Monday, May 08, 2006

Danish Cartoons spark riots in Nigeria

Danish Cartoons spark riots in Nigeria
By Chinweizu

Published on Sunday 26 March 2006 on page 26. in Citypress, Johannesburg, South Africa. - Headline "A divided Nigeria only way forward"
Recent riots in Nigeria sparked by the Danish cartoons illustrate that Muslims cannot peacefully coexist with non-muslim neighbours, argues CHINWEIZU

Starting on Friday, Feb.17, 2006, several cities in Nigeria were engulfed in riots, arson and mayhem which left more than 200 persons dead, some 50 churches and mosques burnt, as well as hundreds of shops and residences destroyed and looted. It all began in the far north city of Katsina when a public lecture organized to protest the notorious Danish Mohammed Cartoons veered from its declared purpose and began to violently agitate against President Obasanjo’s scheme to perpetuate himself in office through an opportunistic constitution review process to which most Nigerians are opposed.

The next day, Feb. 18, a similar public lecture in the northeastern city of Maiduguri also changed into a violent protest against the Obasanjo third term quest. By the time soldiers were able to restore calm, the mob had destroyed, looted and burned churches, shops, hotels and homes all over Maiduguri. In all, more than 43 churches and 400 shops were burnt and over 60 Christians were killed by the Muslim mobs.
Two days later, in yet another northern city, Bauchi, a different incident sparked rioting. A school teacher seized a copy of the Koran from an inattentive student who was reading it during lessons. That so-called desecration of the Koran sparked a riot in which 50 Christians were killed and thousands were injured or rendered homeless.
These killings in Nigeria’s far north provoked reprisal killings in Onitsha, an Igbo, Christian city in southeastern Nigeria, when the bodies of some of the dead arrived from the north by bus on Feb. 21. By Feb. 23, over 100 Muslims in Onitsha had been killed, several mosques had been burnt down, and some 5000 Muslims of northern Nigerian origin had taken refuge in army camps.
That week of riots provoked by the Mohammed Cartoons-- in which more people have died in Nigeria than anywhere in the heartlands of Islam-- was the latest in a fifty-year-long tradition of almost yearly riots in which Muslim mobs, on one religious or political pretext or another, kill Christians and burn churches. The tradition began in 1953. After a political crisis in the national legislature in Lagos, between the AG party of the Yoruba of Southwest Nigeria and the NPC party of the Muslim Hausa of the north—a crisis over an AG motion demanding Independence for Nigeria by 1956—riots broke out in Northern Nigeria and targeted principally the Igbo Christians living there.
The next major incident in this tradition was in 1966, when a series of anti-Igbo pogroms was organized in Northern Nigeria as part of the North’s campaign to retake power from an Igbo-led Government that had come to power by a coup on January 15, 1966. Those ethnic cleansing pogroms of 1966 set the stage for the Nigeria-Biafra civil war of 1967-1970.
Since the 1990s, it has been rare for a couple of years to go by without some Muslims rioting over some alleged grievance and destroying the churches and lives of Christians in Northern Nigeria. For example, in 1991, in Bauchi, a long bout of rioting by Muslims occurred, with much loss of Christian lives and property. In Kano, in 1994, an Igbo Christian, following a quarrel with his neighbors, was abducted from police custody by a Muslim mob and decapitated for allegedly desecrating a copy of the Koran. In February 2000, when the Federal Government banned the implementation of the unconstitutional Shariya legal system introduced that year by some of the Muslim states in Northern Nigeria, peaceful anti-Shariya demonstrators, who did not want Shariya in Kaduna state, were attacked by Muslim mobs in Kaduna city. In 2003, riots by Muslims aborted plans to hold the Miss World contest in the partly Muslim city of Kaduna. The bikini-clad beauties, it was alleged, would offend the sensibilities of Muslims.
The reprisal killing of Muslims and burning of mosques in Onitsha marks a departure from the 50-year pattern of Nigerian Muslims killing Christians with impunity. It was swift and serious enough to elicit calls by the leadership of the North for peace and for government compensation to the victims of all the February riots. Despite such noises for peace, conciliation and compensation, many Nigerians, are searching for a lasting solution to this recurrent mayhem. They are starting to acknowledge that a Nigeria composed of Muslims and non-Muslims is not viable, and are beginning to look to ‘Pakistanisation’ as the lasting solution.
During the 1953 legislative crisis, Sir Ahmadu Bello, the then leader of the Muslim North, had angrily declared that “the mistake of 1914 has come to light”. He was voicing his recognition that Lugard’s amalgamation -- of a Muslim dominated Protectorate of Northern Nigeria with a non-Muslim Protectorate of Southern Nigeria -- had been a profound mistake. And that was even before the first of these murderous Muslim riots had taken place. In 1990, a coup announcement by Southern officers led by Major Orkar summarily excised the Muslim far north from Nigeria. But that coup failed and the excision failed with it.
Over the years, non-Muslim Nigerians have been slowly putting their ordeal into global historical context, and noting the chronic violence of Muslims against non-Muslims in Sudan, Yugoslavia, Cyprus, Kashmir, Indonesia, Egypt etc; They are starting to see that, as Samuel P. Huntington has demonstrated, in his book The Clash of Civilizations: “Wherever one looks along the perimeter of Islam, Muslims have problems living peaceably with their neighbors.”
And the reason for this is not far to seek. It is rooted in the Islamic world view itself which divides the world into two zones, Dar al-Islam [the abode of Peace, i.e. the Islamized lands] and Dar al-harb [the abode of war, i.e. the unIslamized lands doctrinally targeted for conquest and Islamization]. In line with this world-view, Alija Izetbegovic, a 1990s leader of the Bosnian Muslims of the former Yugoslavia, in his 1970 book, The Islamic Declaration, argues for “the incompatibility of Islam with non-Islamic systems. There can be neither peace nor coexistence between the Islamic religion and non-Islamic social and political institutions.” Hence any country in which Muslims and non-Muslims find themselves together is a warfront waiting for Jihadists to conquer and Islamize it as soon as they can.
Now, looking back in the wake of the February 2006 Mohammed Cartoon riots, many thoughtful Nigerians have come to agree with Ahmadu Bello’s diagnosis and are reluctantly converting to the view that Orkar’s surgical excision of Shariyaland is the only lasting cure for Lugard’s mistake.

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© Chinweizu 2006

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