Shi’ites’ protest: Before another ‘Boko Haram’ is created

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The intensification of protest by members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN), popularly known as “Shi’ites”, which the media has reported to have claimed 16 lives in Kaduna, Katsina, Sokoto and Kano States, is disturbing. As the group continues this fight for the release of their leader, Sheik Ibraheem El-Zakzaky, anyone with historical knowledge of the birth and rise of Boko Haram’ will agree that the existing situation signals danger.

As we all react in anger to these horrible attacks and boorish protests, we need to also reflect, candidly, on the causes of terrorism, and adopt the best solutions to restore peace to our agitated communities. Analysts have in the past argued that terrorism feeds on poverty and unemployment. I certainly do not buy into this highly publicised link between poverty or unemployment and extremism. By way of example, Haiti and Liberia are countries with eighty per cent (80%) of their population living below poverty line, yet they have not noted cases of extremism terrorism.

Let me also share a personal experience to back up my assertion.

Many years ago, as an undergraduate student in The University of Maiduguri, Borno State, I had walked past several open air propaganda gatherings where physical jihad ideology was encouraged and no attempt was made to discourage this questionable canon. Many, overtime, embraced this ideology and began to bring into reality their long desired dream of fighting in what they see as “a war against the continuous oppression of their freedom and religion in Nigeria”. It also engendered in them the structure of a people who considered themselves as vanguard for the liberation of the oppressed in the society. They remainedcommitted to this dogma even to death because someone drilled that notion into them. This happened dexterously because people who lack education and sense of direction are easy to manipulate.

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This prodigal view, which has encouraged hatred and rancor in most part of the country, has since become a sort of non-material glue binding this nefarious group together, as they seek to achieve their putrid goals.

My main point, in view of the foregoing, is that the theory behind present-day terrorism was birthed from an ideology that justifies violence as an expressive, oppressive and suppressive tool.

There are many more multifarious reasons behind the conception and spread of terrorism, most of which are specific to particular regions or communities, but overall, the reason I have stated above is, in my opinion, the most common in Nigeria.

By far the most asked question, as it is in Nigeria today, is what can be done in response to the growing trend of the rise and rise of a people seeking their own utopian world governed by their own utopian laws?

To answer the above, I like to start with the widely proffered solution of regulation of religious activities.

In his piece titled “As Sheikh Dahiru Bauchi Waters the Seeds of Radical Islam”, a public affairs analyst, Majeed Dahiru advocated that “To bring this situation under control, religious groups and practices must be regulated, to ensure the continuous corporate existence of the Nigerian state.” While this is an intelligent and great proposal, it might not settle well with our people because, historically, Nigerians have always seen religious regulation as religious oppression. Every bylaw enacted to stop noise and environmental pollution or propagating violence has been met with stiff opposition from the two eminent religions in the country.

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Another approach, currently been used in Nigeria, is military operation. It is true that the government is obligated to fight for her citizens and defend our land from every attack. However, that might not be the only solution to ending terrorism. If military operation alone could stop terrorism, Somalia, Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan, would have narrowed or ended the spread of extremist violence a long time ago.

The recent bomb attack in Maiduguri is a good example. For what that onslaughtdemonstrates is that however far-reaching, military measures taken to date, has not and may not quell terrorism in that locality. It also discredits government’s claim that “Boko Haram has been defeated”.

As authorities continue to bury their heads in the sand about this issue, the multifaceted campaign by Shi’ite group may, however, continue to grow in number and locations, and possibly lead to more loss of lives.

Giving that history is trying to repeat itself, there is urgent need to take drastic steps to end this palpable bedlam. But the question is how?

From so many inklings out there, I like to highlight four.

First, the continuous incarceration of religious leaders such as El-Zakzaky, without charging them to court for offences they are accused of, is nothing but an invitation to anarchy. The established laws of the land regarding arrest and prosecution should be amply followed.

Secondly, an approach or strategy in relation to an awareness forum that will stop the movement of jihad ideology propaganda and also de-radicalize the youths that have been inspired ideologically has to be created by working with trusted religious and community leaders.

If established, the forum’s framework should address the various religious, social, economic, political and other factors that create platforms upon which violent and terrorist groups areable to recruit and win support. The programmes must further ensure that those, currently within terrorists’ areas of influence and those outside of it, that are yet to be inspired or radicalised by bigots are protected from extremist ideologies.

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Thirdly, there has to be a complete devotion to the introduction of a religious curriculum that will attempt to illumine our people on the difference between what really is a religious innovation developed in the last few centuries by a handful of overenthusiastic people and what is truly Islamic.

Lastly, we must learn from past failures, and going forward figure out which precedents can best inform future responses to proliferation of perverted religious ideologies.

These, in my assessment, are truly some of the most viable and best hopes of stopping the Shi’ites’ revolt, and achieving any form of victory against this monster called terrorism in Nigeria, else the rise of something worse than ‘Boko Haram’ is all but assured.

— Dimas wrote in from Laurel, Maryland, U.S.A 


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