Amid the severe poverty ravaging particularly the North Eastern Nigeria, and while people in Yobe state in particular were struggling to provide the little they could in order to create some festive atmosphere to mark the occasion of the recent Eid Al Adha, Boko Haram launched its deadliest attack so far, killing more than hundred, maiming many more and causing huge material losses.
The escalating deadly activities of Boko Haram are proving hard for the government to tackle, which is not surprising in view of the government's obvious incompetence on one hand, and the apathy of the vast majority of Muslim clerics on the other. Such apathy is particularly unfortunate because it is basically the religious responsibility of the Muslim clerics to intellectually challenge the Boko Haram's religious misconceptions in public, exonerate Islam from their ideology and enlighten the public accordingly.
This is imperative because, Boko Haram brainwash their potential converts primarily with such religious misconceptions, while also capitalizing on their (i.e. targeted converts') sheer frustration and resentment over the government's accumulated notoriety in corruption, incompetence and bad governance in general. In as much as I lament the government's apparent incompetence to tackle Boko Haram, I believe that, such Muslim clerics' apathy undermines the little it does to address the menace.
As a matter of fact, I may not exaggerate if I assert that, such an unjustifiable silence by the clerics is as deadly as the activities of the Boko Haram for that matter. Because after all, these people have consistently referred to some obviously misunderstood Islamic injunctions to justify the perpetration of their heinous activities. So, being experts in Islamic jurisprudence, Muslim clerics are under moral and religious obligations to spearhead the efforts of tackling that bizarre phenomenon, by embarking on an extensive campaign to publicly, vigorously and consistently counter those misconceptions, and if possible engage the willing elements of the Boko Haram in public debates. Such efforts will definitely go a long way in enlightening the truth-seeking elements amongst the Boko Haram elements, who are incidentally the majority, to abandon and denounce this course altogether.
And this by implication means exposing their underground masterminds, who brainwash, sponsor, train, arm and plot the violence. Though, I do understand the costly cost of publicly denouncing Boko Haram's activities in Nigeria particularly by relatively vulnerable individuals, after all, late Sheikh Ja'afar Mahmoud Adam was believed to have been assassinated by them, for his consistent stand against them, in the process of which he had even engaged and defeated their late leader; late Mohammad Yusuf in debates. Nevertheless, this does not justify such silence from Muslim clerics as regards Boko Haram's activities in the country, because they already have a contract with Allah the Almighty that they should tell the truth under any circumstances, after all they are the "Successors of the Messengers of God"; a title they often cherish.
I am really surprised by such deadly silence of the Muslim clerics particularly those of them who are "experts" in socio-political issues, especially the so-called firebrand types amongst them. After all, some of them have already effectively turned their pulpits into political platforms to the extent that, sometimes one can hardly tell between their religious public addresses e.g. Friday prayer sermons and political lectures. I really wonder; where are they nowadays? Are they only good in condemning government officials? Does their silence prove the allegation that they only criticize government officials simply to attract cheap recognition and share the loot plundered by the same ruling elite they have criticized? I compare this circumstance with what had characterized the so-called Shari'a introduction controversy after the country's return to democracy towards the end of the 90s and earlier 2000s. I vividly remember how Muslim clerics from particularly the core North, pressurized the politicians and mobilized unprecedented public supports for the introduction of Shari'a in their various states.
Lectures were held everywhere, Friday prayer sermons were used to instigate people against the so-called opponent of Shari'a. The atmosphere was extremely tense to the extent where a particular state governor had to abandon all Friday prayer mosques in his state capital and resorted to performing the prayers in the country sides' Friday prayer mosques to escape public harassment over his alleged reluctance to introduce Shari'a. Moreover, protests were also organized; some of which even led to riots in which lives and properties were unnecessarily lost. Nevertheless, such clerics maintained the pressure on the politicians, branding people as pro and against Shari'a at it pleased them, until the politicians were blackmailed enough to succumb and reluctantly introduced it.
I really, wish that, such clerics apply just 50% of such commitment and exuberance in addressing the misconception of Boko Haram, which is obviously more dangerous to Islam, Muslims and indeed everybody than those secular systems they had opposed. Worst still is that, their apathy generates unnecessary confusion over the justifiability or otherwise of the Boko Haram's ideology and activities as per as Islam itself is concerned. Interestingly enough, such confusion affects even some supposedly well informed Muslims. For instance, on my last visit to Nigeria some months ago, I was shocked to find out that, even some presumably well educated Northern Nigerian Muslims were carried away by some silly excuses to somehow justify the activities of Boko Haram.
In fact even some otherwise brilliant analysts and intellectuals go to the extent of dishing out such sentiments in the media, where they compare Boko Haram with the other militant groups in the country e.g. the MEND, hence accuse the government of double standard for refusing to handle Boko Haram the way they have handled the MEND elements. By the way, though both groups have taken arms against constituted authorities, there is no any basis to compare Boko Haram Haram with the MEND anyway, because MEND's agitation is purely on resources, which they rightly or wrongly believe belong to them exclusively, while Boko Haram seek to violently overthrow the entire socio-political, cultural and economic structure of the country, impose their peculiarly misunderstood version of Islamic Shari'a throughout the federation, in the process of which they justify indiscriminate violence in the name of Islamic religion.
I believe if Muslim scholars live up to their moral and religious obligations and openly and consistently exonerate Islam from what Boko Haram stands for, they will definitely fail to brainwash and recruit people anymore, and indeed lose the sympathy they enjoy from many Muslims in Northern Nigeria, which would in turn make them loss ground and eventually collapse.
Mohammad Qaddam writes from UAE. www.qaddamsidq.blogspot.com