I had concluded a topic for this Sunday but the trending issue in the Shehu Shagari College of Education, Sokoto made me consider a piece on above topic. Why should highly educated, highly placed, and highly exposed people act in ways too difficult to explain once religion becomes an issue? Incidentally, the lesson today where I worshipped led to a question on how far clergymen and high church officers should absorb attacks on their persons. The Pastor recalled an incident he witnessed. A young man told his Christian friends that Jesus had a girlfriend. The Christians exploded and beat up their colleague accusing him of blasphemy. This example naturally led to the ongoing crisis in Sokoto. It means in any religion once sensibilities are ruffled, people may become hostile. The hostility could be a verbal exchange with the possibility of going as far as fisticuffs or murder as it happened in Sokoto. We ended the discussion by canvassing for tolerance of opposing views. If the Bible called for turning of the other cheek and forgiving wrongs seventy times seven times, then violent reaction to what offends one’s sensibilities is by implication not acceptable.
I intend to look at a tiny aspect of decades of research on whether the human brain is wired for the transcendental or link to powers above. Scientists say evidence abound in human DNA to confirm the drive in people to reach out into the non-scientific realm for answers to the micro to mega puzzles which circle the world of the living. Indeed, there are more than meet the eye. But we need to handle confrontations with the duty of care.
Imagine political conflict in Northern Ireland between Protestants and Catholics. “The Troubles” between the two lasted from 1968 to 1998 and claimed more than 3,600 lives within the same religion. Imagine the sectarian violence between Sunni and Shia Muslims which continue to claim thousands of lives within the same religion. Can the choice of leader after the exit of the Founder be sufficient and enough justification for unending conflict in the Family of Islam?
Simply put, there is something basic in human nature which make them ready to kill “in the name of God.” A branch of study known as Neurotheology continues to research on issues of this persuasion to identify a “God gene.”
For now, we should appeal to all of us to avoid ruffling feathers. I would not kill or even shout if someone uses a page in the Bible to wipe his or her anus. But I would announce that I am offended, and the person should stop. If Moslems say don’t caricature our Founder, why must anyone do it? Same goes for other religions.
The social media has indeed become the most powerful force in the world. Information is power and social media put information in the palms of even poorest.
This same day I accessed a post by one Folu. Some of the things he has written shook me to the marrows. From 1988 till date, I have admired several Moslems but four stand out. The first is Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, immediate past Emir of Kano. I met him during my tenure in Icon Limited (Merchant Bankers). Using his education in Kings College, Lagos (a Christian school) he used to present balanced arguments in politics and religion. Two things I can’t forget: first he told us in Icon Training School that the difference between Christianity and Islam is the New Testament. It made and still makes sense to me more, so I have watched the 1976 film titled “The Message” with popular actor Anthony Quinn as the protagonist. The film, approved by the Supreme Council for Islam in Jerusalem shows the early days of Islam and the strong, positive role the Christian king of Ethiopia played to save the emerging religion which was facing persecution by polytheistic rulers in Mecca. The king refused to hand over the early Moslems to their enemies. The second, Alhaji Sanusi once asked, “What is the difference between forty Moslem thieves and forty Christian thieves?” He argued that a corrupt person is corrupt irrespective of religion.
The second person is Alhaji Umaru Mutallab, former Managing Director of First Bank of Nigeria PLC. The man informed American Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) that his son had been radicalized. The CIA ignored his warning and hundreds of people nearly lost their lives on Christmas day when the young man nearly detonated a bomb inside an aeroplane over USA. Flyers no longer take liquids into the cabin because of what Alhaji Mutallab’s son tried to do. I saw the man as exceptional. To report a son to CIA is near equivalent of sending him to the gallows.
But the post I read today presented stories of past deeds of both Alhaji Sanusi and Alhaji Mutallab which generated fever and nausea in me. I desperately hope the stories are not true. Nevertheless, it teaches me to seek to know more about people and systems before taking a position on them.
The third person Moslem I admire is Alhaji Aliko Dangote, an exceptional entrepreneur. The fourth is Professor Aminu Mikailu, former Vice Chancellor, Usmani Dan Fodyo University, Sokoto. As Chairman of Governing Council of the Federal College of Education (Technical), Omoku he showed desperation to keep the College open in a war situation and mixed humility with sacrifice. Imagine something terrible being written about these two. I would feel really bad although a recent post from a Northern politician said, anyone who does not want to be told who his mother’s boyfriend before his father was married her should not join politics or seek high profile offices and opportunities.
For now, highly placed religious leaders should appeal to their followers to display tolerance. If God gives all human beings the latitude to choose their religious orientation, it is difficult to justify why God’s creations should seek to limit the freedoms of their fellow human beings on which belief or which approach to adopt to meet the yearning to connect with powers beyond the earth plain. If we go on like this, how many people will be left?