State of the nation: Religious fanaticism and the rule of law

“Raise your words, not your voice. It is rain that grows flowers, not thunder.” These words by Rumi, a renowned Sufi mystic and Persian poet whose ideas have aged well, with enthusiasts across all faiths, are not as easy in practice as they are music to the ears.

In our daily lives, we face provocations of all sorts. And even as our natural instincts call on us to do unimaginable things for the many wrongs we endure, the fortunate ones among us find restraint. If not, we are mindful of the law, at least. That is, if our society is governed by a legal system, that such is its effectiveness, the consequences of taking the law into your hands are so hard-hitting that they suffice as deterrents.

When a society is not governed by laws, however, when criminals go about with impunity, and those they hurt act outside of the law to seek redress, chaos ensues. Anarchy does not happen suddenly.

It grows, it germinates, and once it stands tall enough, the storm that will bring it down must be of such ferocity that the grounds being rescued will ultimately be a casualty.

Our religious leaders must do more to educate their followers about the accurate teachings of their faith. The authorities must also be mindful that the ultimate casualty of impunity is authority

We must, all of us, condemn the recent mob killing of a female Christian student at a tertiary institution in the subnational state of Sokoto in northwestern Nigeria by some misguided Muslims over what they deemed a blasphemous act by the deceased.

Their actions were not Islamic, nor will they be to the benefit of the faith they purport to protect. Over and over again in the Holy Quran, there are references to how Muslims should behave when provoked.

When Islam is being insulted in a gathering, Muslims are expressly advised in the Holy Quran to remove themselves from the assemblage and restrain from doing anything that will create another opportunity for the religion to be insulted.

In the event of an alleged offence, there are detailed legal processes for redress as well. There is no where in the Holy Quran where it is asked of Muslims to take the law into their hands, whether the jurisdiction of the land is Islamic or otherwise.

Thankfully, Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar, the Sultan of Sokoto and the official leader of Muslims in Nigeria, has formally condemned the heinous and murderous act by these adherents of the Islamic faith who are clearly not knowledgeable enough about the tenets of their religion.

The Nigerian police has also swung into action, arresting suspects in perhaps one of their swiftest reaction to such incidents. Our religious leaders must do more to educate their followers about the accurate teachings of their faith. The authorities must also be mindful that the ultimate casualty of impunity is authority.

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We must also address our collective hypocrisy. There is hardly a day nowadays that we do not read about reports of killings and extrajudicial actions across the country. Muslims are reluctant to point out the error of the ways of their brothers and sisters, as are Christians when their brethren are the culprits. In the aftermath, a vicious cycle ensues.

A mischievous old woman, who is reportedly a respectable member of her church, The Redeemed Christian Church of God, lives next to my residence in Lagos, Nigeria. Over the past year, I have endured numerous acts of mischief by her. She cut down the lawn on the grounds of my residence before even moving in next door. Later on, she littered my grounds with debris that took hours for me to remove. The lawn grew back, of course, after weeks.

One bright sunny Sunday, as I recall, she had her driver park her car exactly in front of my gate and strutted through the grounds to her object of mischief as she headed to church. A couple of days earlier, one of her wards did similarly.

And even against the backdrop of the hugely deplorable killing of the female Christian student in Sokoto recently, she got a handyman working for her to dump debris on my grounds yet again. What should be the appropriate reaction to such provocations? I am a Muslim. I will not take the law into my hands. No one should.

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