Historically, in little more than a century, the religious landscape of sub-Saharan Africa has changed dramatically. As of 1900, both Muslims and Christians were relatively small minorities in the region. The vast majority of people practiced traditional African religions, while adherents of Christianity and Islam combined made up less than a quarter of the population, according to historical estimates from the World Religion Database
In the words of Harry S. Truma, the 33rd president of the United States, serving from 1945 to 1953. A lifetime member of the Democratic Party. “We must build a new world, a far better world – one in which the eternal dignity of man is respected.” It presupposed, that humanity first.
Given the recent developments, it may be quite easy to say that Islam suffers from a lack of tolerance and that Muslims are anti-freedom, anti-democracy, pro-despotism and pro-fanaticism. However, this generalisation ignores not only the number of branches of Islam and diversity of views among Muslims, but also the sociopolitical foundation of the problem.
The notion of religious actions is more problematic than is popularly supposed. It is not merely a divine spiritual matter which is separated from social political actors. Rather, it is nested within and shaped by other human dimensions.
As a result, the sociopolitical background can change any religion – to be more tolerant or more fanatical, for example. Nevertheless, it may just validates the reasonings in some quarters, that “Religion Is For People Who Believe They’re In Trouble For Being Alive.”
As such, the notion that offering insult (sabb ) to God, to the prophet Muḥammad, or to any part of the divine revelation is a crime in Islamic religious law, fully comparable to blasphemy. In the Christian tradition, blasphemy properly denotes mockery or lèse majesté of God. There is no exact equivalent to blasphemy in the Islamic tradition, although the Qurʾanic phrase “word of infidelity” (kalimat al-kufr ) comes fairly close.
From the viewpoint of Islamic law, blasphemy may be defined as any verbal expression that gives grounds for suspicion of apostasy (riddah ). In theological terms, blasphemy often overlaps with infidelity (kufr ), which is the deliberate rejection of God and revelation; in this sense, expressing religious opinions at variance with standard Islamic views could easily be looked upon as blasphemous.
Following from the above, the past few days, have been very traumatic for many of our citizens home and abroad. The barbaric act of the religious fundamentalists and the unfortunate justification for such incongruence, leading to a full-blown rioting in Sokoto, which may likely spread, if not properly managed. Sadly, the statements emanating from certain quarters, particularly, the ones from the Imam of Abuja, Prof Ibrahim Maqari and many other supposedly literate minds, was a clear endorsements of extrajudicial murder and criminality. The million dollars question are as follow:-
Why are you, endorsers of mob actions, not seeing the easy follies in your assertions?
Why must physical violence trail verbal abuse? It should be tit for tat, verbal for verbal.
That’s what is espoused in the very corpus of Islamic ordinances you so vehemently trumpet, cherry-picking at will. Sadly, it’s not a buffet of injunctions; you can not carp or cavil, nilly-willy.
Islamic judicial leanings are, as you well know, defined solely by fairness and equity.
In all of this, I am beginning to cotton on to why only Muslims of Northern extraction are so easily dispensed to support a mob action against blasphemous utterances. It is not Islam – you can not be more catholic than the Pope – it’s culture. It’s your culture.
A culture of ‘honor killings’ – prevalent in the culture of desert dwellers and animal herders – is what is being parceled anew, for mass appeal, as an Islamic edict.
By extension, your angst is not about defending the glorious name of the Prophet, it’s about you defending your own fragile ego, your own personal ‘honor’.
For me the most important religion is humanity – just being a good human being defines you everywhere. All that you need to work upon is being helpful to the needy at all times and every place. Being loving and caring towards all living beings even plants and animals, and above all to understand another person’s problem and realize the situations they are in and be considerate.
Humanity means caring for and helping others whenever and wherever possible. Humanity means helping others at times when they need that help the most, humanity means forgetting our selfish interests at times when others need our help. Humanity means extending unconditional love to each and every living being on Earth.
Conclusively, permit me to salute the courage of the supreme leader of the entire Muslim community in Nigeria. The Sultan of Sokoto, His Eminence, Alhaji Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar CFR, the 20th Sultan of Sokoto.
Richard Odusanya is a Social Reform Crusader and the convener of AFRICA COVENANT RESCUE INITIATIVE ACRI