Press Release: FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday 29 September, 2011
(Lagos, 29/09/11) There have been a string of terror attacks in Nigeria over the past 18 months. What is happening in the country completely and utterly repulses us. The finger of suspicion has been pointed on Muslims of the Jama’atu Ahlus-Sunnah Lidda’Awati Wal Jihad (often called “Boko Haram”) organization, a group reported to have ties with the Al-Qaeda organization. It goes without saying that if this is the case; these people are acting outside the framework of Islamic teachings. Nothing justifies the killing of innocents, the attack on the UN building or causing widespread fear in the society. The Muslim Public Affairs Centre (MPAC) strongly condemns all forms of terrorism and calls that great emphasis be placed on tackling the causes of this scourge.
For the vast majority of Muslim Nigerians, any act of terrorism perpetrated by anyone represents a direct attack on our values and beliefs. The cowardly terrorists who perpetrate acts of indiscriminate violence and unjustly target the innocent base their actions on an extreme distortion of the tenets of Islam, which uphold the sanctity of life and forbid crimes against humanity. In an attempt to justify their irrational actions, the merciless criminals have tried to manipulate religion as a weapon in their political belligerence. Yet the motivation of those causing so much murder and destruction is not any religious command, but in their statements and argumentation it can be seen that their motive is purely political using Islam as a camouflage. In their discourse, religious texts are being twisted in order to support the pre-Islamic practice of vendetta- the very approach to socio-political conflict that the Qur’an and the Prophet (PBUH) outlawed. And illegitimate methods are being used to pursue their objectives.
Violent actions that target innocent people however great the desire for revenge is a return to ‘tribal warfare’, the hallmark of the dark period of Jahiliya (ignorance of divine guidance). The Qur’an sought to put an end to this type of cold-blooded murder and mayhem through a series of moral and legal principles dictating how human beings should live with one another. The terrorists’ deepest deviation from these Qur’anic principles is therefore not at the legal and political levels, but at the spiritual and moral level. Al-Qaeda and like-minded organizations do set aside Qur’anic spirituality and ethics as well as traditional law in favour of a return to pre-Islamic condition of total war, in which all the members of the opposing ‘tribe’ are fair game, including old men, pregnant women, babes-in-arms, Christian doctors and Muslim scholars. It appears that anyone who opposes their ideology and brand is marked for elimination.
Yet in warfare, Islam has first drawn a clear line of distinction between the combatants and the non-combatants of the enemy country. As far as the non-combatant population is concerned such as women, children, the old and the infirm, those not participating in the act of aggression, etc., the instructions of the Prophet (PBUH) are as follows:
“Do not kill any old person, any child or any woman” (Abu Dawud). “Do not kill the monks in monasteries” or “Do not kill the people who are sitting in places of worship” (Musnad of Ibn Hanbal).
Abu Bakr (RA), the first caliph or successor to Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) established a detailed set of rules for Islamic conduct in war. He gave these instructions to a Muslim army setting out for Syria, then still part of the Byzantine Empire:
“Stop, O people, that I may give you ten rules for your guidance in the battlefield. Do not commit treachery or deviate from the right path. You must not mutilate dead bodies. Neither kill a child, nor a woman, nor an aged man. Bring no harm to the trees, nor burn them with fire, especially those which are fruitful. Slay not any of the enemy’s flock, save for your food. You are likely to pass by people who have devoted their lives to monastic services; leave them alone. ….”
In summary, Islam allows war in self-defence (Quran 22:39), to defend Islam (rather than to spread it), to protect those who have been removed from their homes by force because they are Muslims (Quran 22:40), and to protect the innocent who are being oppressed (Quran 4:75) but even in the midst of a raging battle, Muslims must conduct themselves:
- in a disciplined way
- so as to avoid injuring non-combatants
- with the minimum necessary force
- without anger
- with humane treatment towards prisoners of war
These are amongst the strict rules of engagement and the idea of a total and unrestricted conflict is completely un-Islamic:
“Fight in the cause of God against those who fight you, but do not transgress limits. God does not love transgressors.” Quran 2:1
O ye who believe! stand out firmly for Allah, as witnesses to fair dealing, and let not the hatred of others to you make you swerve to wrong and depart from justice. Be just: that is next to piety: and fear Allah. For Allah is well-acquainted with all that ye do. Quran: 5:8
Also, when wars become necessary, Muslims must only wage it according to the principles of Allah’s justice.
“Those who believe fight in the way of Allah, and those who disbelieve fight in the way of the Shaitan.” Quran 4:76.
As Muslim Nigerians, there is a great religious and civic responsibility on us to expose the distortion and deviances of the fringe elements involved in extremism, join force with the state to combat and defeat it and speak out forcefully for justice.
Interestingly, as has been widely reported in several Nigerian newspapers, from news reports, editorials to opinions, it is apparent that this “Boko Haram” menace was hatched in the corridors of political offices and struggle for control of state resources by corrupt politicians who have also been aided by a pliant security system.
Irrespective of the grievances the group may have, there is no justification to result to indiscriminate killing and destruction, attempting to render a section of the society ungovernable.
Finally, the Nigerian government can throw as many counter-terrorism measures at the problem of rebellion and widespread extremism around the country; lock up people, stop and search indiscriminately, make them to be afraid but all these are stop gap and counter-productive measures that will not address legitimate grievances that may be exploited to perpetrate terrorist acts, nor tackle extremism at its very roots. The only antidote is the need to be tough on terrorism, and tough on the causes of terrorism at the same time. In this country, a lot still needs to be done to strike at the heart of the reasons why terrorism exists in the first place. The government needs to be just and fair to the citizens and govern with the fear of God. It is not sufficient to talk about the dangers of terrorism without recognising the factors that are used to justify them as legitimate concerns of so many. MPAC supports the call for the resolution of the crisis to avoid escalation and for all parties to recognise the sense in dialogue.
MPAC calls all Muslim leaders to intensify educational initiatives that will open doors for the faithful to strictly adhere to pristine Islamic values of peace and mercy at all times and places, and they must amplify a united voice that can counteract a distorted message of Islam. We call on the Muslim citizens to co-operate and aid the law enforcement in their work to combat and defeat violent extremism wherever it may exist. All organs of the law enforcement must recognise and respect citizens’ rights as we conduct our legitimate businesses peacefully, and not resort to scape-goating or witch-hunting. With over a billion Muslims in the world, it is impossible to think that there will not be a few bad eggs, it is the responsibility of the government in a democracy to ensure that the religious and civic rights of the overwhelming majority of Muslim Nigerians who conduct their affairs well and peacefully, contribute intellectually and productively to the progress of the country, respect neighbours, observe rule of law and benefit the society in many other ways are fully protected and respected.
We condemn the cowardly attacks and random killings of civilians in the country as a grave sin and clear violation of the Quranic morality. We offer condolences to the loved ones of all those who were killed or injured and call for the swift apprehension and prosecution of the perpetrators.
Director of Media and Communications
Muslim Public Affairs Centre, MPAC
e-mails: firstname.lastname@example.org , email@example.com