Religious Malpractices and Implication for National Security By Kolawole Anthony


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I always struggle to keep a smirk off my face each time I
ruminate over how we often as a people focus on basic things while glossing
over the crucial ones. Security, climate change, economy and a host of other
hot issues are important but they become basic when viewed from the perspective
of crucial issues like religion and healthcare.

Possibly owing to our sensitivities, we tend to take religion for granted. In a
world where we now go out of our ways not to cause offence religion and those
that take it to fanatical levels become the biggest beneficiaries. For
instance, I had waited several times to see public outrage against religion
driven violence even when life is lost but we all tend to simply heave our
shoulders in a gesture that says ‘it is about religion I don’t want to
blaspheme’ as we move on to discuss the next political scandal.

Take the anticorruption crusade for example, it has indicted ex and serving
public office holders, politicians, soldiers, media owners and bankers. Nothing
has been said of the clergy that to whom the treasury thieves made monetary
donations or even built places of worship. It is another way of saying you are
above the law once you come by way of religion. I see this license extends even
to the freedom to preach hatred, promote extremism and radicalize youths.

In one part of the country I have seen clerics keep youths busy studying
scriptures that means they will never get a western education; In another part
of the country youths that did get the western education are encouraged to wait
for the divine such that they never get to contribute to the economy because
they will enter retirement without once picking up paid employment and will
remain dependent on society.

This is why I wonder why we must continue to prevaricate in tackling head on a
disaster that has already befallen us. This unscriptural reverence for the
clergy and the tainted preaching they give to the public gave us Boko Haram
that bastardized the Sunni Wahabbi brand of Islam to kill even Muslim; it gave
us the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) that convoluted the ideologies of the
Shiite sect to send youths on suicide missions; it gave us the child killing
outrage of exorcists somewhere in the south; and it is to it we must give
credit for the kidnappers and robbers that usually claim they acted on the
prompting from their prosperity believing pastors.

The state has taken on Boko Haram once it became clear that religion was just a
cover under which some psychos were operating to satisfy their perversion.
Society, including the police, is speaking and against those that brand
children witches. Kidnappers and robbers meet their waterloo daily whether from
security agencies or enraged mobs that is ever willing to dispense jungle justice
with petrol soaked tyres for garlands. But we seem to be making excuses for
entities like the IMN and other groups that are presently at the stage of
indoctrinating and brainwashing followers.
This indoctrination with the attendant militarisation got to a head when
members of this sect made an attempt on the life of a serving military chief.
It was the climax of a reign of terror that did not get widespread media
coverage for some reason or the other. Had the military not subsequently
conducted that operation, IMN would have by now surpassed Boko Haram in
undermining the existence of the Nigerian state. This is because the doctrine
its leadership preaches to the followers is that of fanatical extremism with
hardcore militarisation thrown in to make suicidal fanatics out of youths.

The sect’s reaction in the aftermath of the military operation remains a
warning on the threat they pose to Nigeria’s security as a nation and as a
secular state. In addition to the treasonable acts they had committed, they
also reduced Nigeria to a proxy state with the then Iranian Ambassador, Saheed
Kozechi threatening destruction for the country. But for the intervention of
nationalistic Nigerians that called the criminal alliance between the
Ambassador and IMN to order they would have achieved the agenda of
destabilising the country especially given the way they misled sections of the
population into thinking that government’s efforts at preventing extremism was
rights abuse.

Just months after the December IMN/military clash, as would be expected of
hard-line fundamentalists, the sect’s members are at it again by threatening a
breach of the peace with a trek that would be classified as criminal in most
countries of the world. They are trekking from their heartland in Zaria to
Abuja in a development that would potentially pitch them against security
operatives. They know this and they have prepared the ground to again play the
victim by claiming security agencies plan to attack them.

There is therefore need to deal with this dubious doctrine that IMN is
propagating. We can find the answer on how to proceed outside our shores.
Europe offers possible answers. On that continent I see countries that think
tolerating extremism could make it less virulent. Petting a viper does not make
its venom less potent same as being tolerant of extreme religious views would
not make those radicalized by it less violent. France, Belgium, Germany and
Britain can testify to this. Under the guise of freedom – of expression,
movement, association and religion, they allowed youths in their country to be
radicalized and today they are dealing with the consequences of that choice. France
in particular will for a long time pay a huge price for its libertarian stance.

I fear this is where we are headed if we continue to give room for more
extremism after Boko Haram by providing cover for IMN using human rights. We
might as well say it is okay for people to accept burning children as witches
as a right steeped in beliefs or for people to rob and kidnap others at will
because their cleric promised them breakthrough.

As we have experienced with Boko Haram and as some countries in the Middle East
and Europe have now learnt, inflammatory preaching and radicalization is a threat
to any country’s security. Unlike countries that allowed the cancer of
extremism to spread before waking up; Nigeria, especially the 19 northern
states, must act to clamp down on hate preaching, growth and spread of the
Islamic State agenda through fake preaching and the attendant detrimental
consequences on national security.

I think we must look to countries where extremism has not flourished to find
the answers. Such countries tend to immediately curtail any tendency towards
the propagation of extreme doctrines. Usually, there would be those that will
protest about how rights are being trampled but then there is national security
to consider. It is this implication for national security that should drive us
as a people and not a poorly thought out reflex to keep religious malpractices
in place at our own peril.
Kolawole Anthony  (PhD)  is a University lecturer and
contributed this piece from Keffi, Nasarawa State.

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