By Hannatu Musawa: It is virtually impossible for me to put into words the shock, devastation and horror I have felt since hearing the news of last week’s attack on the towns of Baga and Doron Baga in the north-eastern Nigerian State of Borno by insurgents and Islamic militants – a heartbreakingly catastrophic attack that left over 3,700 structures destroyed, a whole town that was almost wiped out, and thousands of innocent Nigerian families murdered in cold blood. Since learning of the details of this horrendous attack in Borno State, it has virtually been impossible for me to watch the news, read the papers or face the reality of the horrors innocent Nigerians went through. I know that I am not alone in feeling this devastation.
The more frequent these mass murders in Nigeria become, the sicker one feels to the pit of their stomach. How anyone can justify the cold-blooded murder of innocent men, women and children is beyond me. Apart from the disgust and anger that Nigerians feel, the fear, the foreboding we have of more violence is so thick in the air you could almost slice it. Granted, it’s no secret that the country is at its most unsafe, but even with our present anemic security situation, nobody could have imagined that our society could descend to such a low where barbarians go as far as butchering whole families in their villages, in their homes and wiping out whole populations in towns. That these insurgents continue to wreak this catastrophic havoc, wrongly, using the name of Islam is wicked, vicious, sinful and evil. These acts of violence have put the entire country into a heightened state of fear and suspicion and warrant peace-loving Muslims to come out and condemn the acts in the strongest term possible.
Any Muslim that understands the spirit of peace in Islam knows that there is nothing and nowhere in the teachings of Islam that condones the kind of violence where one is given a carte blanche to murder innocent families who were celebrating their day of significance in a place that they considered to be their sanctuary. Any Muslim that knows the overwhelming message of hope, justice, faith, and peace among human beings of the Holy Qur’an is completely devastated.
When one sees the phrase in the Holy Quran, which ‘unambiguously’ states that innocent people, regardless of their race and faith, must not be killed in any circumstance, one wonders which interpretation gives credence for some to commit such aggression. It is clearly mentioned in the Holy Quran that, “if anyone kills an innocent human being who had not committed murder or horrendous crimes, it shall be as if he murdered all the people. And anyone who spares a life it shall be as if he spared the lives of all the people.”
Even during wartime, the Holy Prophet (PBUH) told his followers not to harm non-combatants. It was understood, if The Rasul’s followers (PBUH) had to go to enemy territory for war, the soldiers were not to harm elderly people, women and children and also must not destroy farms and fruit trees as people may suffer because of the shortage of food. In His teachings, he emphasized the right to life of people, animals, birds, and even ants. And if it is prohibited to harm even an ant, what could make anyone think that it is all right to kill a fellow human being?
The expression in the Holy Quran, “there is no compulsion in religion” is known to even those who continue to insist that Shari’a law must be applied in the whole of Nigeria. But Nigeria is not made up of only Muslims and, even if it was, one section of the community does not have the right to decide the fate of the rest. If the Holy Prophet (PBUH) provided assurances to non-Muslim minorities living in Muslim majority countries and ordered Muslim minorities living in non-Muslim majority countries to abide by all laws and the rules of the country, there is no reason for any Nigerian Muslim not to abide by the law of this land. Our ardent belief is that Allah is a just Allah. Our Islamic belief –that Allah welcomes those who believe in Him and leads righteous lives, by whatever name they call themselves — should be enough reason for us to co-exist peacefully. In the Holy Quran, it is written: “Surely, those who believe those who are Jewish, the converts, and the Christians; any of them who believe in GOD and believe in the Last Day, and lead a righteous life, have nothing to fear, nor will they grieve. [Quran 5:69]
When small minorities of the Muslim population interpret the teachings of the Holy Quran in a manner that is unknown to the majority of the other Muslims, it affects us all. And it makes life worse for Muslims who are striving to live by the peaceful teachings of Allah and peacefully co-exist with their Christian brothers, sisters and neighbors.
If the purpose and genesis of the violence and intimidation that we have seen so far in Nigeria is to achieve some sort of political gain or a part of some convoluted conspiracy theory, then it really is heartless, because it is horrifically and mortally affecting innocent civilians who are merely trying to survive day to day. While those in government, the happy-go-lucky opposition members and others continue to protect themselves in bullion vans and bulletproof homes, the victims will continue to be the poor who are already suffering. ‘Violence begets violence’ and the only possible outcome of such aggression will be the furtherance of more violence. Perhaps the saddest part of this awful saga is, now that violence has become so deeply entrenched in our every day reality, Nigerians have almost become desensitized to it.
Our humanity, as a people, has been reduced to a level of barbarism that cannot be dealt with in any position of serious negotiation. Using the fear of death and destruction to motivate people to do what one wants furthers this epidemic and cycle of violence. Pointing an AK47 in a person’s face and forcing them to do something will probably motivate them to do it at that time, but it will quickly devolve into something much worse. The death and destruction in Nigeria today has forced us to enter into a deep abyss that none of us could have ever imagined.
The people who continue to exact this kind of violence must have families of their own that they love and protect. They need to put themselves in the position of the victims and imagine, just for a moment, the pain people feel when they lose their families in such a violent way.
We are all brethren — descendants of the same Adam and Eve, from the lineage of the same Prophet Abraham/Ibrahim. We have been created of distinct peoples, beliefs and tribes ‘that we may recognize one another.’ There is no reason for us to hate, kill and main one another. Both of our sacred books, The Holy Quran and The Holy Bible, speak of religious tolerance and peaceful coexistence.
The Holy Quran it says: “Say (O Muslims): We believe in Allah and that which is revealed unto us and that which was revealed unto Abraham, and Ishmael, and Isaac, and Jacob, and the tribes, and that which Moses and Jesus received, and that which the prophets received from their Lord. We make no distinction between any of them, and unto Him we have surrendered” [Quran 2:136]
The Holy Bible says: “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God. Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God” [Corinthians 10:31-32]
Our lives must be held sacred. Our unity must be held strong. Life is granted by God alone and no person has a right to take it without justifiable cause. We have NO room for a religious war in Nigeria. We must all pray and speak up on behalf of those targeted and hurt in these heinous attacks.
As for those who continue to unleash violence, may they know that every last drop of blood that (God forbid) comes from any reprisal attacks is fully and squarely on their hands! May they remember that, sooner or latter, in this life and in the hereafter, they will have to answer to the Almighty and pay for every last life that they have directly or indirectly claimed. I pray for those who continue to unjustifiably murder and exact terror on innocent Nigerians to never ever have peace in their life or in death!
As I reminisce and mourn for the innocents and lives unnecessarily taken, my thoughts and prayers are with those who lost their lives to the wicked barbarism of a handful of extremists. I offer my heartfelt condolence to the families and friends who continue to suffer the great loss of their fallen loved ones.
As for those who continue to unleash violence in my Islamic name, I, as a very proud Muslim, hereby stand up and declare, “Yes they act but… not in my name!
“Dear God, Oh Allah! Please, Oh please, bring healing to this nation, and make it a peaceful land again.”
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