Sectarian violence in Nigeria is Spinning Out of Control - updated 12/25/12
Posted Dec 25, 2012

Sectarian violence in Nigeria is Spinning Out of Control

by Sheila Musaji

Nigeria has suffered from sectarian, ethnic, and tribal violence for quite some time. 

As in many African countries, there are political, economic, and social issues at work, a shortage of resources, unfair distribution of wealth, tensions between settled and nomadic groups, etc.  Often whatever violence is carried out is defended as being “retaliation” or “revenge” for some previous act carried out by the other group.  Extremists (like Boko Haram) take advantage of the situation by attempting to provide phony religious or nationalistic justifications for why a particular group must carry out such acts of violence in “self defense”.  Attempting to oversimplify what is happening, or to depict the violence in Nigeria as being a religious war, does a disservice to all of the people.

Most often, attacks by Muslims on Christians get the most press here in the U.S., but the reality is that the violence is carried out by members of all groups.  Since many people in the U.S. are unaware that this is not as simple as Muslims being a “problem” wherever they live, here are a very few examples of such acts of violence carried out by Christians against Muslims:

In 2011, Christians attacked Muslims praying at a mosque on Eid in Jos The mosque had been burned in previous religious violence.  In 2011, Christian youths attacked a car full of Muslims returning from a wedding in central Nigeria, killing seven people inside the vehicle and sparking retaliatory violence that left one other person dead.  In 2006 Nigerian Christians defended a series of attacks on Muslims in Onitsha that left two mosques destroyed and at least 42 dead.  In 2012, a mosque and Islamic school were attacked and burned in Benin and 5 people were killed and 6 injured. In 2012, the Okene mosque was attacked and 3 people killed.  Nigeria has seen at least 20,000 deaths from political, ethnic and religious violence.

Nigeria is home to more than 200 distinct ethnic groups drawn together in a volatile mix by European colonial mapmakers in the 19th century.  ...  Though the city is considered part of the homeland of the heavily Catholic Ibo ethnic group, thousands of northern Muslims, mostly members of the Hausa ethnic group, have moved here in search of work.

An article ‘Religious’ Violence in Nigeria fueled by Poverty and Ethnicity? notes that at least part of the violence stems from ethnic conflicts that cross religious lines

On the exterior, it appears Islam spurs the actions of the dominating inhabitants of Northern Nigeria. Everyone is led to believe so. Christians understand the discrimination against them is religious. The deception is revealed when one is a Muslim and happens to be of a different tribe than the Hausa-Fulanis.

Non-Hausa-Fulani Muslims are being attacked and murdered just as easily as Christians. The Islamic teacher of an ustādh of mine was murdered in Kaduna. Imagine how old he was. When his home was invaded by the Hausa-Fulanis, he informed them that he was a Muslim. The response he got was: This is not religious, but tribal.

Here in Sokoto, a Christian acquaintance tried to intervene to halt the brutal assault of a Muslim woman by Hausa-Fulani men. Pleading with the attackers, she reminded them the victim was a Muslim like them, why were they beating her up to the point of lifting and smashing her on the ground? A Hausa woman retorted: This is not about religion. It is tribal.

ABC reports that: For the past three years, a violent Islamist sect called Boko Haram has been terrorising the population in the northern provinces of Nigeria. At first, it targeted moderate Muslims, before turning to attacks on the Christian community. Nigeria is a divided country—a largely Muslim north, a largely Christian south—and there have been underlying tensions for at least a decade. But lately things have gotten even bloodier. Bomb attacks against churches have a become a ritual event, every Sunday, and, in the past fortnight, as the Christian Science Monitor has been reporting, Christians have started launching retaliatory attacks against Muslim targets. The situation now threatens to spiral into a full-scale religious war. 

Irin News reports that  57,000 people have been displaced by sectarian violence in two states   A 2004 report said “More than 30,000 Christians have been displaced from their homes in Kano, the largest city in northern Nigeria, and a further 27,000 displaced Muslims had sought refuge in Bauchi state in east central Nigeria following a massacre of Muslims by Christian gangs in neighboring Plateau state.”

The Africa Report notes that Father Matthew Kukah, Bishop of Sokoto says

The dichotomy that pitches Christians in the south, as you often hear, against Muslims in the north is a false dichotomy. It ignores the millions of Christians that are in different parts of northern Nigeria ... That feeds into the notion that there is an inevitable conflict, one moment it is north and south and another it is Christians and Muslims.

The north, the poorest part of Nigeria, it is where you have the highest concentration of non-literate citizens and households that are vulnerable in terms of economic power. There is almost a total disconnect between the elite in the north and the ordinary people. There is a feeling of frustration – even Boko Haram has articulated this point. A lot of anger from ordinary people in the north is anger against their own elite who they find are really not prepared to deal with the principles of Islam and are not addressing the social conditions around them.

...  I don’t think anybody should become so paranoid as to begin to evoke the spirit of what happened in 1966. I think that, conservatively, 80% of Nigerians want to live in a democracy. I think the events of the past two weeks are quite significant: 20 or even 15 years ago Nigerians would have been out on the streets calling for the military. As we saw last week, a delegation of Muslim leaders went to the cathedral in Kano to address the Catholics whilst they were worshipping. We have cases of Muslims banding together and creating a wall to ensure that Christians can pray freely. We have the same scenarios in Lagos. I think that many Nigerians are gradually moving beyond their religious frontiers.

The European Union has condemned attacks on Christian churches as well as Muslim religious centers in Nigeria and reiterated its continued support to the Nigerian government’s ongoing efforts to address the issue. 

Jean Herskovits wrote in the NY Times In Nigeria, Boko Haram Is Not the Problem

... Boko Haram began in 2002 as a peaceful Islamic splinter group. Then politicians began exploiting it for electoral purposes. But it was not until 2009 that Boko Haram turned to violence, especially after its leader, a young Muslim cleric named Mohammed Yusuf, was killed while in police custody. Video footage of Mr. Yusuf’s interrogation soon went viral, but no one was tried and punished for the crime. Seeking revenge, Boko Haram targeted the police, the military and local politicians — all of them Muslims.

It was clear in 2009, as it is now, that the root cause of violence and anger in both the north and south of Nigeria is endemic poverty and hopelessness. Influential Nigerians from Maiduguri, where Boko Haram is centered, pleaded with Mr. Jonathan’s government in June and July not to respond to Boko Haram with force alone. Likewise, the American ambassador, Terence P. McCulley, has emphasized, both privately and publicly, that the government must address socio-economic deprivation, which is most severe in the north. No one seems to be listening.

Instead, approximately 25 percent of Nigeria’s budget for 2012 is allocated for security, even though the military and police routinely respond to attacks with indiscriminate force and killing. Indeed, according to many Nigerians I’ve talked to from the northeast, the army is more feared than Boko Haram.

Meanwhile, Boko Haram has evolved into a franchise that includes criminal groups claiming its identity. Revealingly, Nigeria’s State Security Services issued a statement on Nov. 30, identifying members of four “criminal syndicates” that send threatening text messages in the name of Boko Haram. Southern Nigerians — not northern Muslims — ran three of these four syndicates, including the one that led the American Embassy and other foreign missions to issue warnings that emptied Abuja’s high-end hotels. And last week, the security services arrested a Christian southerner wearing northern Muslim garb as he set fire to a church in the Niger Delta. In Nigeria, religious terrorism is not always what it seems.  None of this excuses Boko Haram’s killing of innocents. But it does raise questions about a rush to judgment that obscures Nigeria’s complex reality.

Many Nigerians already believe that the United States unconditionally supports Mr. Jonathan’s government, despite its failings. They believe this because Washington praised the April elections that international observers found credible, but that many Nigerians, especially in the north, did not. Likewise, Washington’s financial support for Nigeria’s security forces, despite their documented human rights abuses, further inflames Muslim Nigerians in the north.

Mr. Jonathan’s recent actions have not helped matters. He told Nigerians last week, “The issue of bombing is one of the burdens we must live with.” On New Year’s Eve, he declared a state of emergency in parts of four northern states, leading to increased military activity there. And on New Year’s Day, he removed a subsidy on petroleum products, more than doubling the price of fuel. In a country where 90 percent of the population lives on $2 or less a day, anger is rising nationwide as the costs of transport and food increase dramatically.

Since Nigeria’s return to civilian rule in 1999, many politicians have used ethnic and regional differences and, most disastrously, religion for their own purposes. Northern Muslims — indeed, all Nigerians — are desperate for a government that responds to their most basic needs: personal security and hope for improvement in their lives. They are outraged over government policies and expenditures that undermine both.

The United States should not allow itself to be drawn into this quicksand by focusing on Boko Haram alone. Washington is already seen by many northern Muslims — including a large number of longtime admirers of America — as biased toward a Christian president from the south. The United States must work to avoid a self-fulfilling prophecy that makes us into their enemy. Placing Boko Haram on the foreign terrorist list would cement such views and make more Nigerians fear and distrust America.

The Office of the Anglical Archbishop in Dublin reports that: “According to a report by a high level Christian-Muslim taskforce comprising the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the Royal Jordanian Aal Al Bayt Institute (RABIIT), while the violence between Christians and Muslims in Nigeria is the worst between members of the two faiths since the Bosnian war of 1992-1995, the sectarian conflict is driven by poverty, inequality and injustice.  The religious aspect of the violence, the report says, is reinforced by radical Islamist groups like Boko Haram which, the taskforce believes, exploits the secular issues, and the revenge killings by Christians and Muslims.”

The report states: “The joint delegation believes that the primary causes of the current tension and conflict in Nigeria are not inherently based in religion but rather, rooted in a complex matrix of political, social, ethnic, economic, and legal problems, among which the issue of justice—or the lack of it—looms large as a common factor. Nevertheless, the joint delegation acknowledges that there is a possibility that the current tension and conflict might become subsumed by its religious dimension (especially along geographical ‘religious fault-lines’) and so particularly warns against letting this idea—through misperception and simplification— become a self- fulfilling prediction.”

WCC and RABIIT said they would not presume to advise the Nigerian people or Government on how to resolve their own problems adding that it sufficed to identify them from a neutral, external perspective. However, they said they intended to help “bearing in mind that resolving some smaller problems—especially problems that seem theologically-driven—can help make the larger problems of which they are a part, less intractable and more easily manageable”.

The two organisations have pledged an ongoing commitment to the situation in Nigeria and have agreed on a number of projects. Separately WCC and RABIIT plan to publish information on the theology of peace in their respective religions. These publications are to be published in Nigeria with Nigerian participation and WCC and RABIIT hope the texts can be included in Nigerian school and university curricula.

WCC and RABIIT plan to work together to encourage publication by a group of Nigerian Christians and Muslims a booklet in popular format distilling the understanding of peace and harmony in both Christian and Muslim Scriptures. They also aim to work with individuals and institutions in Nigeria to develop a common statement for people to sign, based on both their religious traditions, pledging themselves to work for the peace and wellbeing of Nigeria. ...

Muslim, Christian, and tribal leaders in Nigeria have spoken out strongly against the violence.

The United Methodist Churchreports

Methodist Archbishop Michael Kehinde Stephen of Ibadan, Nigeria, has appealed to Christian and Muslim leaders worldwide to act together in the face of extremist violence that threatens to divide Nigerians along religious lines.  “In Nigeria, leaders of the Muslim and Christian communities have come together to condemn violence,” the archbishop said. “Since 1999 the Nigerian Inter-religious Council has worked to calm the passions arising from a series of attacks and retaliations manifested in murders and the burning of churches and mosques.”  In recent weeks, Islamic leaders have joined Christians in condemning renewed violence fomented by Boko Haram, a Nigerian group that demands the imposition of Sharia law and the eradication of western influence in the nation. The current wave of terror was started by church bombings at Christmas.  “We want to see Nigeria remain as one, but today there is apprehension and anxiety among people who fear that calls for geographical division may intensify,” Stephen said.

Nigerian Muslims have condemned Boko Haram.

Nigerian Muslims, frustrated with the peril caused by the deviant Boko Haram terrorist cult, led by the ‘self infatuated’, psycho Abubakar Shekau, are increasingly publicly declaring their unambiguous condemnation of this terrorist sect that has made the lives of Muslims and Christians in Nigeria unbearable.  The latest to loudly join this group of fearless, vocal critics of the terror reigning group of miscreants is a most famous Islamic cleric, Sheik Abubakar Gumi.  From the pulpit of the Sultan Bello Mosque in Kaduna, Sheik Gumi declared in clear, blunt terms, that those killing innocent Muslims and Christians, men, women and children will never see the gates of heaven, unless they repented for their sins.

In similar pattern, in June this year,, a highly vocal Muslim group, prepared and distributed official statements and press documents declaring the unreserved condemnation of Boko Haram terrorist activity, and inviting upon Nigerian clerics to be fearless in the condemnation of these criminals, hiding in the midst of good people. went ahead to call for Muslims to defend Churches of their Christian brethren, by forming human shields if necessary.

Official Communiqué from Muslims Against Terror, Nigeria: Fear None Save Allah. Defend Islam, Defend People, Defend Churches, Defend our Nation.  Here is a small part of the lengthy statement:

We, Nigeria’s Muslims Against Terror, hereby send this urgent release to the Muslims of Nigeria in light of the protracted attack on our deen and the peace of our Nation by the Abubakar Shekau, ‘Boko Haram’, terrorist organization.  This is an official communication to be propagated to Muslim gatherings this Friday, Jumah, in other meetings during the weekend and week and each Friday thereafter; established with critical resolve toward strengthening our national security, eliminating the threats of terrorism, and preventing terrorists, criminals, or other unscrupulous actors from destroying property and incessantly taking innocent life.

Abubakar Shekau’s Boko Haram and related or affiliated ‘Muslim’ terrorism is the most challenging threat to our national security and our identity as Muslims and Nigerians today. Defeating this threat requires specific reactions, strong resolve, the commitment of all Muslims and active involvement as a duty as Muslims and humans.

If we do not stand up against Abubakar Shekau’s Boko Haram and related or affiliate elements, in addition to failing our duty as Muslims, we stand to loose, not only our lives, but even the sanctity of our sovereignty. Boko Members were recently listed in global terror lists, via drone attacks, travel and business restrictions, we will all be affected. We will loose our friends and children. Abubakar Shekau’s Boko Haram and related or affiliate elements will have used their evil to more gravely, permanently affect us.

The Noble Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) said: If one of you sees something evil he should change it with his hand. If he cannot, he should speak out against it, and if he cannot do even that he should at least detest it in his heart, this being the weakest form of faith (Sahih of Muslim). Are we going to be of weakest faith? No! It is time for us to change it. We must now as Muslims condemn the megalomaniac, Abubakar Shekau’s Boko Haram and its related platforms. But not only this, we must act against it as they continue to create a state of terror and insecurity in the North of Nigeria and disgrace us to the world as Muslims and as Nigerians.

Christian and Muslim clergy in Nigeria call for action against Boko Haram.

Muslim Voices reports

The Muslim Ummah of Southwest, or MUSWEN, formally condemned the sect Boko Haram, stating their actions had no place in Islam.

“We declare that the violent activities of the group are against the dictates of Islam, which is a religion of peace, and the group, therefore, is not representative of the Muslims in Southwest Nigeria and the country as a whole,” a statement by president and executive secretary Prof. Daud Noibi and Prof. Ishaq Oloyede said.

The group argued for religious education to be mandatory in Nigeria, including Christianity, to confront the issues that cause radicalization. They also argued for religious leaders to get together and find ways to promote peace.  Youth leader of the Christian Association of Nigeria echoed a similar idea — Apostle John Eche called for Nigerians to rise up and stand against the violence Boko Haram is causing. Eche called for Muslim leaders to condemn Boko Haram, and people of all faiths to join together against them.

Muslim and Christian leaders across the globe have condemned the violence and called for interfaith efforts to bring it to an end.

The International Union of Muslim Scholars Condemned the Violence Against Muslims and Christians in Nigeria.  Statement Summary: The International Union of Muslim Scholars issued a statement on January 10, 2012 that was published on the website of Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the head of the Union condemning the violent attacks against Muslims and Christians in Nigeria. The Union called in the statement the Nigerian government to provide security and safety for all people in order to prevent strife among religious groups. The Union also called on the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, an international organization consisting of 57 member states, to play a role in ending the crisis in Nigeria by sending a monitoring mission. The statement was signed by the head of the Union, Yusuf al-Qaradawi and the Secretary General of the Union, Ali Dagi.  Hundreds of Nigerians, Muslims, Christians, and policemen were killed in violent attacks that have been going on since Christmas 2011, when a group of Islamist militants attacked various churches in Nigeria. During the last attack, carried out on December 20 by the Islamist movement Boko Haram, resulted in more than 150 people killed.

The National Council of Nigerian Muslim Organizations in the USA (NCNMO) meeting in Baltimore, Maryland for their annual Youth Platform Conference condemned bomb attacks on churches in Nigeria that left at least 35 people dead and many more injured. The NCNMO condemns the attacks and calls for an end to sectarian violence in Nigeria. In a statement, NCNMO Executive Council said:  “We condemn the unconscionable, senseless, despicable, and inexcusable attacks on Nigerian churches and offer sincere condolences to the family and loved ones of those killed or injured. Only a strong demonstration of interfaith unity will show those behind the attacks that they will never achieve their goal of dividing society along religious lines.”

The Nigerian Muslim Forum in the U.K. condemned the Kano bombings by Boko Haram. 

Imam Mohamed Magid of ISNA published an appeal Muslims Must Stand Up Against the Horrific Attacks Against Christians in Nigeria which was published in African Outlook

Dear Fellow Brothers and Sisters in Islam, it is with great sadness that we have heard the devastating news of the deplorable acts of violence committed against our brothers and sisters of the Christian faith in Nigeria. Our prayers go out to the family, friends and community of all those who have lost loved ones and those who were injured.

These horrific acts of violence demand from us Muslims and people of all faiths around the globe to stand up against all those who perpetrate such horrific acts. Violence of any kind against any people cannot be ignored. Transgressions against people’s rights are occurring today across all boundaries. Regardless of what perpetrators of such acts claim to hold over any other person, to live safely is a right, and we must all stand up to protect the right for all people. “Stand for justice even if it is against yourself” (Quran Surat-un-Nisa, Chapter 4, Verse 135).

It is those who truly know the religion of Islam who, despite our differences, engage in peaceful dialogue and wholeheartedly forsake acts of violence like this. As dedicate worshippers we recognize that an injustice in one part of the world is never validated by another injustice. Human life is sacred and it is never acceptable to take a person’s life to promote a political agenda. Violence is never the answer. We must create a community of harmony with and respect for others. This is the example of our Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and the teachings of our faith. In a time of our history, Muslims were persecuted to the point that they had to flee from their homes, and we must remember it was the gracious Christian King of Abyssinia who opened his arms, welcoming the Muslims to live safely in his land, under his protection. He helped us preserve the tradition of our Prophet and the peaceful and loving religion of Islam. Muslims must use the King’s example in all of our interactions with people of other faiths. Umar ibn al-Khattāb, the second leader of the Muslim community after Prophet Muhammad’s death (May God be pleased with him), out of respect for the Church decided not to pray in a Jerusalem Church so that Muslims would not incorrectly feel that they had any entitlement to take it over in the future. He taught us that it is the responsibility of Muslims to protect the religions and religious places of worship in lands in which Muslims are the majority or minority.

The beloved Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “Whoever violates the rights of the People of the Book, I will complain against them on the Day of Judgment.” There is none amongst us who wants to be complained against by our Beloved Prophet and teacher. Those who committed injustices against the Christians of Nigeria have distanced themselves from the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad and from his love on the Last Day. Our community must take a strong stand against these criminals and stand beside the innocent people of Nigeria. We, as Muslims, will answer the call of Archbishop John Onaiyekan who called on Muslims to stand against the murderers, as this is not a representation of any aspect of Islam. We stand by the Archbishop during this time and we share with you the words of our Beloved Prophet Muhammad Ibn Abdullah:

This is a message from Muhammad ibn Abdullah, as a covenant to those who adopt Christianity, near and far, we are with them.  Verily I, the servants, the helpers, and my followers defend them, because Christians are my citizens; and by God! I hold out against anything that displeases them.  No compulsion is to be on them.  Neither are their judges to be removed from their jobs nor their monks from their monasteries. No one is to destroy a house of their religion, to damage it, or to carry anything from it to the Muslims’ houses.  Should anyone take any of these, he would spoil God’s covenant and disobey His Prophet.  Verily, they are my allies and have my secure charter against all that they hate.  No one is to force them to travel or to oblige them to fight.  The Muslims are to fight for them.  If a female Christian is married to a Muslim, it is not to take place without her approval. She is not to be prevented from visiting her church to pray.  Their churches are to be respected. They are neither to be prevented from repairing them nor the sacredness of their covenants.  No one of the nation (Muslims) is to disobey the covenant till the Last Day (end of the world).

We have the example of those before us, like the King of Abyssinia, and we have the example of those among us, like Pastor James Wuye and his friend, Imam Muhammad Ashafa. During violent clashes against each other in their days as youth in Nigeria, each suffered the loss of loved ones as the hands of the other. After years of being set on revenge the two were brought together and abandoned their hopes for revenge, opting instead for the hope of harmony and peace. Together, as friends of different faiths, they have established the Interfaith Mediation Center of the Muslim-Christian Dialogue Forum in Nigeria. Their courage and determination to rise above evil is what we must all strive toward. That is the teaching of all of our faiths, and the path to peaceful living.

Violence against religious minorities should outrage every Muslim with a conscience because such violence is a misrepresentation of our beloved Prophet Muhammad and transgression of the core of our beliefs. It is a distortion of the beautiful message of Islam. The Muslim community must be leaders in standing against violence. This is the responsibility of the Muslims of Nigeria and Muslims all around the world. I call upon my fellow imams, Muslim scholars and American Muslims to stand against the actions of those who attacked Christian churches. I have asked the King of Jordan, the Council of Muslims Scholars and the leaders of Tunisia to convene a Muslim scholars’ conference to protect the rights of minorities in Muslim-majority countries, and they have accepted. We must continue this effort by establishing a council specifically for Muslims and Christians, and work together with the International Interfaith Peace Corps, a new organization, to address the issues of conflict and violence taking place between communities of faith. And we should help to establish leadership roles to reconcile these differences. In addition, we must incorporate into our community curriculums the prophetic examples of how to work together with people of other faiths.

And finally the Muslims of Nigeria, and around the world, must be the example by helping our Christian brothers and sisters to rebuild the destroyed churches and take care of the victims of Nigeria, just as my mosque community, by the Grace of God, was able to do for the churches in Pakistan.

“O YOU who have attained to faith! Be ever steadfast in your devotion to God, bearing witness to the truth in all equity; and never let hatred of anyone lead you into the sin of deviating from justice. Be just: this is closest to being God-conscious. And remain conscious of God: verily, God is aware of all that you do” (Quran Surat Al-Maidah, Chapter 5, Verse 8).

We pray that God will help us to stand for what is right and leave all that is evil and promote understanding and harmony amongst each other. Let us work together to stop violence of all forms against all people.

Pope Benedict XVI issued an appeal Let those responsible for the violence not spill more innocent blood in which he called for “an immediate cessation of the bloodshed of innocent people” in Nigeria, whose situation worries the Pope. “While I raise a prayer for the victims and for those who suffer”, he said today at the end of the general audience, “I appeal to the perpetrators of the violence, to immediately stop the bloodshed of innocent people. I also hope for the full cooperation of all sectors of society in Nigeria, so that they do not pursue the path of revenge, but that all citizens might cooperate in building a peaceful and reconciled society, in which the right to freely profess their faith is fully protected.”

After Boko Haram stirred up even more violence over the “Innocence of Muslims” film, CAIR released a video appeal in Yoruba, a language spoken by more than 20 million people in Nigeria and other parts of West Africa.  They posted the video on YouTube and sent it to key people in Nigeria to maximize the impact.  In the CAIR video, Imam AbduSemih Tadese of the Islamic Center of Pittsburgh tells viewers in West Africa that the U.S. government has described the film as “distasteful” for its offensive caricature of the Prophet Muhammad. (NOTE: The appeal was produced for CAIR by Take1Media of Cleveland, Ohio.)  In the video, the Imam says: “It is clear that the motive behind the film is to enrage Muslims and to display a hatred of Islam. However, Muslims need to demonstrate good behavior as our Prophet (peace be upon him) dealt harmoniously with people. I hereby appeal to our scholars to calm down the youth and encourage people to cultivate exemplary behavior as Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) teaches.”  He goes on to say: “I want to remind you of the words of God in the Quran: ‘Hold to forgiveness; enjoin what is good, and turn away from the ignorant.’” [The Holy Quran 7:199]

Some individuals and organizations continue to attempt to inflame passions and increase sectarian divides

Some ruthless individuals like Pamela Geller regularly exploit the violence to pursue their own agenda   They even make up totally false stories to inflame people like the totally false Nigerian “Muslim cat crucifixion”  or the totally false photo of a “mass slaughter of Christians” by Muslims.  Most recently, in addition to constantly publicizing only one side of the events in Nigeria, Geller and her partner Robert Spencer have decided to add Nigeria to their vicious “civilized versus savage” man ad campaign.


This ad is unconscionable and “savage”.  Human beings in Nigeria are suffering - Muslims, Christians, animists, different tribes, different ethnic and linguistic groups.  All of them deserve for the rest of the world to see them as human beings who need our help, and not as objects or pawns in some political game that can only make matters worse for them.  We need to support all of the people of Nigeria and do whatever we can to help them find a way to live in peace. 

The dangerous mix of tribal, religious, economic, and political problems in Africa has led to terrible tragedies in the past. 

For example, The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) is a Christian militia militant group/cult operating in northern Uganda, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the Central African Republic.  It is another terrorist organization like Boko Haram.  It has been responsible for displacing at least 2 million people, and establishing a child army that terrorizes the population. 

Even in a country like Rwanda where 90% of the population shared the Christian religion, tribal and other issues led to a terrible genocide between Hutus and Tutsi’s that claimed more than 800,000 lives.  Add religious differences into such a mix and anything is possible.  No “civilized” person would want to see the violence continue to spin out of control.

What is needed is for the voices who are urging non-violent solutions, tolerance, compassion, forgiveness, and attempting to calm the situation down and marginalize the extremists to be the voices that we listen to, and that are promoted in the media. 

We don’t need to hear anything more from the voices of division and hatred. 

But [remember that an attempt at] requiting evil may, too, become an evil: hence, whoever pardons [his foe] and makes peace, his reward rests with God - for, verily, He does not love evildoers.  Qur’an 42:40-41

UPDATE 10/30/2012

A Mosque in Dogon Dawa in Kaduna was attacked while people were preparing for early morning prayers, and 21 people inside were killed.  The Nigerian army has said this attack was the result of a criminal feud and not sectarian violence.


UPDATE 12/25/2012

Gunmen claimed to have been part of Boko Haram have attacked a church in northern Nigeria during midnight mass on Christmas Eve, killing six people including the pastor, before setting the building ablaze, residents and police say. 



Boko Haram Fringe Group Distorts Role of Religion and Education, Mohammad Abdeljalil

CAIR Condemns Burning of Nigerian Churches

In Nigeria, Boko Haram Is Not the Problem, Jean Herskovits

Is Boko Haram the Problem in Nigeria? 

Muslim Organizations Condemn Terrorist Acts Against Christian Churches in Egypt & Nigeria

Nigeria: Five Things To Know About Religious Violence, Lauren Markoe

Nigerian Christians defend attacks on Muslims in Nigeria, Craig Timberg

Protecting Religious Minorities & Houses of Worship a Duty for Muslims

We Must Find a Way to Counter Religious Violence Before it Sweeps Us All Away