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On the fact and fiction of Islamisation of Nigeria

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Buhari in Makkah at the opening of #OICMakkahSummit recently, lauded the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) for its engagement of the Islamic Development Bank Group in the implementation of national development projects in Africa. Photo/Twitter/BashirAhmaad

O you who have believed, enter into Islam completely [and perfectly] and do not follow the footsteps of Satan. Indeed, he is to you a clear enemy. (Quran 2: 208)

If indeed there is something very hard to make sense of in our reality these days, it is the nonsense that constantly assails our sensibilities – the bananas that certain powers in this country is forever intent on Islamicizing this country; the claim that some people somewhere would not sleep until the cross become the crescent in the United States of Nigeria. Call this a lie, you would be right. Call it an empty alarm from political jobbers masquerading under the cassock and the tie, you would be correct. But the pain in the claim is and has always been its consistency, its politics. This lie is being told on a daily basis. John F. Kennedy once said that the great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie, deliberate, contrived and dishonest (that people tell to themselves and to others) but the myth, persistent, persuasive and unrealistic (that lays in the lies and falsehood).

Brethren, the lie has always been told, and is still being told that the so-called Hausa-Fulani oligarchy in the north of this country has always had two agenda, not three: the control of the political power without let or hindrance and the Islamisation of this country. Brethren, the assumption is popular that the “north”, that fetishized category, supposedly backed and ‘oiled’ by the Saudi authorities, has no other programme other than the forceful conversion of Christians in this country to Islam. The “Islamization” agenda, they have argued, was evident in the appearance, during the late 1980s, of Hauwa Baba Ahmed on the screen of the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) to cast the 9p.m news. The appearance of a Muslim woman in hijab, a woman who did what the other used to do, a woman who used to cast the network news with finesse and panache, a woman who was watched by millions of Nigerians, Muslims, Christians and others, was a spectacle beyond imagination of the anti-Islam other. In fact that spectacle ran contrary to the script; the script hitherto written about who and who shall constitute the ornaments of this nation. In other words, before she staged her appearance, to wear the hijab was seen as a marker of and for backwardness. To be in hijab was a metaphor for life on the fringe of life, on the periphery of existence. To appear on the television, in hijab, in that hallowed ‘space’ which belonged to “them”, therefore, meant the carpet was being removed from under “our” feet. We had to shout. We chorused- “the appearance of Hauwa on the NTA screen was an attempt to Islamicize” Nigeria!

Thus Hauwa Baba Ahmed became the prima donna of the “Islamisation outcry”. “She must be stopped”, they chorused. Islam had to be stopped. We suggested. Hauwa had to be stopped not because she lacked the professional qualifications to be one other “image” of the nation. No. She had to be stopped simply because she bore the Islamic identity.

Remember the 1980s. During that decade, approval was sought for the hours between 1pm and 3pm every Friday as work-free in order for Muslims to observe Jumat services. After all, it was canvassed then, the other has a whole day, namely Sundays, to sing His praises to the heaven. Again that request for was pooh-poohed. It was “seen” as an attempt to “Islamicize” this nation.

But that is not all. Remember the membership of Nigeria of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC); remember the brouhaha and the ruckus that broke out when the Central Bank announced the decision to license Islamic Banking in this country during the third republic and under the suzerainty of the then ‘emperor’ from the state on the rock. It did not matter to the wailing rejecters and interlocutors of beauty during that period that the benefits to the nation transcended tribal and religious affiliations. In fact the last time I checked, poverty still remained what it had always been across generations and civilizations. It remains a condition which recognizes neither the hijab nor the habit; the poor in the mosque is as poor as the poor in the church.

Thus when the agitation became vociferous once again that the federal government had a sinister plan to Islamicize this nation through the “removal” of Christian religious studies from the curriculum, all discerning citizens of this nation knew we were back to the familiar terrain. It did not matter that the negative policy affected both Christian religious knowledge and Islamic religious knowledge. Accusations of Islamization have become a very strong weapon of blackmail.

But upon a deeper reflection, I thought we do indeed need to Islamize this country. Yes. Let us Islamize Nigeria by ensuring that Muslims become real Muslims- Muslims whose private life would strengthen their public life; Muslims whose public life and conduct would image the values and ideals of Islam. Let us Islamise this country through the inculcation and manifestation of the eternal principles of Islam featuring honesty, probity and transparency. Let us Islamize this country by showing that whenever we say we are Muslims, we are actually telling the other that their lives and properties are in safe hands. These essentially are the gravitas of the “Islamization” agenda. It is not and will never be the forceful conversion of Christians to Islam.
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