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Conversations on rising up to their challenges

By Emeka Asinugo, KSC
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Much as I expected, some controversy has trailed my last article titled “We must rise to their challenge.” My younger sister, Mrs Chidi Ikpechukwu, read my article and had a different story to tell. Mrs Ikpechukwu is an Economist. She was at one time the Co-ordinating Director of Nigeria’s National Planning Commission. She is now retired. She said:

“This is a thought provoking article. I have keenly followed your line of thought and I would say it was quite fascinating, as it brought a new dimension to the discourse on terrorism and Islamophobia.

However, I have a few questions for you. Firstly: was Osama Bin Laden a poor man? Was he trying to redistribute wealth when he organized to blow up the World Trade Centre in New York? Have you forgotten September 11?

Secondly: was Gaddafi of Libya attempting to redistribute wealth when he organized to blow up an American plane carrying exchange program students?

Again, was the Nigerian pant bomber who attempted to blow up a US airline on Xmas day from a poor home? Mind you, his father was the Chairman of First

Bank Plc and he had the opportunity of getting the best in the world from education. I am not sure he was ever motivated by wealth redistribution or equity.

Bringing it back home, these rampaging Fulani herds men going about burning down villages, raping women and killing people, are they too thinking of wealth redistribution?

I think the major issue with Islam is Jihad. From a young age these children are indoctrinated with the idea that killing in the name of God guarantees one an Eldorado in heaven. So brothers kill sisters and call it honour killing and not wealth redistribution. People kill in God's name because their brains have been so wired to see evil as right. That is why they shout "Praise God" while they are butchering people.

Fundamentally the rigidity in Islam is the problem. The inability to allow the common man to exercise his freedom of thought, the infringement of the religious system on human rights and freedom of belief turns individuals more into zombies. When emotions are bottled up, unnecessary anger and animosity swell up against the free world. In Nigeria, for instance, it takes very little to provoke one and often, this anger leads to transferred aggression.

The beauty of Christianity is its ability to adapt to societal changes and human dynamics.

Like Fela Ransome Kuti of blessed memory would say: “if my preacher preaches nonsense to me, nothing stops me from walking up and saying to him ‘Teacher don't teach me nonsense.’" That is because I can think for myself. I can decide to change my faith to Islam today and no Christian will want to kill me for doing that. The most any one can do is to berate my stupidity. But just holding a Bible in one's hand could get a Muslim a death sentence.

In countries like Nigeria, the feudal system also makes the problem more complex. Majority are kept down to serve as foot soldiers to perpetuate the rule of the privileged few. With more people being exposed to education they have begun to question the status quo.

The point is that although there is an element of criminally motivated terrorism, the truth is that the rigidity in Islam frustrates the young generation and turns them into angry youths who can hurt at anytime without blinking an eye lid.

They hate the lifestyle of the Western world, period. Remember, Boko Haram means Western education is bad. Think about these and have a lovely day.

On 24 June, I wrote back:
I told you I would study the points you raised during your question time. What I think we now have is a clearer picture and consequently, a firmer grip on the situation.

Remember that I kick-started this discourse by pointing out that it was intriguing that these killers did not care who they murdered when they throw bombs into crowds or run their vehicles into heavily populated areas of the city. They don’t care if their victims are Muslims or Christians or people of no faith at-all. And as far as I know, God never asked Muslims to kill their innocent fellow Muslims in the name of anything.

I also pointed out that there were various segments of Islam practice and that it is difficult, if not impossible, for all the different segments to find a common interest in hate for Western culture or way of Life. So, it would be wrong to assume that these acts of violence are religion-motivated.

I also talked about communities and countries they considered as rich being their primary targets and their strategy of infusing fear and uncertainty in the minds of the people as a step towards their mission of re-distributing wealth.

Yes. When Osama bin Laden and Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab bomb or attempt to bomb America, it is because they consider America as a wealthy country. America has always been one of their main targets. Why didn’t they bomb Ghana or Cameroon or Niger Republic etc? They both belonged to the school of thought which believed in re-distributing the wealth of the world. For them, the time is long overdue when government was expected to create wealth by providing jobs and job opportunities. Governments failed the world. As Christians would say, the kingdom suffereth violence, and only violent men can reclaim it. That too was Ghaddafi's idea but his was a bit colourised by the threat America posed to the interest Libya had in its crude oil business. If America can be frightened off, Libya would be safe.

About the Nigeria’s Fulani herdsmen and their fellow pilgrims, as you already know, the equation is turning around starting from Taraba State where their houses are being burnt, their cattle killed in their hundreds and where they have now become refugees in their own country. The reason is that these ones have been used as political tools. GMB is a suspected king sponsor of their ‘above-the-law’ attitude in Nigeria. But now that their ‘King David’ is sick and his

recovery is predictable, the tables have turned against the herdsmen. Who will mentor them now?

I am not sure if at a young age Muslim children are indoctrinated into the understanding that killing in the name of God guarantees one an Eldorado in heaven. If we take a cue from the record of violence in secondary schools in the UK, USA and even Nigeria, it is doubtful if we can comfortably maintain that Muslims are the most violent at that level. I would think that human dignity and human worth begin to mean nothing to these people only when they begin to learn to kill cows.

When brothers kill sisters they call it honour-killing. They cannot call that redistribution of wealth because that is not what it is. It is the rigidity in the teaching of Islam about honour which as you rightly pointed out turns people into zombies. So, I do agree with you completely when you reassert that the major issue with Islam is religious rigidity

On 25 June, Mrs Ikechukwu came back:
I still think the issue of Jihad needs further elaboration. As one of the pillars of the Islamic religion it played a very big role in spreading the religion. You will recall historically how Islam spread to Europe. For instance, some of us know that Gaddafi's effort at the unification of Africa was mainly driven by his desire to spread Islam and acquire territorial gains rather than poverty alleviation.

As for his bombing of the US airplane, it was a pure case of "the friend of my enemy is my enemy too". The strong umbilical cord between USA and Israel is a major factor for Arab hostility against the US. It has nothing to do with wealth. [I disagree with the postulation here because even that umbilical cord had to do with Jewish wealth in America, so it had something to do with wealth]

The question is why is there no peace in Somalia?
This is a country with same culture, language, tribe and religion. The answer is simple – the quest for power. The war - lords have made the land desolate. Why are they bombing Kenya? Is Kenya a wealthy nation? In the case of Osama Bin Laden, have you forgotten that he first fought Russia in Afghanistan with the Taliban and US support? Was he driven by the motive to redistribute wealth? No!

One should think that if the attack was motivated by the desire to redistribute the perceived USA's wealth, then he ought to have struck first in Saudi Arabia that has been swimming in wealth and like Robin Hood, given some to Yemen.

Like I said, the situation is complex. There is the desire to eliminate Israel from the surface of this earth and restore the land to Palestinians, which has been a rallying point for most Arabs and Iran.

Even Nigeria walked out recently when the Israeli Prime Minister addressed ECOWAS meeting. So the question is what is Nigerian government's headache in this respect? Is it heading for solidarity with the Arab world?

When Prophet Mohammed was cartooned in France there were riots in the streets of the Northern States resulting in the killing of non Muslims. This action was not due to poverty but the desire to fight for God, as enshrined in the Quran. It is quite obvious that some Quran verses support violence.

The mass murder as you rightly said is meant to instigate fear and easy capitulation to the whims and caprices of the perpetrators. But it has not worked and violence continues unabated.

As for killing fellow Muslims in such attacks, there are sponsors who consider it as collateral damage, which is inevitable in war. During a war, when bombs are dropped by the market Square, it cannot differentiate any tribe or religion. To the warlords the end justifies the means.

Also, we need to consider the fact that most of these terrorists are on drugs supplied by the sponsors. If not, how can a sane being volunteer to become a suicide bomber. Some of those captured in Nigeria confessed that they were usually drugged to stupor before any attack and that they could kill their own mothers if commanded to do so.

Take the case of 10 year old Nigerian girls under the influence of Boko Haram being sent as suicide bombers to targets in Nigeria: what motivation or control do they have over their fate? They have none, whatsoever.

On the issue of the different arms of Islam particularly the Sunnis and Shahs the problem is that of supremacy. It is about controlling power and not resources redistribution. Since there is usually no middle way for such dispute resolution, both have to slug it out. On a final note, my former Deputy Director once said to me out of frustration "Madam I am tired of these our five prayers a day. Why can our religion not be modernized like the Christian religion? In fact, I am tired".

I guess he was really crying out for help but to the wrong person. Terrorism is much more complex than we think.