If ever there were doubts about the complicity of some main stream Islamic authorities in the proliferation of radical Islamic ideologies of hate, intolerance and violence, they may have been cleared by the most recent of the regular outbursts of Ishaq Akintola, a Professor of Islamic eschatology and spokesman of the Muslim Rights Concern [MURIC]. The self-appointed defender of Muslims rights in Nigeria, who is fast gaining notoriety for his politicisation of faith matters and propagator of hate and intolerance, have crossed the red line of decency in social commentary by his latest verbal misadventure.
While breathing down heavily on the neck of the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN for expressing concerns over an alleged Islamisation agenda, citing among other reasons the recent introduction of the Sukuk bond option of public sector financing by the federal government, Prof Akintola betrayed certain sentiments that have potentials of stoking further the fears of the umbrella Christian body in Nigeria. In a press statement that qualifies as hate speech as suggested by the title; ‘’OPPOSITION TO SUKUK: ‘CAN PLAYING DOG IN THE MANGER’ Prof Akintola was quoted as saying ‘’The Muslims Rights Concern [MURIC] considers CAN’s position demeaning. It is not only infantile, petty and overbearing but also spiteful and egocentric’’. He went further to posit thus, “Our position is based on the fact that it needs today because the whole system is Christo-Western: education, the judicial system, the economy, everything. Muslims who were deprived all Islamic landmarks and ways of life by the colonialists are constrained to start the struggle all over again by demanding Shari’ah, use of hijab in schools, Islamic banks, sukuk etc. It must be made clear ab initio that Nigerian Muslims had all these before the advent of colonialists who changed everything in favour of Christianity’’.
The depiction of a respected body like CAN in the mould of the fabled “Dog in the manger’’ is the height of unprovoked assault on the collective image of Christianity in Nigeria and a disrespect to millions of Nigerian Christians. Interestingly, while denigrating CAN in his latest opprobrium, Prof Akintola inadvertently misrepresented the Islamic faith and its lofty ideals when he suggested that the current secular status of a religiously diverse nation like Nigeria is unacceptable to Muslims, because it is Christo-Western; a system he claimed, Muslims are struggling hard to replace with the Shari’a. The claim that education is Christo-Western as well the aspiration to replace the current secular order in Nigeria with Shari’a through concerted struggle [Jihad] by all Muslims clearly puts Prof Akintola’s MURIC in the same category with Abu Shekau’s Boko Haram insurgent group.
It is such narratives by main stream Muslim leaders like Prof Akintola that sows and continuously waters the seeds of radicalisation among Nigerian Muslims, which has guaranteed a steady flow of willing recruits into the rank and file of extremist Jihadi groups. The sustained narratives that denounces education as Christo-Western and the call to return to the ideals of an Islamic state is what has sustained the on-going Boko Haram insurgency as a result of the determined efforts of the young men and women who congregate around Abu Shekau to put to practice in Sambisa what Prof Akintola is preaching in Lagos.
More tragic is the presentation of falsehood as facts of history by Prof Akintola in his bid to justify his intolerance of the beliefs and the feelings of fellow Nigerians of the Christian faith. British colonialism was not a Christian enterprise neither did it deprive Muslims of their rights and privileges. The British colonial policy of association as opposed to French colonial policy of assimilation preserved the ways of live, religion, culture and tradition of natives throughout the British Empire, from India to north and sub-Saharan Africa. In the Southern half of Nigeria, Christianity spread peacefully without coercion of the native peoples to accept. Despite that, centuries old Muslim communities in Western Nigeria continued to thrive and flourish. The monopoly of Christian missions over education in Southern Nigeria was eventually broken by the introduction of Muslim missionary schools. Similarly, In recognition of the predominance of the Islamic faith in and around the Sokoto caliphate and the old Kanem-Borno empire, British colonial authorities deliberately prevented Christian missionaries from evangelising most part of the Muslim north in order not to alter their religious way of life. In the place of missionary schools, colonial authorities established government schools throughout the Muslim north with mandates to educate the native population without prejudice to their deep Islamic heritage. The elaborate emirate system of traditional leadership, under the nominal suzerainty of the Sultan Sokoto, the legacy state of the Uthman Dan Fodio Jihad of the preceding century was preserved and enhanced in prestige throughout the colonial period into the modern era. Never in the history of Nigeria were Muslims ever prevented from practicing their faith.
Concepts of Islamic banking and bods [sukuk] are relatively modern developments were not available during British Nigeria. The actual thought process on the development of the concept of interest free financial system in line with Shari’a started in the 20th century and eventually culminating into formal institutions in the 70s, while sukuk was formally adopted in 1988. Therefore, it is doubtful how possible it was for British colonial authorities to have been able to prevent Nigerian Muslims from practicing what was not in existence at the time.
From the foregoing, the position of MURIC goes a long way to confirm the fears of CAN that a spirited struggle is on-going to replace the current secular constitutional order with Shari’a because according to Prof Akintola, Nigeria is a Christo-Western creation of British colonial rule. The attempt to create an impression in the minds of the citizens that Nigeria is a competition ground for religious supremacy is a recipe for having multiple nations under one country, whose loyalties are with their faith but not with Nigeria. The consequences of this can be very grave. From Iraq to the greater parts of the Levant are currently being ravaged by religious and sectarian wars. In an event that Nigeria is pushed to an edge on account of hate and intolerance, Prof Akintola and others like him will only be granted refuge by the Christian West as the gates of Mecca and Medina will shut tightly against ‘’Nigerian refugees’’. Therefore, the Christians you refuse to live with in peace in the warmth of your country Nigeria, you will be forced to live with in the cold alleys of Christo-Western Europe and America as strangers and refugees.