MAKING MOCKERY OF RELIGIOSITY AND SPIRITUALITY — Condemning Killings in the name of Religion.
by GODSON O. MONEKE
Religion is a personal belief and faith imposed on one by choice, parents and particular society to which one belongs. It is arguably the oldest and most respected profession in the world and its main teaching is based on ETHICS AND MORALITY. Because of the nature of religion, the masses are so hooked on to it that they believe that all their problems can be solved by strict adherence to religion. Karl Max, crowned the intellectual of the twentieth century once described religion as the OPIUM OF THE MASSES. This is supported by the fact that people can do all irrational things in the name of religion. In social sciences, the masses are described as the PROLETARIAT and they constitute the great majority of the population of a given society. Religion works on the psychology of the people and thus lends itself to manipulation by teachers of religion because people believe they hear from the Divine and unseen God. There is no rationality in religion as anything under the sun can be rationalized in religion. There is so much politics in religion these days that Christians have devised a ready refrain to that such as PRACTICE WHAT THEY TEACH NOT WHAT THEY DO. That explains why religious adherents will readily overlook some earthly frailties among religious leaders. These days, some religious places operate like business centers where the bottomline is of paramount importance. Encounters with religious leaders often reveals that what they project outside are mere facades as the inside is always rotten beyond comprehension. There is an ongoing debate as to whether RELIGIOSITY CONNOTES SPIRITUALITY? While some believe that there is a relationship between the two, my personal experience has proved that the two are far in between. I have encountered popular religious leaders who ranked to me among the most wicked people I have come across and in similar breadth, I have come across FREE THINKERS who displayed so much love as to put the much vaunted religious leaders to shame in comparison. The story of the Good Samaritan in the Holy Bible is apposite and readily comes to mind. Because of its nature, the political elites have found it handy as an instrument of manipulation especially among the gullible adherents. The difference between political elites and religious leaders is fast vanishing as both gravitate toward the same goal which is political power. The iniquities committed by the so-called religious leaders rank pari passu with those of the much maligned political elites as both manipulate the masses for their selfish gains.
Nigeria is a secular state meaning that there is no recognized state religion . The two dominant religions are CHRISTIANITY AND ISLAM although there are many other religions which though in minority have their adherents too. Why then can’t we live in peace with people minding their own businesses since religion is a personal business of its adherents. Besides, the race to heaven is a personal race such that not even consanguinity can fuse people in the race. If this is the case, why do we have the rampant killings in the name of religion? Why religion-fueled barbaric murders? None of the two dominant religions namely; ISLAM AND CHRISTIANITY supports killings under any guise. Nigeria is not a theocratic state where the state prescribes death penalties for certain religions infractions. Even in such environments, adequate publicities are given to such DOS AND DON’TS. A situation where somebody is readily kill at the drop of a hat by some criminal elements masquerading as religious fundamentalists is simply unacceptable. Accusing somebody of a crime and meting instant justice on him by blood-thirsty fanatics can lead to miscarriage of justice.
Only God knows our hearts and who is religiously pious notwithstanding the usual posturing which is only meant to deceive. Boko Haram and other criminal elements started as religious fundamentalists but we have now seen that their cause has nothing to do with the two dominant religions in the country. Which religion permits the killing of people, burning their houses, farmlands, stealing, hustling, raping of women, girls and kidnapping? This is what Boko Haram and Armed Bandits are doing today. Nobody should be allowed to take the laws into his hands in the name of religion. When people kill in the name of religion some religious leaders vent their supports for such bestial acts notwithstanding that they do not have the true facts of what led to the unfortunate incidents. My reason for insisting on due process in everything is to ensure that the right things are done at all times. Things like lives are not replaceable and as such people are curious to know the circumstances leading to deaths and prevent avoidable deaths. This is more so when religious sentiments are whipped up and are implicated in the soured inter religious relationship we often see. The world, BLASPHEMY is being used by some criminals to perpetrate acts of criminalities using people’s religious sentiments as defense mechanisms. Who determines that any act is blasphemous? To leave such a sensitive decision for a mob to make is to play the ostrich. Mobs have never been found to be right or rational thinkers because they are always ruled by EMOTIONS with no sense of rationality to guide their actions. It is the duty of the state to create and enforce conditions that make for religious harmony in a multi-religious environment such as ours. Civilization entails that people should not be allowed to take the laws into their hands no matter how well meaning they may consider their actions to be. The unfortunate and avoidable death of one person under controversial and emotional circumstances diminishes the living so why allow such expensive pass time in the name of religion? To accuse somebody of blasphemy is a nebulous allegation and to go ahead to execute capital punishment against the person is the height of lawlessness. Those who break the laws of the land should face the consequences.
The unfortunate death of the young girl in a Sokoto state school through stoning and burning alive is not only the height of barbarism and soullessness but mischief at its best. How can you kill a person without giving her an opportunity to defend her innocence? Have you imagined that what happened may have been instigated by a DEADLY CULTIST WHOSE LOVE ADVANCES THE GIRL SHUNNED? We have seen that in our communities when widows and girls are BANISHED because they shunned the love advances of a powerful man in the community. What makes you think that what happened is not a similar playbook? Some men are mean, they believe that all females in their orbit must either submit to their whims and caprices or pay the supreme price for standing up to them. Why were the people who carried out the dastardly act against the female student all males? We have a duty to protect our woman in this country from the antics of rapacious men. Any man who can not control his libido is nothing but a beast. To use religion as a camouflage is the height of APOSTASY. The complicity and timidity of our security agencies in matters like this is a criminal breach of trust and a source of grave worry. How do you explain that this matter took place in the full glare of the school security personnel and they have the temerity to feign helplessness as a defense? WHAT A SHAME!!!
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What constitutes a blasphemy and when is an action blasphemous? Who does the interpretation of this religious code? Who gave the authority and power to an ordinary citizen to terminate the life of a fellow citizen under any guise? Don’t you see the apparent likelihood of abuse and misuse? This is not the first time that acts of extreme religious intolerance have happened but the almost nonchalant dispositions of the relevant governments to such incidents showed nothing but a tacit approval of the criminal actions thus emboldening the perpetrators and their admirers to repeat the same acts. If the perpetrators genuinely believe that they acted out of personal and religious convictions, why are they running away and going underground? Their cowardly behaviors after committing the bestial and illegal acts shows them as fugitives from justice who knew all along what they were doing. If they genuinely believe that they did the right thing, they should have owned up to their actions and dared the consequences. That is how brave people behave. By running away, the murderers have shown all and sundry that they are hardened criminals. These criminals should be fished out from their hidings to face the consequences of their actions. I seriously suspect that these criminals could be BOKO HARAM AND ARMED BANDITS terrorists in our midst. Do you excuse them because they used the cover and color of religion to perform the usual act of terminating people’s lives. A stitch in time saves nine stitches. This is how it starts and the authorities must do something before it spins out of control.
I read the son of the ex-IGP saying that the punishment for blasphemy is death but what he did not say is who determines when a certain speech or action is blasphemous? I am not in support of anybody disrespecting Islam or any religion for that matter, but I do not agree with jungle justice because it can lead to miscarriage of justice. No matter the provocation, due process must be followed in seeking redress. Besides, determining a blasphemous practice in a multi-religious society is very delicate because the fact of open refusal believe in the principles of a particular religion can be considered blasphemous to its genuine adherents. I deprecate the irresponsible statement by the Aide to the Commissioner of Finance in Sokoto State endorsing the jungle justice visited on the female student in the state. Playing to the gallery is the hallmark of cowards. When people are occupying important positions in the public service, they are expected to temper their utterances especially on matters that can inflame passions. People should not abuse their privileged positions to engage in loose talks when sobriety and great sense of introspection are required. People of a certain class should always chew their words before voicing them out because they are role models to a lot of impressionable young men. Such people are not expected to engage in careless and loose talks. You don’t defend the actions of a felon unless you are apprised of the full facts even if he is your relative. I am convinced that the incessant religious violence we witness in Nigeria today are masterminded by criminals from neighboring countries who exploit their knowledge of the Hausa language to infiltrate the northern region of this country. The various governments in the northern Nigeria appear to be treating these criminals with the kid gloves but let me warn that it is these violent criminals who are bent on starting the crises which will destroy Nigeria. Let Nigerian leader stop condoning evils because these aliens are jealous of them as Nigerians and want to destroy them. It is a shame that instead of influencing our smaller neighbors, we allow miscreants from these countries to dictate how we relate with each other. The IMAMS, typical of all religious leaders have developed the proclivity for commenting on issues which are the exclusive preserve of the state. They forget that they retain their appointments at the pleasure of the state, therefore issuing orders to their employers is the height of indiscipline and insubordination.
Our penchant for politicizing everything is what worries me. What is required is action and not platitudes which have not solved any problem. It is the government that will take action and not people who are outside government.
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There is absolute lack of sincerity from those who shamelessly blame private citizens for not doing what is clearly the responsibility of government. When the government’s body language does not show shock and disdain for such a dangerous act , what do you expect a private citizen to do order than to wait out the government and change it at the appropriate time if he can muster the votes. Those who are quick to blame private citizens especially those from the north where the elites in government are ready to condone evils for political expediency are just being clever by half, insincere and diversionary. When governments mull the idea of regulating the social media space, it is because of the numerous abuses to which such media have been lent. Fake news is a common place in the social media space and they are often injurious to the society because they feed fat on conspiracy theories. To single out a private citizen for bashing because he is a formidable Presidential aspirant while leaving the sitting government whose primary responsibility it is to ensure law and order is the height of perfidy and dishonesty. If government is not alive to its responsibilities , the correct thing is to call them out instead of seeking escape route in private citizens even if they have political ambitions. If you read the political barometer in the north, you would notice that religious extremism is very tick and influences most decisions because of its huge emotional contents. It will therefore be foolhardy for any Nigerian of Northern extraction to move against the dominant religious sentiments of his people no matter how well meaning he may be. To egg on a political aspirant to commit a political hari-kari because you are afraid of his fearsome political machinery and want to push him out of the equation can only succeed with a neophyte. Political juggernauts beat retreat when they sense that their actions may be misinterpreted by their political opponents to do them in. It is in this light that I see former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar’s withdrawal of the earlier comment made on his behalf by his media aide on the Sokoto incident. I salute his political sagacity on that score because it takes a shrewd political actor to correctly read the political barometer of his people. Everybody has a duty is properly reorientate these miscreants on acceptable behaviors within a civilized society. But you can do it better if you are equipped to do so by the enabling political empowerment.
The tepid response of the authorities to the dangerous incident should worry and alarm all patriots in Nigeria. People may be playing with fire without realizing what they are doing. Religious fanaticism in northern Nigeria is soon approaching the level of what we once saw under Ayatollah Khomeini in Iran in the aftermath of the overthrow of the regime of the Shah of Iran and in the Afghanistan during the first reign of the Talibans. At this rate, I fear for the revolution which when it comes nobody in the north including the politicians who fuel this religious bigotry and hatred is safe. It is the revolutionaries that would qualify people who would be safe. Politicians are fanning an inferno which will likely consume them when it is fully blown. It is easier to set a dry bush on fire than to control or put out the fire. . We should be mindful of what we are planting because it is what we plant that we shall harvest. The only rational and safe thing to do is to moderate people’s behaviors and temper their conducts before it is too late. People must follow due process and should stop taking the laws into their hands. It is wrong for an accuser to also be the prosecutor, jury , the judge and the sheriff at the same time. I am told and I believe that Islam does not abhor transparency, fairness and the law. I am told also that it is a religion of peace. But it is not just enough to tell us that Islam is a religion of peace, you are to live it out and show this by your actions. Words of mouth are no longer enough.
A time like this calls for sober reflection. Religious leaders of the Islamic faith have a lot of work to do in making this a reality. Adherents of the Islamic religion should be seen to live this out and avoid being regularly associated with jungle justice, killings and blood-thirsty mobs. I used to think that corruption was the Vice that would spell the death knell for Nigeria, I now believe that religious disharmony is the biggest threat to Nigeria’s unity. Religious riot is a harbinger of a religious war, we can’t afford one in this country because the consequences are dire, it will destroy us. Why is it that every religious riot in Nigeria is recorded in the northern part? Northerners should ask themselves critical questions as to whether this is a vice or virtue.
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Those who are justifying the unfortunate and cold murder of the female student in Sokoto state are nothing but hypocrites and loose cannons. I want all to note that these ISLAMISTS who are being pampered by governments in Nigeria will turn out to be the biggest threat to the NIGERIAN NATION STATE. MARK MY WORDS!!!