Islamic extremism in Nigeria – are we concerned?

Well yes. According to a whopping 76% Nigerians are worried about national Islamic extremism.

When one thinks of Islamic extremism in an international context, Nigeria is not one of the first countries that comes to mind. But with roughly half the nation’s population being muslim, it’s not absurd to postulate that there may be some problems with extremism within the country.

First, let’s examine this term that gets thrown about so often – what does Islamic extremism actually mean? Islamic extremism is, in essence, aggressive ideology in which violence is often used to solve the perceived problem. Suicide, bombings and assassinations are tactics often used by this small section of the Muslim religion. Extremists have long been berated for giving Islam a bad name and there are many muslims who do believe in a peaceful coexistence with members of other religious faiths.

Extremists at their worst

One aspect of Islam that strikes fear into many is Sharia Law. Yes the law that advocates stoning a woman to death if she has been found cheating. By 2009, 9 states in  Nigeria had instituted Sharia Law, and 3 more states have implemented Sharia law in areas where there is a high muslim population. Scary stuff eh?

Well, I guess I should also explain what Sharia Law is all about, in a neutral, non-scaremongering way.  Sharia Law, is according to muslims, a combination  of the principles set in the Quran and the sayings and living habits of Prophet Muhammad. Contrary to popular belief, Sharia Law has many peaceful aspects. Sharia Law dictates that Muslims must pray 5 times a day, go on a pilgrimage to Mecca, fast and even pay an annual tax to the poor of their countries.

Then there are the more shocking laws such as amputation of the hands as punishment of thievery and yes, the stoning of an adulterer – although this should apparently apply to both sexes and not just the woman.

The problem with Sharia Law and elements of Islamic extremism is that ideas are open to interpretation and perversion – and in most interpretations the punishments are extreme and women fare the worst. Jihad is another Islamic term the world has become all too familiar with in the 21st century. Jihad is an Arabic word that can be translated in many ways including ‘struggle’, ‘to strive’ or ‘to fight’ – it all depends on the context. It also means spiritual self-discipline but many of us know it as a holy war on behalf of Islam.

In 2009, a 23 yr old Nigerian muslim, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, attempted to detonate explosives hidden in his underwear as the plane descended in to the USA.  Many Nigerians shrugged this off as a unique event and it was argued that he was radicalised outside of Nigeria.  Jos, in the center of Nigeria, experiences frequent clashes between the Muslims and Christians that reside in the city – and this is usually violence against Christians. However, I have discussed in another post how the violence in Jos should not be merely looked at from a religious perspective.

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab - the 'Underwear Bomber'

A public workshop hosted by the U.S. Institute of Peace explored whether Nigeria is becoming ‘a hot-bed of Islamic terrorism’.  John Paden, an international studies professor claimed that the country is certainly not. Instead he said: “If anything, Nigeria is a hotbed of Islamic moderation”. Interesting turn of phrase, but what does this actually mean?

Well Paden goes on to argue that “Islam has a long history in Nigeria and has largely maintained a decidedly “West African” character, and less dependent on outside influences from the Arab world.” I agree.

My father is a Nigerian and Muslim. And I would have to describe him as a moderate muslim – one who lives in harmony with a Christian wife. He seems to separate his religion from his national identity and culture. but Islam and culture are bound and tied together in many parts of the Arab world. Let’s take the clothing of Muslim women as an example. The Quran does not instruct women to wear the burqa. However some Islamic cultures like that of the Taliban, insist on women wearing this attire. More ‘moderate’ Islamic cultures such as those in Turkey do not insist on women completely covering themselves up. It is a rare sighting to see a muslim woman in Nigeria wearing the full Burqa too.

3 women wearing burqas

To conclude I’d say that Nigeria doesn’t need to be on high alert of Islamic extremism at this point in time. But one thing I would throw out there is that if certain Islamic groups were to focus on turning Nigeria into a ‘hotbed of Islamic terrorism’ it certainly wouldn’t be that hard. The lack of strict rule of law and rife corruption will make it fairly easy for these groups to set up camp in the country if they learn how to play the Nigerian game of back-handers and turning a blind-eye. So in that case, we can all breathe a sigh of relief –  but at the same time we’d do well to keep one eye open.

Also read:- Muslims set to become the majority in Nigeria

Why tribalism in Nigeria should die a peaceful death



4 responses to “Islamic extremism in Nigeria – are we concerned?

  1. In reply to the topic below you posted here:
    “No Matter The Politics: Christrians And Muslims Will Never Live In Unity”

    @Poster, you have really done a grave job that could turn out to misinform a lot of people and hunt their psychic. Why do you go all the way quoting the verses of Noble Quran and the sayings of the Prophet Muhammed without giving the full interpretations of those quotes? You are entering into the very middle of an Ocean. How are you going to know your way out when you left the wise men unconsulted before dipping into it? What knowledge do you have about the science of Noble Quran and sayings of the Prophet?

    You have no knowledge of what you are saying. Those blanket quotes and interpretations given to them are non-congruent. If by your religion ALLAH means GOD, you are telling us here that GOD is not the Creator of NON-MUSLIMS. How can ALLAH create a group and directed them to be killed by another group just like that without any reason.

    I swear by ALLAH the creator of the Universe, the Poster doesn’t have the knowledge of what he is doing. All what he wrote are lies. They don’t go as presented by him. You need to spend years in the school of Arabic to be able to give correct meaning to the verses of HOLY QURAN and THE SAYINGS OF THE PROPHET.

    There is specialization in ARABIC STUDIES too. There are people that only specialised in correct interpretation of NOBLE QURAN while some in THE SAYINGS OF THE PROPHET etc.

    By definition, ISLAM is a religious of peace. If you now see something going against such all you need is asking those who know. The poster, no doubt is a religious bigot and a product of our poor educational system. You saw something somewhere, the best you could do was to copy and paste!

    Despite having a lot of non-Muslims as friends and neighbour, I understand what their religion allow and not.

    @Poster, you have demonstrated the peak of hatred you have for the MUSLIMS and ISLAM based on lies. This is how people of your likes are doing painting Islam and Muslims black all over the world. When do you going to stop this? You are getting older everyday you know?

    Picking those quotes one by one and demystifying them would be a waste of time because, your mind is made up already. The heat of hatred being generated by your mind for MUSLIMS and ISLAM can only be quenched by you alone.

    I can give you scores of QURANIC verses and THE SAYING OF THE PROPHET, where MUSLIMS are enjoying and mandated to live in harmony with NON-MUSLIMS. If we could have such, are you accusing GOD of being doubletalked and contradicting Himself? As far as the knowledge about which this thread is opened; you are an empty brain.

  2. Hi Ziccoit,

    I think you have me mixed up with someone else. I didn’t create the post in the link you gave and my comment on the post was ‘the muslim religion has been twisted by a few who have their own agendas. muslims, especially in nigeria, should be able to live peacefully alongside christians.’

  3. The Sufis way of practising Islamic teachings is the secret behind the mutual understanding and unity of Nigeria. The recent crisis between Muslims & nonmuslims and or muslims amongst themsalves and or extremists against gov’t is as a result of corruption, Wahabists uncensored attack on individuals and groups and d interferance of some foreign forces. The peace we have then enjoyed then wil have continued if the said later forces were not allowed to see the light of the day. The only way out is the consultation of the few Sufi scholars, discontinue with the incessent corruption and bring an immidiate halt to the Wahabists way of uncensored attack on individuals and groups.

  4. The Koran tells you to respect those who follow the book. Although there is no direct reference to what may be meant by book, there is a passage where Mohammed asks a member of a Jewish tribe why god had left the Arab’s to the end? of which the reply was “god never left the Arab’s behind, Ismael went to the Arab peninsular to preach the word of the good lord”- This passage shows Mohamed’s ability to get on with members of other religions, thus possibly accepting that ‘book’ can refer to the Torah, Bible or any other religious text.
    This passage was also important because it positioned Mecca as the most holy site to Muslim’s thus why, from then on, and until now, Muslim’s prey facing Mecca and not Jerusalem. It is also a foundation to one of the reasons why some Muslim’s believe that Islam came before Christianity and not after, linking them directly to Abraham’s lineage.
    If you dig deeper into the reality that was lived at the time of Mohamed’s first apparition, you’ll find that the Arab nation was fractured by constant tribal war. Islam was made to unite the Arab brothers, and if it weren’t for () aspiration to a globalised Islamic world, Islam may have stayed a religion strongly associated only to the Arab peninsular.
    Even the first Caliph’s Arab’s to occupy southern Europe, construed trading ties to the non-Muslims, which not only included Christians, but also included Jew’s. Maimonides, a great Jewish philosopher, lived in peace in Barcelona during the time of the Moro -Arab occupation. This is not to say that at that time, they were totally tolerant to other religious groups, they were not. One of the reasons for a great southern European rebellion against the Arab’s, leading to the first Crusade, was due to discriminative tax burden that Arab’s implored on non-Islamic believers.
    I should stress; that the blogger is correct in saying much of the problem with extremism is the hard-line interpretation of religious texts. Interpretation should be directed in a way that is peaceful, not one that insights revenge and war. Even if my facts are partially wrong, I do not strongly believe that Allah is not capable of being the same as GOD, and that Allah is not capable of accepting Jews, Christians, Buddhists, and Hindus etc. Those of you who don’t believe religions can live in peace together should really direct your energies to finding reasons for such behaviour in the study of Anthropology, not Theology. Man can’t live together in peace because it’s just in our nature not to.
    If I have learnt anything from reading various religious texts; admittedly not in great detail, is that all religions found themselves on trying to come up with a solution to solve this Anthropological problem, yet instead, they’ve just given man a good ‘reason’ for such problems existing.
    (Information taken has been adapted but mostly based on books “brief history about the Crusaders-”- Geoffrey Hindley and “a short history of Islam” – By Karen Armstrong)

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