Vanguard (Lagos)

24 February 2013

Nigeria: Peace Through Strength

opinion

"The whole purpose of religion is to facilitate love and compassion, patience, tolerance, humility, and forgiveness." -- Dalai Lama XIV"

I have been long troubled at the level of violence and casualties in the senseless waste of human lives in the last couple of years. There is a big elephant in the room and it seems the elephant in the room is getting so large and yet no one seems to want to talk about it! This big elephant that no one dare speaks its name is Boko Haram.

Inching away from the epicentre of these atrocities does not mean we are free of its proliferation; in fact we are as guilty as the perpetrators if all we do is stand and do nothing. We ought to be standing shoulder to shoulder to condemn their callous acts against Nigerian citizens and the instability of the country .

Are we are so fearful and terrorised by terror that we have failed to walk hand in hand with our fellow Nigerians? It has to be known that anyone that threatens a group of Nigerians by virtue of religion threatens all Nigerians.Boko Haram has become this big elephant in the room and it is about time we stopped pussy footing about, we cannot live our lives drawing invisible lines and remaining in our respective camps because it is not our problem and that is the matter.

It is our problem collectively. So we look to our leaders for some reassurances and actions and we wait. In the meantime, more and more mindless killings and butchery goes unabated, this acts cannot and should not be justified by any sane individual or any religious group.

They are holding the whole country to random and we cannot afford to sit back and shrug our shoulders.

I am a Muslim and I know these people do not represent me or my faith. I know that, I was taught that, for every man, woman, child they kill, maim and orphaned they go against what my faith tells me, or what I know of humanity because regardless of who their victims are, they are my brothers and sisters . These criminals are psychopaths, murderers and bandits, who portray themselves as guerrillas without a cause. They have long crossed the line.

I grew up in a household surrounded by many faiths. We as children did not discriminate who was who on the basis of faith, in fact as children we know all that Eid, Christmas, Easter and Eid meant more to go round.

There was the freedom of worship and so it should be. We are a secular country the last time I checked. What they have done is to make the divide or our difference more glaring and created a level of paranoia and mistrust amongst people that have lived together, gone to school together and shared their lives together. If we start becoming territorial in a place where we call home, Nigeria, then we seriously have a problem.

It is bad enough that as diasporas, living so far away from Nigeria, I am often reminded that I am an outsider, I am made to remember that I truly do not belong, it is the little things that jolts you back to reality. When you are asked where you are from or what ethnicity are you, where are you originally from, or how long you have lived in the country( I was born there!.

So you already know you are an outsider, as far as you are concerned you know there is somewhere, someplace that we call home had been divided up along the lines of faith and ruled by terror on the basis of your religion. It is a tragic recklessness and a slap in the face of every well-meaning and sane Nigerians. The Nigerians I meet here are my fellow Nigerians; we share a country and have more in common than what seperate us regardless of their state or their religion if we could get along abroad why can't we get along in Nigeria?

So in a place where I cannot call home, I get treated with so much respect and I can attend and go out without fear or intimidation to a place of worship of my faith. Over here mosques, churches, temples are built barely a stone throw to one another. Over here in schools, children are taught religious education, given an education where they learn about other religion, history and facts, this does help foster tolerance as well as educate the young people on other religion other than the one they ascribe to.

Now that is what I call tolerance but in all I do believe that there has to be more emphasis in educating our young in Nigeria. Not only that education will also ensure that they are out of the clutches of those that want to brain wash them into terror.

The poverty and disparity is disgraceful so the resentments is palpable and we cannot afford to breed young ,impressionable, poor, uneducated, unemployed and unemployable minds with no prospect for the future. What we are doing is inadvertently moulding them for an alternative occupation such as terror, kidnapping and major crimes.

Tolerance, can only exist if we address the level of poverty, unemployment, corruption, inequality of opportunities and standard of living. We have got to reduce the senseless hatred that divides our people and our leaders should be leading the way.

It heartens me when I read that the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa'ad Abubakar and Osun State governor Rauf Aregbesola have addressed Muslims at a public event to openly beseech Muslims to unite, stay tolerant and be at peace with all fellow Nigerians regardless of their faith. The Sultan was resolute in his address that Islam will, and always will remain a religion of peace. He said: "Those who claim to be doing what they are doing in terms of terrorism in the name of Islam are on their own. They are not doing anything for Islam or Muslims but for themselves. Nothing more, nothing less!

And that is why when I hear people refer to these terrorists as Islamic terrorists, I always feel bad. I have said it so many times that Islam does not approve terrorism or the taking of anybody's life." and Aregbesola said "a Muslim, who promotes chaos and disharmony has deviated from the teachings of Islam and a good Muslim is required to exemplify the best in conduct through accommodation, tolerance and forbearance for him to be called a good Muslim".

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