Zealotry and virus of intolerance

One tragic example of the fall-out of cultural imperialism is the fanatical and uncompromising faith of Nigerians in Islamic and Christian religion. The zealotry of our Muslim brothers would make people of Mecca, the birthplace of Prophet Mohammed green with envy. In the case of their Christian counterparts, they are more Catholic than the Pope. And of course, that is when they are humble enough to concede the Pope is a Christian. The Jews, adherents of Judaism that along with Islam and Christianity makes up the Abrahamic religion, recently celebrated her dominance of the world through science with Benjamin Netanyahu boasting of a technological break-through that allows Israel to practice agriculture in the skies. The Israelis think the rest of us are sick.

And while the Pope in the belief that adherents of Abramaic religion worship the same one God, has been visiting Muslim countries across the world including Abu Dhabi, UAE which is already hosting “Mary the mother of Jesus mosque,” preaching peace and reconciliation, our Muslims zealots here are issuing fatwa to Bishop Kukah of Sokoto for criticizing government as if President Buhari and his administration are owned by Muslim fundamentalists. As for their equally intolerant Christian counterparts without the spirit of Christ, touching or reading the Holy Quran, inspired according to Prophet Mohammed by angel Gabriel, the Christian Annunciation angel, is sacrilegious.

And more tragic for the nation is that since the beginning of the fourth republic, many poor, ill-educated and unemployed miracle seekers have become tools in the hands of equally ill-prepared new breed politicians who, when confronted with social problems, often resort to exploitation of religious sentiments by appealing to innermost fears of Nigerians.

The truth is that unlike our first and second republic politicians who went through some form of political socialization process, our current set of military-baked “new breed’ politicians are ill-prepared for challenges of governance. The late Ahmadu Bello who welded the multi-ethnic and multi-religious north together started his long years of political socialization at the Local Council level. Obafemi Awolowo, his counterpart in the West, started as a Local Council chairman.

But Kwara’s AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq, the son of the first northern lawyer in Nigeria was said to be a successful businessman and a philanthropist until his adventure into politics when he went straight in 2011 to contest for governorship on the platform of Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), then for Kwara Central Senatorial District on the platform of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and, by 2019, he was an elected governor on the platform of APC.

His political opponents insisted “the commitment extracted from him to singlehandedly bankroll the election in Kwara without the support of the Presidency and national leadership of the party” was what qualified him for the position.

They alleged that unable to meet the promise “to liberate Kwara state, the state of harmony pauperized by the political rulership of Sarakis dynasty” and also “ensure all secondary and primary schools in the state, are fully equipped with standard facilities and the needed manpower… to make products of schools in Kwara State tower above their contemporaries in other states of the federation, he dabbled into religion to cover up his inadequacies.

If he was not up to some mischief, they ask, why did he need to set up a kangaroo committee to look into an issue before the Supreme Court.? The committee’s report upholds the “the right of Muslim students to wear their head covering” and the governor went ahead to reopen the 10 closed school saying “All the schools are government-controlled and fully funded; they are not Christian schools”. And that became the battle cry of aggrieved Muslim parents.

There was no evidence the governor tried to find out if the decision of the Muslim parents to make admittance of their wards to Hijab unfriendly Christian schools was on account of the high standard of such schools. That would have been an opportunity to upgrade the Hijab-friendly Muslim schools to prove his campaign manifesto on education was not just an empty promise.

But he chose to settle for the usual Nigerian strategy of ‘if you cannot meet the standard of some groups in the country, truncate their progress and lower the standard for everyone” as done through federal take-over of universities, recruitment into the bureaucracy and admission into universities through JAMB.

The response of Muslim parents who vandalised and made attempt at torching Christian schools that rejected their Hijab-wearing children only confirms the fears of Christian schools’ stakeholders. Here Solomon’s Biblical historic judgment between two women fighting over a child readily comes to mind. Muslim parents who tried to torch Christian schools are probably driven by envy.

Unfortunately, I have searched without finding any difference between the warring Muslim and Christian parents. I think the Christian parents are Christians without the spirit of Christ. It is most unlikely that with their battle cry of “We shall not allow Hijab in our schools., we will defend our faith and defend our inheritance” which led to a clash that resulted in 20 injured, they ever sought the opinion of their children. They would have been pleasantly surprised that their children have no misgivings about their hijab-wearing colleagues. For the innocent minds, the cloak does not make the monk.

I attended St Joseph’s Secondary School, Ondo where those of us in the Novitiate mixed freely with regular students and Muslim students who despite having opportunity to go for their Friday prayers outside the school participated in our morning masses. Some of my closest friends some 50 years after were my Muslim classmates whose main attraction back them was in their beautiful Muslim strange names such as Rafiu, Majeed, Tofeek etc which were different from our own John, James and Peter etc.

It is true that mission schools were set up to promote Christian values and set moral standards for students. But I cannot see how wearing of Hijab undermines those objectives.

Members of the St. Barnabas Cathedral, who, decided to hold a worship service at the entrance of the school despite the bitterness in their hearts and those who decided that a truckload of sand must be heaped at the entrance of St. Anthony’s school to prevent Hijab wearing children of their neighbours from entering probably never bothered to read about their patron saint.

St. Barnabas, was a peacemaker and patron of Cyprus and Antioch who sold his property, and gave the proceeds to the community (Acts 4:36–37). While others were suspicious, he agreed to sponsor St. Paul’s after his incredible conversion. Barnabas, together with Paul, struggled against those who required that Gentiles first be circumcised in order to become Christian (Acts 15, 1¯2).

And those preventing children from entering St Anthony School must be reminded that St. Anthony, born into a wealthy family, was a patron of the poor. His major aim of joining the Franciscan order in 1220 was to have an opportunity to preach to the Saracenes (Muslims) in Morocco and be martyred. He was known for his undying love and devotion to the poor.

There is a purpose for religion in all societies. Religion is therefore not the problem of Nigeria but the use into which political actors without vision, prosperity prophets, Muslim fundamentalists and Christians without the spirit of Christ put it.

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