of Islam that sanctions violent reactions to real or imaginary offence may not be in the majority but they constitute a powerful violent and intolerant minority that often overrule the ‘peaceful tolerant’ majority.
Think about the recent attacks and killings in Muslim majority states in Northern Nigeria, and one would agree that the extremists are calling the shots with impunity.
Within four months, Muslim militants have attacked or killed Christians in Niger, Kano, Kaduna and Abuja. This excludes the confirmed killings by Boko Haram militants. The religious situation is so charged, tensed and volatile. The relationship between muslims and their non muslim counterparts in Northern Nigeria has become that of fear, suspicion and mistrust. There are no indications that we have actually seen the last of these instances of religious bloodletting and carnage.
This is because the so-called peaceful majority seems to be helpless or has been subdued by fanatics. If this is not the case, how does one explain the fact that peddlers of violent Islam continue to get away with their crimes?
For years, Boko Haram killed, maimed and beheaded with impunity. At a point, the group succeeded in taking control of many parts of the North and executing vicious attacks and beheadings in several communities including the nation’s capital. Why is Boko Haram still launching vicious attacks after the military campaign has led to the death, arrests, and imprisonment of many militants?
If the Boko Haram members were few, the group would have stopped operating by now. However this is not the case, fanatical Islam is not a marginal segment. Look at how the Kano state government handled the blasphemy case last year. The sharia court sentenced to death some Muslims who allegedly committed blasphemy but did nothing to arrest or penalize militants who attacked and burnt down a Sharia court.
This twisted sense of Islamic justice is ubiquitous in the North due to the overwhelming influence of fundamentalist Islam. Take a look at other cases of Islamic violence. What happened to the Muslims who killed a Christian woman for defiling the Quran in Gombe some years ago? Nothing. Those who attacked and killed her went scot-free.
When will the killers of the Christian man in Niger be brought to justice? When will the killers of the Christian woman in Kano be made to answer for their crimes? When will the attackers of the Christian man in Kaduna be brought to book? When will the killers of the Christian female preacher in Abuja be made to face the wrath of the state law, not sharia law?
These are critical questions yearning for answers. These are cogent concerns that must be addressed.
I must add that this vicious, virulent, warped and only-Allah-knows-what deadly form of Islam does not only target the religious or belief other, it is also at war with Islamic others and seek to annihilate within and without Islam. That is why the Islamic establishment needs to wake up and sit up, and stop living in denial and begin to call out this elephant in the room of Islam in Nigeria.
Many Muslims complain about Islamophobia but they say very little about the death, destruction and devastation that merchants of Islam based phobia unleash on innocent citizens. They do very little to confront and stamp out the vicious and violent form of Islam that is ravaging northern Nigeria.
Leo Igwe is a human rights activist and the founder of the Nigerian Humanist Movement. He was the Western and Southern African representative to IHEU, the International Humanist and Ethical Union. He can be reached by email HERE.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.