Boko Haram: From despair to hope
In an extraordinary address to the United Nations General Assembly on September 29th, 2015 during the “Leadership Summit on Countering ISIL and Violent Extremism”, Shaykh Abdallah Bin Bayyah, President of the prestigious Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies, Abu Dhabi, UAE carried a powerful message of peace in Islam, in his distinguished voice, to the world. Shaykh Bin Bayyah is listed as the 23rd of 500 most influential Muslims in the world by the The Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre, Jordan and is also the Vice-President of the International Union of Muslim Scholars, former minister of education and former minister of religious affairs of Mauritania. In 2010 he corrected a 101-year old terrible misprint of the Mardin Fatwa of Ibn Taymiyya that almost all the Muslim extremist groups have relied on to justify their violent extremism. Shaykh Ibn Taymiyya (d. 1328), one of Islam’s most forceful theologians, had issued a definitive fatwa (legal edict) against the Mongol (Tatars) rulers during the great Mongol crisis of the years 1299 to 1303. He declared that it was compulsory for true Muslims to engage in aggressive jihad against Mongol rulers, on the grounds that they did not follow Sharia and as such were not Muslim, notwithstanding the Mongol rulers’ claim of conversion to Islam.
The unrelenting siege on the theological justifications of the terror specialists, the questioning of their religious credentials and the rigorous and continual scholastic dissection of their most important premises have played great roles in effectively countering their extreme ideology and violent interpretation of Islam. Also, it shows how seriously the scholars have held the trust upon them to guide and lead at all times. Perhaps, it is for this reason that extremist groups like Boko Haram have declared unlimited war on Islamic scholars, sending after them hunter killer teams and murdering many of them in cold blood. It is very important for the Nigerian society to remember the immense work and sacrifices of those martyred scholars who fought, tooth and nail, to dispel Boko Haram’s evil ideology, and counter their rhetoric.
The solution to the scourge of terrorism that Nigeria faces is not solely in the hands of the Military or the Nigerian Muslim community. Just putting it on the shoulder of either is grossly mistaken and naive. In the religious aspect, it is really an interfaith community-based solution. All peace loving people, Muslim and Christian, must start to think of themselves as equal stakeholders in making sure this is the very last time common criminals are allowed to go on rampage, unleashing terror on us from safe havens. All hands must be on deck to heal the scars of the long years of senseless division, separation and hatemongering which cultivated the mindset that allowed some to look on while others bled and died. We need to re-engage our youth with nonviolence tactics, rebuild relationships and trust, be boundlessly compassionate, revile violence of all kinds, restructure what inter-faith relations really means, from the top and the bottom. All these need to be taught in schools, as much as they are taught from the pulpit.
It is great to see that the Nigerian Muslim community is led, through the
Nigeria Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA), by leaders that have incorporated best practices in dealing with violent extremism on one side and inter-faith relations on the other. His Royal Highness Sa’adu Abubakr, the leader of the Nigerian Muslims and 24th of 500 most influential Muslims in the world has traveled the length and breath of the country calling for and promoting both religious and civic peace. In the last few years, he has enabled many meetings between Nigerian scholars and other world-renowned scholars promoting peace. A few years back in Abu Dhabi, 20 scholars from Nigeria met with other prominent scholars and resolved to continue to work together for peace in Nigeria. His Eminence Cardinal John Onaiyekan and Sultan have shown exemplary leadership in working to bring faith communities together. Both had been Nobel prize nominees and are both elected co-presidents of the World Council’s Religions for Peace. The World Council is a global agent of multireligious action entrusted with Religions for Peace governance. Its members are comprised of distinguished religious leaders who are dedicated to building peace. His Royal Highness Sa’adu Abubakr was the first signatory to the “A Common Word Between Us and You”- a powerful document setting out the means for cooperation and worldwide co-ordination between Christianity and Islam. This powerful document does so on the most solid theological ground possible: the teachings of the Qu’ran and the Prophet, and the commandments described by Jesus Christ in the Bible.
Despite their differences, Islam and Christianity not only share the same divine origin and the same Abrahamic heritage, but the same two greatest commandments- the love of God and the love of the neighbour.
As a parting shot, Shaykh Abdallah Bin Bayyah observed to the General Assembly: “The ship of humanity is in perilous waters: our human abode is threatened by fire, and therefore our current situation calls for urgent collaboration. Today, humankind is in dire need of the Ark of Noah. In keeping with our Prophetic tradition, our central concern is how to rescue this sinking ship. We are attempting to extinguish the fires that have engulfed our human abode; hence, we are merely firefighters and lifesavers. “Nigeria is certainly caught in the dangerous undercurrent of the perilous waters which the Shaykh spoke of. We need young leaders to support those interfaith heroes that have consistently raised the flag of peace and harmony, and we need masses of people that will be peace advocates.
In all of the chaos and extreme violence, the overwhelming majority of Nigerian Muslims have stood against the extremists and rejected the discourse of violence. In a single and unequivocal voice, Muslim
Nigerians have told the Boko Haram: what you call to is not Islam and we stand with all your victims.
Disu Kamor, Executive Chairman, Muslim Public Affairs Centre, MPAC, Nigeria.21 Salvation Road, Opebi, Lagos 0807 604 9545E-mails: email@example.com