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My dear Religious people;
In the spirit of the celebration of the just concluded Eid-el Kabir with our Muslim Brothers, it is imperative that we shed some light on the truth about religion and hope therefore that we become better neighbour to our neighbours, better friend to our friends and off course better citizens to our nation.

From Antiquity, religion has been a tool used in connecting with a higher power that most of us agree truly exists. You have just to look at the blueness of the sky to know that there's a power way-bigger than what we could possibly understand and till the day everyone one of us become dusts, it will continue to be a mystery. The self-proclaimed Atheists can continue with their propaganda but the day anyone of them explains to us the origin of water or of day and night, that day I'd begin to think it fathomable for someone to say there's no power bigger than him. There is a higher power my brothers and sisters. Every religion refers 'the almighty' in different names, and there's always going to be different versions, truly we all worship the same being although we do it in different ways and we would agree that our way of worship has worked for us (Christianity has worked for me). Conversely, Religion has also been a weapon for people to exploit and twist to their advantage, and the raison d'être is implicit in the dogged, vis-à-vis fanatical belief of the people, which weakens their thinking faculty. Thus, it makes them dependent on their religious icon(s) for illumination on this path of life that we all are scheduled to go through. I have a Muslim friend by the name Daud who prays five times daily and observes every rite and ritual of the Islam religion. I'm a Christian; I believe that Jesus Christ is the son of God and I observe every rite and ritual of the Christian religion. The interesting auspice however is the fact that I would take a bullet for Daud as I believe he would for me. The rationale sorrounding our relationship might be lost on fanatics and extremist but the truth remains that; he has been a good friend to me over the years and I believe I have been same to him. Thus, even through the difference in our belief, we have kept our friendship.

No true and healthy religion breeds terror, injustice and wickedness and if by chance you find yourself doing evil to your fellow man in the name of religion, no matter the justification by your religious icon, best believe you are in the wrong faith as no good 'god' will demand that you decapitate the head of your neighbour simply because he doesn't believe in what you believe in. And no good god will have you make enemies (in the name of Holiness) with your neighbours even if they are of a different religion talk less of a different doctrine within the same religion. If you are told otherwise, my dear religious people, it is your first duty as a human being to resist such god for powers which demand human tyranny and injustice cannot accomplish their purpose unless human beings co-operate. The evil that follows Extremism and Fanaticism has been the bane of religion since the days of our Ancestors and I daresay it doesn't look like slowing down anytime soon. Just read the papers and a hundred stories will surface; from the Senior Pastors having carnal knowledge of their members to Imams doing same with the Alhajas in the Mosque, negative exploitation of religion will continue. This truth saddens my heart and so I have decided to write my way into the hearts of the exploited and hope to heavens that I soften their fanaticism and make them (to a reasonable extent) Liberal in their view of life. The exploiters can continue their exploitation of the unguarded and naïve followers but like almost every religion agrees, WHAT YOU SOW, YOU WILL REAP.

Sometime back, in the course of my observation of the compulsory NYSC programme that Nigerian graduates are scheduled to go through, I got the opportunity to teach in a village in Enugu state (Nigeria). It is a village where 'Dog eats Dog' and everybody understands. The best you can do as an individual is to protect yourself and your family by whatever means possible (I'm talking about hardcore Juju here). I was teaching in a secondary school and in one of my classes, I found my students haranguing themselves on a very sensitive topic, (Religion). It took some firm intervention by me to silence their nauseating arguments and what made it worse for a listener and an observer like me was the fact that they were all supposed to be Christians. They were only arguing about their churches and trying to protect the reasons for the doctrines of their respective churches. For clarity sake I'd state categorically that the argument was between the Catholic church-going Students and the Pentecostal church-going Students. So enthusiastic were they in their arguments that they started calling themselves all sorts of ugly names at which point I had to quell the arguments and continue my Economics lessons. My Economics class was always interesting and soon, we had forgotten about the early arguments and concentrated on the 'functions of the Central Bank in Nigeria'. However, I got to my 'cubicle' and couldn't shake the nagging fear that these children's religious fanaticism in something they knew very little about could be exploited by their spiritual heads and my mind swiftly raced to the Northern part of our dear country Nigeria.

The blood sucking sect in Nigeria called Boko Haram, and indeed all terrorist movements around the world are borne out of exploitation of the Achilles heel in religion. Some sick fellows have a grudge or an ambition and would go to any extent to settle or achieve it as the case may be. However, this dissertation isn't for them as their hearts are hardened as stone and rigid as the biblical mountain that cannot be shaken. This critique is for that brother who believes he is doing the will of his god when he burns down the house of a 'sinner' with pregnant women and little children inside and he says it is because the sinner isn't of the same religion as his, thus his god asks that he exterminates them unless they are willing to accept what he accepts and believe in what he believes in. He plays God and decides who lives and who dies, because he has the power (maybe through weapons) at that moment to do so. And in all of these wickedness', he believes he is doing the will of a god. This exposition is for that church member that takes her daughter to the senior pastor for 'cleansing'. Whereas we all know the 'Machine' used in the cleansing process, the knowledge is always lost on the woman as she believes it is the will of her god to let the senior pastor do whatever he deems fit (As the spirit leads) with her daughter. And finally, it is for those who believe in the 'Angelic nature' of clergymen and say they shouldn't be checked because they can never be wrong. The infamous Rev King burnt down some members cum followers of his church to death because they 'Misbehaved' and the church members stood by him. I'm yet to comprehend the possibility of standing by someone that might burn you to death if you 'Misbehave'. How brainwashed can an individual be when it comes to religion? It is with unhappiness that I reveal to you; VERY MUCH! November 18, 1978, the United States witnessed horror like they have never seen as Rev Jim Jones convinced close to one thousand of his followers (children included) to commit mass suicide in Jonestown and that has been recorded as the highest mass suicidal act in the world. Such Tragedy!

The powers these religious Men have over their subjects cannot be quantified, cannot be understated and definitely cannot be taken for granted. Or how else can you explain this baleful and bewildering jingoism hideous in a paradoxical, insoluble and unnerving brouhaha embedded in religious innuendos? There's no other explanation for the sheep-like followership that people exert when it comes to religion, our safest option remains for us to agree that these clergymen have great power over their subjects' psyche, thus they can hurt them whilst fulfilling their personal ambition. This is the first step in the process of having a stable country devoid of religious killings, devoid of 'spiritual cleansing' by some pastors, free from bombings and free from mental, sexual and physical abuse by some Imams. If we acknowledge that these followers cannot think for themselves, we know that to stop them from doing harm to the society and to themselves, we have to protect them from their tyrannical leaders. We have to let these people know that Islam (as most religion) is a religion of peace and whoever preaches otherwise to them is their enemy and must be rebuked. Maybe if true Muslims pursue this cause zealously, there will be reduction in the social ills that the brainwashed Muslims commit. In the same vein, if true Christians pursue the enlightenment of brainwashed Christians, then corruption and abuse will have no place in Christendom. We might not live-happily-ever-after as a country, but I promise you, we will be better-off and my belief is based on the fact that Nigeria is a country full of pious people. It is ironic how we are still one of the most corrupt Nations in the world. Such conundrum isn't it?

Few months back, there were protests across Nigeria and indeed across every sphere of religion that retaining the clause that allows little girls to be married off will be wickedness to the girl. The unfairness of the act being that the girl has no choice, has no say and most especially, has nobody to fight for her. Her parents are poor and as such they will take offers from any suitor, paedophile or not, connoting that she gets married to whomever regardless of her physical and mental readiness. On this matter shall I end this dissertation but not before expressing how I feel and I daresay you are free to challenge me if you think what I'm saying is balderdash.…. That the Islam religion permits the Muslim man to marry little girls is not news, the permission cannot be denied, it is in black and white in the Quran. The Prophet married a child. Also, that the Islam religion permits the Muslims to perform Jihad i.e. (kill in the name of Allah) is not news, the permission cannot be denied, it is a fact. There are handfuls of more permission by the Islam religion but that is not why we're here. I am here to demonstrate to you how wicked and selfish an individual you are if you support child marriage simply because your religion permits it. If you maintain that child marriage should be practiced because in your heart you know that there is something about little girls that tickles your fancy and arouses sexual feelings in your loins, it is ok. It is a mental and/or psychological problem and you can seek medical and spiritual help. But if you hide under the guise of religion to marry and touch little girls because your religion says you can, well sir let's explore this together and, I beg you to open your heart because that is the only way to know if your strong-mindedness on this issue is justified.

Several thousand years ago, it was okay for Muslims to kill people as long as they were 'unbelievers'. As a matter of fact, the Islam religion was spread by warfare. Therefore, in that age and time, if you kill an individual that refuses Islam, you will be doing a wonderful thing and will be earning the respect and adulation of folks in your immediate environment. Let's fast forward the date however to the year 2013 and let me ask why you don't kill us 'unbelievers' that refuse the Islam religion today? Take a while to ponder. As you think it over, let me quickly let you know that the answer is very simple; the acts obtainable plenty centuries ago cannot fit into the present environment. Therefore even though it is permitted to perform holy Jihad which might result in loss of lives, you understand that this is a different age, it is a crime in this age and I daresay it is 'All shades of wrong' in this era and so it behooves of you as a good Muslim man or woman to concentrate on the aspects of the Quran that this age supports (Unless off course you are a Boko). Now let us take the child marriage situation and explore as well. Plenty centuries ago, the prophet Mohammed married a 6 yr old Aisha and had sexual relations with her at age 9 as was the norm and custom of that period and best believe there were no complication that arose from such consummations because if there were, the Prophet, Bless his soul wouldn't have gone ahead with it and not only that, he would have advised his followers staunchly against it and my conviction is based on the fact that the Islam religion is a religion of peace and justness. Now let us fast forward the date to the year 2013 yet again and let me tell you about very few of the things the little girl that gets married at a very tender age suffers. Apart from the entire mental and psychological trauma which I cannot begin to break down to you because of the enormity of its volume, I would like to introduce you to a serious condition called 'obstetric fistula' prevalent in the Northern part of Nigeria where the bulk of the little female children are being married off. It is a condition that makes her lose the control of her bowel movements thereby making her pass urine and faeces uncontrollably which means therefore that she has to start wearing pampers and tissues everyday of her life to prevent being embarrased in public. If you can imagine that happening to your sweet little daughter when she's married off and you have no qualms about doing that to somebody's daughter, then there is a problem somewhere. Alternatively, if you are the man that loves marrying little girls because the Quran permits you and you now know that marrying and getting them pregnant at young ages can cause this terrible medical condition yet you don't have reservations about the act, my brother, you are nothing short of an incarnate of the devil himself.

Religion is evolutionary. No matter how hard we try to ignore it, fight it and sometimes castigate it, what obtained a thousand years ago cannot be practiced in this present age. Thus, it will be unfair to take certain customary and traditional practice of the old age that favoured their environment and the prevalent situation back then and fuse into the present simply because you are not on the losing side of the custom. That is not only being nonchalant about your neighbour's plight, it is you being wicked. No good Muslim should hide under the excuse of the Islam religion to molest little girls albeit on their marital bed. If that is the hobby of the Nigerian Senators, it is okay. They can seek medical help and combine prayer with it. I believe God in his infinite mercy will cure them of the problem. However, if they do that under the pretext of obedience to the teachings of the Prophet, we shall continue to reject it and pray that they will see the light because I have no doubt in my mind that if Prophet Mohammed was in this age and time when marrying little girls would cause so much havoc to their health and break them mentally and physically, HE WOULD NOT SANCTION IT and If as a Muslim you believe otherwise, then its a pointer to the fact that you are either in the wrong religion or you are not practicing your religion right. In all your religious practices my dear Christian and Muslim brothers, ask yourself this question; can true religion really breed wickedness?

P.S- The Nigerian senate president said the situation will be re-visited, and I hope he reads this…. Sir, that you see us as fools (that make lots of noise, after which you come, say few soothingly-diplomatic words to calm the nerves and then everything is swept under the carpet and forgotten) doesn't make us fools o! Nigerians are not foolish people. As a matter of fact, Nigerians are one of the smartest in the world and this is the reason for our cynical nature. We know what you and the rest of the people in Government are doing sir. We are just not motivated enough to start a revolution. . But one day Na one day!

Wole Opesanmi writes from Navy Town in Lagos.

Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of The Nigerian Voice. The Nigerian Voice will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."

Articles by Wole Opesanmi