As part of the activities of the Muslim Lawyers’ Association of Nigeria 6th National Conference was a Paper presentation by Professor Isaac Olawole Albert of the University of Ibadan on the topic: Religion, Terrorism and National Security: Untying the Unholy Knot
The Professor while delivering his paper said that terrorism is often packaged as a contestation of power between some radical elements and the state. And that when there is good governance, democracy, rule of law and social justice, domestic revolts including terrorism will be less likely.
He said religious terrorism is basically a form of political terrorism as the end goal of such use of violence is to gain political advantages. He said religious terrorism has three main features
- It is lead by persons believed to be clerics
- The radicals draw from religious scriptures to justify and explain their violent acts and recruit new members.
- The groups considers acts of violence as necessary and would not mind sacrificing themselves for the struggle.
He quoted passages from the Qur’an and Bible that denounced killing of innocent people.
On National security, he said that national security is not just securing the state or regime in power but should have to do with dealing with threats posed to individual, family, society, State, international system, or humanity. The security of the human is not given the required attention, that’s the reason why some individuals become frustrated by political environment in which they find themselves. He said religious groups just like ethnic group turn to violence when they notice that the conception of national security does not capture their interests. In this case, terrorism is an extreme case of psychological warfare involving both the terrorist and the state.
It is said that the elite has the right to rule and those who they govern seek to reverse what they see as oppression. When the state is not able to protect individual and group interest, people start to challenge state legitimacy.
He said further, that Muslims all over, haven surrendered their powers to the modern political philosophy, the modern systems have however failed to protect the individual and group rights of the Muslims.
He sited some Nigeria example of how the present system in Nigeria is not sufficiently respectful of Islamic traditions.
• The Nigeria system (Faculties of Law, Law School and Courts of law) find it difficult to accommodate a Muslim female Lawyer being seen in hijab. He asked: What does the State stand to lose in the process of accommodating the Muslim dressing pattern?
• He also sited the example of one Barrister Hassan Nalaraba, and employee of Nassarawa State Ministry of Justice who was alllegedly denied right of appearance twice in April 2012 as a lawyer by Justice Rose Soji who took offence at his long beard. The Justice was quoted to have said
“Who is this Sheikh”
“why are you looking so dirty”
“why are you putting up this beard, they are dirty”
He added that if the Nigeria law forbids Muslims from wearing beards before judges then such laws should be reviewed immediately and that the Justice should be sanctioned.
Prof Isaac added that if Muslim lawyers are suffering this much, what happens to those Muslims in the lowest rungs of societal ladder. He further stated that Muslims have different levels of tolerance. While the nominal Muslims may not react sharply because they don’t attach much importance to the truth and rituals of their religion. The Moderates will make noise about the issue until it is address. The Radicals would react like radicals.
On Boko Haram, the professor said the Nigeria state moved the sect to its present state of extreme violence and that the group started being extremely violent when their leader, Muhammad Yusuf and other members of the sect were extra-Judicially killed by the Police in June/July 2009.
He lamented the tactics of the Joint Task Force JTF in Borno and Yobe States. He said when a Muslim is suspected of being a Boko Haram member, he is either killed or subjected to a long period of detention and that JTF has in some cases lay siege on neighbourhoods and shoot on sight any person coming out of it. Other times JTF have set on fire an entire community and people were burnt to death right inside their homes. If a building is found to be harbouring a suspect, the building is destroyed immediately even when a landlord could unknowingly house a suspect.
He noted that you cannot kill everybody, nobody has successfully done that in history. The best thing to do is to address the agitation.
The out gone Public Relation Officer of MULAN and the President of Muslim female Lawyers, Haija Fauziyya Bakara, while contributing, said that Religion is suppose to bring people together, but the problem we have in the country is that of inequality where one religion is being super imposed on another. The rights of Muslims is continuously being violated in the country, she said, how long will Muslims continue to live as second class citizens in this country? she asked, lamenting.
On why large number of Muslims don’t have western education, she said when the missionaries came with western education they demanded that Muslims converts first to Christianity before they can get the education and millions of Muslims declined. She said they have been an attempt to kill the Muslim economic value and thus Muslims are being marginalised in appointments and employment.
“Muslims who are the practitioners of Islam are being sidelined and for how long?” She asked again. For there to be genuine peace, there must be equal rights and justice.
She urged the government to look into the paper as delivered by the learned Professor, Isaac Olawole Albert, and that the government should give equal opportunity to both Muslims and Christians.
On Boko Haram, she agreed that the attitude of the government have escalated the problem. She expressed concern over the so called suspected Boko Haram members being killed and arrested that they just meant be innocent Nigerians. She also said that it is possible that Boko Haram has been hijacked by non Muslims.
Several other delegates also had the opportunity to speak.
The situation of Muslims in southern Kaduna was also alighted by a participant. He said that despite the fact that the first Emir of a Muslim tribe was installed in 1805 or there about, over 200 years ago, the people are still referred to as settlers and they are killed at the slightest provocation. He said they have been able to gather the names and particulars of about 838 Muslims men, women and Children killed by Christian youths in southern Kaduna in April 2011 post election crisis and noted that over 60,000 Muslims have been neglected in refugee camps in the state.
The Chairman of the occasion noted that the Jos crisis goes to the root of most other religious crisis in the country and that the failure of the government to address the issues there is a set back.
Another participant at the conference noted that we are dealing with Boko Haram today, tomorrow it may be something worse so Government need to look at the issues that will cause agitation and address them.
While responding to comments, Professor Isaac Olawole Albert noted that It is a fact that Muslims are not fairly treated in Nigeria and that as a Christian, if somebody makes a law that says he cannot wear white beards he will fight that law. He urged Muslim Lawyers to be at the forefront to ensure that laws that is detrimental to Islam and Muslims are not passed because as it is today “every law passed in this country is something taken away from Islam“.
Prof. Isaac Olawale Albert is a devout Christian and a Professor of Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Ibadan, Nigeria.
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