Preaching hate in the name of free speech.By Rotimi Fasan

Source:Vanguard News


THE brutal murder of British soldier, Lee Rigby, by two religious terrorists on May 22 is the immediate trigger for this week’s column.

The murder which for its sheer brutality has been rightly identified for the barbaric act that it was has left many wondering what kind of hatred could have caused it. It was a throwback to the age of tribal wars and battles when relatively crude implements were the preferred weapons of offence.

The attackers momentarily turned a space in the 21st century into the age of head hunters when alike sharp and blunt knives and machetes came in handy as tribal groups tackle their enemies. And so it was that Rigby’s attackers, one of whom has been identified as Michael Adebolajo (Adeboloja?), a Briton of Nigerian descent, set upon their victim with machetes, knives and a meat cleaver.

While meat cleavers may not be very familiar sight here in Nigeria, anyone who has seen one of these instruments of British butchers would know what horror was enacted on the streets of Woolwich, the southeast London community, where Rigby was hacked down in broad day light and before moving cameras.

To make their gory job easier and in apparent recognition of how uneasy it would be to take on a soldier straight on knuckle for knuckle, these terrorists who tried to pass off their ignoble acts as one motivated in defence of their religion, had two things in their favour. One was surprise. The other thing was that they ran their victim down with a vehicle thereby seizing the unfair advantage as they, these cowardly terrorists always do.

They proceeded to put on a performance for the cameras with their bloody hands and clothes in full view while asking outraged passersby to take their pictures and/or call in the police. Well, these religious showmen never like to pass up any photo opportunity. Where they do not exist they create them- they simply must have their time in the spotlight no matter how brief.

In the wake of the attack, Muslim leaders in the UK and around the world have been loud in condemning a terrible murder they claim gives a bad name to their religion. They want the world to believe and accept that their religion is all about peace. This may well be the case but these leaders need to ask themselves why one religion spawns so many murderous elements from within its fold or creates room for people who use its name to perpetrate unspeakable evil.

The answer to this may not be so difficult to arrive at giving the kind of utterances some of these so-called leaders routinely spout. The increasing and misleading radicalisation of Muslim youths may not be unconnected to the rhetoric of hate some of the people who speak as leaders of their religion adopt when addressing sensitive issues of religion.

They make it look like the religion is always in need of defenders whose only means of operation is violence. We see and hear these in the utterances of some of these self-styled leaders of fast mushrooming organisations that their founders routinely use as platforms for spreading hateful rhetoric.

With Nigeria and Nigerians increasingly appearing on the world stage as terror artists there is the need for the state and those genuine Muslims who can truly see what moral burden their religion is being put under to be bold in their condemnation of the activities and, especially, utterances of their members and others who simply use the name of the religion for their own purposes.

One such organisation in my view is the Muslim Rights Concern, MURIC, whose so-called director, Is-haq Lakin Akintola, has attacked the Lagos State governor and the State’s Commissioner of Education, Olayinka Oladunjoye, as declaring war against Muslims for restricting use of hijab in public schools in the state.

Mr. Akintola has probably never witnessed a riot to say nothing of a war yet he makes perfunctory statements on war as if he is ready for one. His belligerent rhetoric, as reported in the Vanguard of May 23 is the stuff on which murderous elements like Adeboloja are weaned. ( And talking about Adebolajo, it is right that Nigerians should reject any attempt to link him to this country.

He may be of Nigerian descent but he is a British product who probably has never set his foot on any part of Nigeria. Nigerians are in my view within their rights to reject any link with this scum of the human species. We can do without the negative publicity from him and his likes).

When acts or policies people are opposed to are viewed in martial terms, as belligerent actions targeted at particular groups/religions or communities rather than issues that could be debated amicably, members of such groups or communities, especially the lunatic fringe, feel justified to launch what they consider appropriate acts of war in retaliation. The process for such radicalisation is often subtle and subliminal but the consequences are not.

The attackers of Rigby claimed they wanted to start a war. Indeed Michael Adebolajo has been described as quiet and easygoing. The same thing we heard about Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian underwear bomber, who tried to blow up American planes a few years back.

When did people like these get to that tipping point when they believe they have to commit abominable acts of terror against defenceless people if not by constant exposure to the hateful utterances of so-called religious leaders who turn around, Pontius Pilate-style, to wash their hands off violent acts their utterances caused?

There have been too many hateful preachers in our midst in recent times all making glib pronouncements on war- from Asari Dokubo, the expired militia man who blows hot and cold in his attitude to the Jonathan administration, to the cowardly terrorists who have turned Northern Nigeria into a war zone. This now is time to rein in these preachers of hate before they bring the house down on us all

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