By Abuchi Obiora
Once upon a time, in a village called Salem in the Massachusetts Bay colony, old America, between February 1692 and May 1693 were conducted what is now known in history as Salem Witch Hunt and trial. It was a series of hearings and prosecutions of people accused of witchcraft. At the end of that year-old nightmare, more than two hundred people were accused. Thirty of them were found guilty, nineteen of whom were executed by hanging.
Some of the factors that were incriminated as causative to the Salem Witch hunt and trials by a Jury established to do a forensic judicial inquiry on the incidents were church politics (religion), poverty, illiteracy and social crises. Other factors that were incriminated in the Salem witch hunt and trials were what the jury called “vacuum of political authority” and “hysterical children”. A four year old girl Little Miss Dorcas Good who spent 8 months in the prisons dungeon with her mother, Sarah Good before being released, was one of the suspects in the witch hunt.
The murder of Deborah Samuel in Sokoto, northern Nigeria, reminisced the events of Salem some 500 years ago. Miss Deborah Samuel, a twenty five year old Christian student of Shehu Shagari College of Education in Sokoto was flogged, stoned to death and burnt on Thursday, 12th May, 2022 by some irate Muslims, fellow students of the school, in what has widely been condemned around the world as a death too many for northern Nigerian Christians in the lands of their Muslim neighbors. Miss Deborah Samuel was accused of blasphemy against the Islamic Holy prophet, Mohammed (S.A.W).
In the widely circulated video of the killing, a man with a match box was seen claiming to have been part of the lynching and actually setting the remains of the deceased ablaze.
For the purpose of understanding the dilemma of being a Christian in northern Nigeria,, let us go down the lane of recent history to recall few cases of violence on some northern Nigerian Christians which caused those Christians their lives.
- On June 2nd, 2016, an elder stateswoman, Mrs. Bridget Agbahime, 74 years old, accused of blasphemy, was extra-judicially stoned to death by Muslim fanatics in Kano’s main market. It was later reported in the media that Governor Abdullahi, Umar Gardiye freed Mrs. Agbahime’s killers.
- In February 2006, Florence Chukwu, an English teacher in Bauchi state seized the Glorious Qu’ran from one of her pupils who was reading it while the English class was in progress to ensure that her student concentrated. A mob was incited against her and she was killed together with 20 other Christians.
- Mrs. Christianna Oluwatoyin was murdered by a Muslim mob on March 21 2007 at the Government Secondary School, Gombe because she unknowingly touched a bag allegedly containing the Glorious Qu’ran. She was accused of desecrating the Holy Book.
- In 2016, the wife of a Deeper Life Christian Church told a Muslim praying in front of her shop to move away because he was obstructing her business. The man accused her of blasphemy and invited a crowed against her. They murdered her.
The list is endless and have formed volumes of books in the libraries of Human and Civil Rights Groups around the world who keep track of the murder of Christians in Northern Nigeria by Nigerian Muslims. It is very clear that all the factors causative to the Salem incidence played some roles in these cases of extra judicial murder in Northern Nigeria. You may substitute “hysterical children” for “hysterical adults” in the Sokoto Murder.
Deborah Samuel died, not as a result of any application of rule of evidence, which governs all modern day prosecutions. In the application of the Rule of Evidence, he who alleges must prove. She was summarily murdered, using mere spectral evidence without giving her time to defend whatever her accusers had against her. No wonder the young girl asked her murderers the simple question which must continue to haunt them and their veiled supporters all their lives. She asked: “what will you people gain by doing this”?
What is spectral evidence? Spectral evidence is a trumped-up evidence deriving from phantasy, being of phantasmagoric nature and borne of individual or group innuendos, or phantasmal, surreal nature, often improvable with logical reason and balanced intellect.
The extra-judicial murder of Deborah Samuel was worse than the legendary historical paranoid and mortal abuse of the events of Salem witch hunt and trials. It came about as a result of spectral evidence as was established through a religious innuendo. It signified a religious witch hunt seeded with misplaced stamp of religious authority, the type that was condemned by Minister Cotton during the ignoble legal sham of the Salem witch hunt and trials. As a historical antecedent to the sham religious mob trial in Sokoto on Thursday, 12th May, 2022 I must recall, in the words of Mr. Increase Mather, the then President of Harvard University and father of Mr. Cotton that “it were better that ten suspected witches should escape then one innocent person be condemned”. I would therefore insist in this work that it is better and more humane that a Nigerian life be saved than volumes said or written about anybody.
I say this because in like manners that the evolution of human consciousness matches the developmental stages of the social system, the laws of man, whether in response to his social challenges or religious belief (or even non-belief!) must tally with the development of man and the society. Any other world view that does not follow this sequence becomes both irrational, abnormal and therefore cannot be seen as a proper school of social, political or religious thought, no matter who holds it. This is where some religions that have refused to reform have gotten it wrong.
Taking Nigerian 500 years back to the 17th century, some Muslim students in that tertiary institution in Sokoto, who are supposed to share with all of us in the grand epoch of modern civilization in an age of scientific reasoning and balanced analysis, threw caution and the rule of law to the winds, rampaged and added opprobrium on the already battered image of Nigeria around the world. In the choleric nature of their dark minds, they projected and saw a spectral, shadowy, surreal image of their own wickedness in a possibly ignorant and obtuse remark of a, may be naturally phlegmatic young girl, Deborah, who may have no qualms expressing her mind freely on issues of life the way she saw them. But even if Deborah Samuel erred by clowning stupidity, do people get death sentences for clowning stupidity? Why not arrest and arraign her in the regular court, the one recommended for general application in a secular country like Nigeria? My opinion is that if people get death sentences for clowning stupidity, all the commercial clowns and comedians raking in millions of dollars across the theaters around the world would have been dead before now.
Meanwhile, it was heartening to hear the condemnation of Deborah Samuel’s murder by the very peaceful Sultan of Sokoto, a Retired Military General and the Head of the Nigerian Muslims, Mohammadu Sa’ad Abubakar, CFR. The Sultan vehemently condemned the murder of Deborah Samuel. Many other prominent Nigerian Muslims joined the Sultan in the condemnation of the murder of Deborah Samuel. They included 13 Muslim groups under the auspices of Muslims United for Peace and Justice. This group called for the promulgation of laws in Nigeria to criminalize blasphemy outside the law, and faithfully enforce such a law to foster inter-religious amity in Nigeria.
A senior lecturer at the Lagos State University (LASU), Dr. Adeyinka Bello-Orarinmoye also condemned the killing, saying “I have studied the Qu’ran and Hadith and I have never seen any portion where blasphemy allegation attracts lynching. Reacting to the incidence, the United Nations Deputy Secretary General, Amina Mohammed said that justice must be done on the killing of Deborah Samuel, adding that religions should not be “interpreted to preach violence”. Many international bodies, countries, Human and Civil Rights Organizations including the European Union and Amnesty International joined in the condemnation of Deborah Samuel’s murder. They all sought for justice to assuage her murder.
But in spite of all these condemnations around the world, there were a few dissenting voices. Once of those dissenting voices was that of the Chief Imam of the Abuja Central Mosque, Professor Ibrahim Maqari. Professor Ibrahim Maqari, subtly in a three-sentence yet tears confirmative outburst, hailed the extra judicial murder of Deborah Samuel, anchoring his argument on what I have aptly dubbed the “Redline Religious Philosophy” of Professor Ibrahim Maqari. Reading the riot act to the adherents of other religions in Nigeria, Prof. Maqari wrote in his Twitter Handle that, “It should be known to everyone that we the Muslims have some redline beyond which MUST NOT (emphasis his) be crossed. The dignity of the prophet (PBUH) is at the forefront of the redlines. If our grievances are not properly addressed, then we should not be criticized for addressing them ourselves”.
Who is professor Maqari, so many people asked. Professor Ibrahim Ahmad Maqari Sa’eed Zaira, unlike many brilliant and learned people as him in Nigeria has always had the privilege of being in public view right from his University days. Born 15th September 1976, he is a Professor in Arabic and Linguistics.
An Islamic Scholar, Islamic Educationist, founder of Tazkiyyah Educational Resource Centre, Abuja and Tazkiya group of Islamic schools with 30 Qu’ranic and Islamiyya schools around Nigeria, Prof Maqari had always had his vision of life throughout his educational pursuit by the single perspective of Islam. For example he started his tertiary education programme in 1987 at Jama’atu College of Arabic Studies in Zaria, after his primary school in an Islamic school. Throughout his career, Prof. Maqari has dedicated himself to the propagation of Islam with his vast knowledge of Arabic studies. Prof Ibrahim Ahmad Maqari Sa’eed Zaria is a member of the Assembly of Muslims in Nigeria as he is also a member of the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs in Nigeria.
The brief biographical information here is necessary so that we may have a background knowledge and understanding of the man who first propounded the “Redline Religious Philosophy” in Nigeria. So, what is “Redline Religious Philosophy”? I have gone through the history of civilized man and found its equivalent in the Salem witch hunt and trials. Of the 17th century A.D. By all intents and purposes, “Redline Religious Philosophy” is a new model of the weird, archaic, obnoxious and obsolete form of justice administration system reminiscent of trial by spectral evidence conducted during the 17th century in Salem. Apart from robing the suspects of all known Human and Civil Rights “Redline Religious Philosophy” of Prof. Maqari promotes summary death for suspects on the simple reason of spectral, imaginative and sometimes, hallucinatory evidence which may have been obtained merely from social innuendos of prosecution witnesses as in the Salem trials, or religious innuendos of the mob witnesses as in the case of Deborah Samuel.
It bewilders me to observe how some people, including those regarded as intellectuals, brilliant and intelligent, can be unreasonable in both their forwarding premises and concluding logic. Sometimes, religion throws the veil and beclouds the mind of the intellectual to deserve the myriad views and perspectives about life for which intellectuals are recognized and respected. The only truth about the truth of any religion is that no one, not even myself, know the actual truth of the religions to which we subscribe. For this reason, it is easier to understand our different religions as different perspectives of the same thing. Let me give a simple analogy: it will be difficult for a visual artist who painted a human portrait from the side elevation (looking at the subject from the side perspective) to convince a person who has never seen a human being before, that all human beings have two ears. From this same perspective, depending on how the subject of painting is positioned, some human beings may not be seen after painting them from the side perspective, to have two legs and two hands.
As people who influence and direct public opinion, we should neither be rash in our judgments or quick in our pronouncements. We must always consider the public good before venting our emotions, either for religious or other reasons. As intellectuals we must understand that a perspective may be both inadequate and incomplete (as in the visual artist experience), but definitely, no perspective, no virtual impression of any life phenomena, including the religions to which we all subscribe, can be entirely wrong.
Responding to the “Redline Religious Philosophy” of Professor Ibrahim Maqari, another Professor, this time, of Literature, who is also the Nobel Prize Winner for Literature in 1986, Professor Wole Soyinka, replied that, “It is no longer sufficient for all to disclaim that Islam is this and that, that Sharia is this and thus, that Prophet Mohammed set this or that example and made this or that humanistic pronouncement. We had gone beyond theocratic rhetoric that merely pays lip service to civilized norms. Let all pietistic denunciations be backed by an affirmative action.”
I took a comparison of the submissions of two distinguished Professors on the same issue and found out, in my moderate understanding, that one is superior to the other. I found out that the distinguished Professor of Arabic Studies and Linguistics, one out of the many extant disciplines of academic pursuits of the religions (like Christian Theology is to Christianity) founded on religious doctrines which might not be in synchronicity with the reason and logic of pure academic and intellectual wisdom, may not have understood the full import of his statement on the national fabric and inter-religious dialogue in Nigeria.
A vital and inevitable experience of people as they walk deeper down the road of intellectual inquiry of life phenomena confirms that intellectual erudition can never be compatible with religious bigotry or extremism because a sincere inquest on religions with both reason, intellect and logic grounded on the need for empirical proof which actually demarcates religious myths from certified fruits of intellectual inquiries, presents the defence of religious extremism as not being worthy of the reputation of a seasoned, well-groomed and justified intellect. This is why, very often, informed, seasoned, justified, and well-groomed intellectuals are either irreligious or they are outright atheists. I guess that our apostle of “Redline Religious Philosophy” may not understand this.
By the same reason of need for proper intellectual foundation, it is only a defective intellect that cannot see religion as a bobby-trap on the path of sound intellectual pursuit and therefore harmonize its hard-sought efforts with the illusions of the sundry religious myths it seeks to disprove and dislodge with reason and inquiry. By justifying religious extremism in Nigeria, the Prof. has put a bench mark on the hitherto public estimation of the value of his academic laurels.
By the time he is out of public view as everybody must be, the young Prof. will be remembered in the annals of the Nigerian history of inter-religious dialogue and relationship as the man who first propounded the “Redline Religious Philosophy” in Nigeria.
In conclusion, I surmise from the Profs. statement that “Redline Religious Philosophy” encourage adherents of the religions in Nigeria to take pre-emptive, extra judicial actions outside the social and public order, to fend-off what they may regard to be blasphemy on their Holy Prophets, or assaults on their religions and religious worship places.
As this philosophy is internalized in the consciousness of the adherents of the many religions in Nigeria including Christianity, we will soon discover in its total application that what is good for the goose is also good for the gander.
For: Global Upfront Newspapers
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