Religious Fundamentalism Vs Radical Terrorism

No Comments » January 6th, 2010 posted by // Categories: General Articles

The sensitivity surrounding this subject invariably makes any discussion about it contentious and difficult. This should not however detract discussions away from current media coverage involving Umar Farouk and his links with a global terror network. My initial reaction when the news broke- was shock and disbelief that a Nigerian would be involved in global terrorism! I thought this was not plausible because of the daily grind for food, power and lately fuel that blights the life of an average Nigerian! You may find this comment too brutally honest and uncomfortable it however represents the true picture for majority of the people.

Digging further- Umar Farouk was not an average Nigerian youth; he has had an exposure which mainly money can facilitate and does have a privileged background- thus justifying my initial reaction. On the other hand, ‘terrorism is not in a Nigerian’s DNA’: Charting the level of recent activities in the North this statement may have to be qualified in some ways. It is however true that we are very strong people who would hold on to life in the hope that our circumstances will change; suffice to say that the Nigerian psyche is not known to be prone to suicide in the hope of a greater fulfilment in an afterlife. Since 9/11, the question that I have been eager to find an answer to is an explanation for the link between Islam and terrorism. Or putting it more bluntly, why does Islam (rather than other religions) appear to be used as a platform for radicalism? Answers to these questions will probably suggest that the religion is being hijacked by a minority of terrorists rather than the religion itself propounding violence or radicalism. Because religious texts are open to various interpretations, people would look to use them as justifications for their action. An example that comes to mind is apartheid and slavery. Discussing politics and other matters are not as contentious as discussing religion. Absolute candour about religion (in this case, Islam) is hampered by an antithesis of right and wrong vis-a-vis an ideologically charged minefield.

Fundamentalism as a concept is not wrong in the way it supports basic founding principles in any area of knowledge; twinned concepts of religious fundamentalism and Puritanism could however breed variant extremism. This form of extremism would seek to inadvertently fight perceived societal ills and injustices- not just perceived moral decadence but also development for example modernity, gender roles, education, legal system, financial system etc. Extreme beliefs breed extreme radicalism borne out of gradual processes of dis-education and brain-washing. News programmes over the last few days have tried to map the process of Umar Farouk’s radicalisation with some reporters asking- ‘where did it go wrong?’

The process of Umar Farouk’s radicalisation could not have only emanated from his time at the helm of the Islamic Union at University College London; although it would have provided the right network and impetus for his unsuccessful attempt at the so-called ‘martyrdom’. Umar Farouk’s action has wider implications for all Nigerians- this is inevitable. At the peak of credit card frauds in the UK and global 419 scams, our image suffered a great deal and in fact, we do still suffer from residues of mistrust brought about by activities of a small minority of Nigerians. Our green passport for a period was a passport of shame! With the recent link with terrorism on this scale, Nigerians in general and (dare I say), Nigerian’s with Muslim names, may experience discrimination especially when travelling to Europe or America. The need to intensify Diplomatic activities and Public Relations cannot be over emphasised. (Credit must be given to Dora Akunyili in this regard).

This issue has probably also indirectly created an opportunity for the Nigerian government to re-appraise its level of involvement with the Arab League and the organisation of Islamic Countries. There is no need reviving the age-old debate about the secularism of Nigeria as a country; but over the last 10-15 years or so, the Country has been progressively skewed away from secularism. The introduction of Sharia Law in the North, underlined this development. Unfortunately, Umar Farouk may be tip of the iceberg- which is the reason why it is important for CIA intelligence to investigate the links thoroughly- particularly the Yemeni connection. Nigerians currently have too much on their plates to contend with without the fear of being stigmatised as ‘terrorists’ around the world. It will be a great catastrophe if Nigeria is listed with countries like Yemeni, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq etc. as the terrorist breeding grounds of the world during a period in our history when the collective consciousness of the people is geared towards socio-economic growth.

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