By Fortune Archibong
Many definitions are adduced for the noun ‘blasphemy’ and they include the following: irreverence toward something considered sacred or inviolable, the act of insulting or showing contempt or lack of reverence for any religion’s deity or deities and the act of claiming the attributes of a deity. Blasphemy gains more currency in a religiously conscious community described as practitioners of theocracy. Theocracy itself amounts to a form of government where religious rules and religious leaders are the ones calling the administrative, economic and even the political shots of the country. This explains why countries such as Saudi Arabia, United Arabic Emirates, Turkey and others are ruled based on Islamic precepts.
There are several countries in the Middle East strictly ruled on the tenets of Islam, practice Islamic banking and other economic ventures religiously. These are places where just weights, measures, ephah and other old testament measures are strictly complied with and violations could be met with instant death and other fatal consequences. Acts of blasphemy are easily noted in such countries whereby more than 90 per cent of the citizens practice the same religion, in fact, they were born into it and have never heard of any other faith nor move to any other location where another faith is practiced.
The foregoing is a strong indication that blasphemy is not observable and practicable in religious secular countries and communities dictated or influenced by westernization and other modern day exposures, technology and cultures. Alas, the word blasphemy does not deserve a mention nor use to punish anyone in a secular nation such as Nigeria where there are several practitioners of other faiths apart from the two known religions of Christianity and Islam. The simple logic remains that in a security country, one may not decipher what is blasphemous in another person’s religion, hence the need for a religious status quo ante bellum, the recent terminology of Nigerian legal space, incomprehensible to the Nigerian political class and political parties in the Nigerian socio-religious space.
The above brings to the fore the recent blasphemous accusation against one Deborah Samuel, a student of the Shehu ShagariCollege of Education, Sokoto, killed for alleged blasphemy of Islamic religion by her colleagues and others. It therefore appears that at the mention of blasphemy in most parts of northern Nigeria, emotion are raised and caution thrown to the winds in retaliation against the culprits and even a pedestrian passing through a “blasphemous environment”. Heinous crimes have been committed on the flimsy excuse of blasphemy and sometimes a retaliation of a blasphemous act committed outside the shores of Nigeria in Nigeria. A case in point was a onetime blasphemous publication in a faraway Denmark magazine which ignited serious crisis in most parts of northern Nigeria in retaliation for blasphemy on innocent and harmless Nigerians of other faith. With potent possibilities of massive spread, the Deborah Samuel debacle in Sokoto did not subside when blasphemous issues were raised in Bauchi and Borno states and it was aimed at mixing it with politics to set Nigeria ablazed and confuse it for political crisis.
The fanaticism, fundamentalism and extremism associated with purported acts of blasphemy are uncalled for. It is only to reduce the reverence of the religion and its founder as a mere miscreant who cannot fight his battles and violent adherents who are not thoughtful. A religious sect is supposed to be led by dignified, “deitified” and awesome beings if not spirits who sees ahead of time, space and location and could strike it offenders mysteriously. Where religions and their founders do not take this form or higher forms of reverence, they are simply terror machineries installed and parachuted for trouble by its selfish, trouble minded adherents. Indeed, any god who cannot fight for itself is fake, borrowed and only used to score cheap religious points.
The government of Nigeria must take a stricter look at blasphemy related cases in the country and nip further occurrence in the bud if it must preserve its secular status. The arbitrary use of blasphemous expressions, actions could be interpreted to mean anything and used on anyone without restraint. This is so as it could frustrate the fundamental rights of freedom of expression and cow some Nigerians into victims, culprits of crimes they did not nor deserve to commit in their own country. One is always amused at the swift execution of those accused of blasphemy and the application of jungle justice without recourse to police arrest, courts for trial as a criminal and civil matter; if it is not a premeditated attack conceived, supervised and executed by people who are intolerant of other people’s religion and the peace of the country. Knowing the contentious, combustible, volatile minds of Nigerians of some extraction, the mixture of religious and political issues remains their scratch card to recharge the calmed or suspended desire to capture the Atlantic with a particular religion via a holy war!
The elevation of blasphemy related killings as full scale terrorism is only a matter of time. The best way to curb it is the treatment of those caught in the act of molesting and killing of innocent people on the flimsy excuse of blasphemy as terrorists. These sets of people do not deserve any better description by virtue of their strategy, modus operandi and outright display of pleasure in maiming, arson and bloodletting of innocent citizens.
There are several Deborah Samuels killed and buried on the flimsy excuse or accusation of blasphemy and swept under the carpet. We need more whistle blowers on blasphemy not only on corruption related cases to rid our land from the pollution caused by the spilling of innocent blood. One unknown fact remains that every unjust blood spilled on the land only fertilizes for more and more blood. We also have several political blasphemies in our land fertilized by sycophants, character assassins and outright political murderers killing friends, associates, partners, fellow aspirants to curry favour. All these would also fertilise into further dislocation of the political space where trust would soon assume a scarce commodity in the land. Every innocent blood spilled can only be atoned, killers of others on the altar of politics would also take their turn, sooner or later!
Archibong is of the Nigerian Guild of Editors