Getting Ready to Islamise Nigeria?
The recent pronouncements made by Nasir El-Rufai, Governor of Kaduna State, astonished many. He said he intends to “regulate” religion by banning the “unlicensed places of worship” of Christians in his state. This campaign has caused many Christians to take the threat of Islamisation more seriously than ever. The threat was further escalated to an ‘imminent level.’ This was the outcome of a recent forum meeting for the 19 Northern Nigerian State Governors. They unanimously decided in favour of regulating Christianity in their respective states. Is the “One Nigeria” doctrine again under the serious threat of failing for religion’s sake?
What do the Northern Governors have to fear? Fear of allowing Christian to practice their religion freely but responsibly in their respective states. Is it perhaps an enormous fear they harbour? No one is also asking how Southern Christian Governors and other elected Christian politicians will or should respond.
The regulation of religion is perhaps the hardest social task political leaders have ever had to undertake on the planet. You cannot regulate religion. You cannot prevent people from believing in what they choose to believe in. Especially if such are beliefs they will die for. There have been innumerable instances of heinous bloodshed in the attempt to regulate religion throughout history. The best political leaders have been able to achieve is to separate the State and religion via ‘secularisation.’ This is something the 19 Northern Governors will not do. Religion is at the centre of their governance.
Mosques like churches mostly start as “unlicensed places of worship” i.e. as a “Jamat Khana” or “Musallah”. A Musallah is a temporary place of worship for Muslims. Travellers, temporary residents, or an interim place use it. The residents who are seeking to establish a permanent place of worship in their community also use it. If the numbers of regularly attending members of the Musallah meet certain criteria and the community is supportive, a “sanctified mosque” they then build it. Funding to build comes from governments, wealthy citizens or rich donors in the Middle East. Why should it be different in Northern Nigeria for churches, the place of worship of Christians?
We are yet to ask the primary political question evoked. Do unlicensed religious places of worship exist because the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria permits them to? Section 38:1 of the 1999 Constitution as compliant with Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Right guarantees that: “Every person shall be entitled to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, including the freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom (either alone or in community with others, and in public or in private) to manifest and propagate his religion or belief in worship, teaching, practice and observance.”
Moreover, where does El-Rufai and the other 18 Northern Governors get the legitimacy and powers to ban unlicensed places of worship, if not the Constitution? Nevertheless, the rights and freedoms of all religions to be practised in ways that do not violate the Criminal Code of Nigeria have full protection in the Constitution.
Has Mallam El-Rufai never read the Suran Al Kafirun in the Holy Qur’an that forbids Muslims to meddle in anyway in the affairs of unbelievers including Christians?
One can further ask if Nigeria’s condition of legal pluralism is not being unfairly expedited by the 19 Northern Governors to suit their Islamic determinism? Legal pluralism can create problems because of the multiplicity of authorities at play. Legal pluralism ensures that the [British Colonial] Common Law, both Sharia and Customary Laws [the preceded colonial law] are all authoritative. The Common Law of Nigeria is binding on all citizens in certain matters. Sharia and Customary Law can apply to individuals based on voluntary individual choice or as the individual chooses. Why are the Northern Governors then imposing Sharia on the individual choices of non-Muslim Nigerians?
Well, there is a brand of Islam known as “Arewa Islam.” It is distinct from the mainstream of Sunni Islam. Arewa Islam is an adaptation to the culture of Northern Nigeria. Even though Islam is supposed to be a culture-free religion. It is also exceptional to the Constitution. Arewa does not recognise non-Hausa-Fulani Nigerian Muslims as “genuine Muslims”. Yet, Arewa Muslims are courteous to European, Middle Eastern, and Far Eastern Muslims (and Christians). It is inherent to deem the “Kudu Muslim” as “inferior” in the eyes of the Arewa Muslim. But not in the eyes of God if the Quran is the true authority of Islam. It is certainly worse for Christians in the eyes of the Arewa Muslim.
Behind the charade, there is a fear. Christianity is growing at alarming rates in the Northern States. This happens through conversion, and more so with Pentecostal and Evangelical denominations. To stem the tide of Westernisation that causes Christian persuasion coming into ascendancy in the Northern states, the 19 Governors will have a lot of banning to do. They will have to ban TV, glossy magazines, mobile phones, the Internet, designer wristwatches, air-conditioning and more. There is only one group that is currently and vehemently advocating for such a ban in Nigeria. Are the 19 Northern Governors going to join them? Or will they uphold the Constitution and foster peace, not violent divisions?
One can be sure that the Christians of Nigeria, despite the reactions or non-reactions of elected Southern politicians. They will do their very best and more to prevent any Islamisation of Nigeria by constitutional coup d’état. It remains only a threat, though.