"Boko Haram is not Islam. They have nothing to do with Islam and must be dissociated with Islam." This is the viewpoint of Sheikh Abdulrahman Ahmad - Nigeria's Muslim cleric as he led a symbolic prayer-service on Friday last week at the Gani Fawehenmi Freedom Park in Lagos.
'Freedom Park', as it is known amongst Nigerians, was the stomping ground for protestors in Lagos as they campaigned against the hike in fuel prices by the government.
Sheikh Ahmad, Head of the Ansarudeen Society of Nigeria, stated that "Boko haram must not be affiliated with Islam." The cleric asked why the recent crisis caused by militants in the Niger-delta region was not linked to Christian sects when they are the ones thought to be bombing oil producing areas.
"If there is a problem with the Niger-Delta militants, it is not linked to Christian sects but when it comes to Boko Haram, Islam is affiliated" he said disappointingly. "This is wrong and unfair" said the cleric, adding that "Terrorism is evil and it is not Islam" he affirmed.
He went on to explain that "there is no conflict between Muslims and Christians", adding that their "collective problems as Nigerians are oppression, bad governance and corruption."
He called on the media to remain unbiased in its reporting as he observed that "Boko Haram is killing Muslims in Mosques in Maiduguri which is under-reported." "Churches and Mosques are being bombed with equal rage."
In a video message posted on YouTube, a new leader of the Boko Haram sect, Abubakar Shekau defended the recent attacks of Christians in Northern Nigeria, as "revenge for the killing of Muslims".
In a response to the video, Reverend Dapo Daramola of the Methodist Church of Nigeria has urged the federal government to fish out the members of Boko Haram responsible for its publication so that they can be brought to justice.
He explains: "Now that Boko Haram have a face and have affirmed their links with al-Qaeda... similar to how Osama bin-Laden makes use of his videos, the Nigerian government must now step-up its intelligence gathering and go after these guys."
Terrorism not holy war
Boko Haram militants have carried out specific attacks on several churches killing dozens of worshippers in northern Nigeria and this has led to some reprisals in the south with attacks reported on Mosques in two states.
Reverend Daramola supports the view of Sheikh Ahmad that the country is not facing a religious war/ crisis but one of terrorism. He condemned the killings of Christians in the north saying he feels "very sad and dispirited over the growing loss of life and livehoods and the growing failure and capacity of the government to declare war against these people."
The clergy are now looking to the Nigerian government to work with foreign intelligence to address the security issue, which is "apparently beyond the capacity of the Nigerian Police Force and is fast taking its toll on Christians," concluded the reverend.