Monday, January 17, 2011

Re: Jos bombings: Can we for once be truthful?

It is impossible to publish the nearly 100 emails I’ve received in response to the above article. But what follows is representative of the spectrum of opinions expressed in the emails.

A very wonderful write-up you did last Saturday in Weekly Trust. You spoke exactly my mind, and many others' I believe. More grease to your elbows.

Saleh Yakubu (

I agree with your postulations about “ignorant, hate-filled, and hidebound religious literalists” but not with your belief in the contents of a website proven to have been created only days after the blasts and contained no other postings apart from that claiming responsibility. It is a hoax, believe me, aimed at sliming Islam. Have a wonderful Gregorian year.

Yakubu Mohammed (

I read your column titled: “Jos: Can We for Once Be Truthful?” The message advocates peace and tolerance. It emphasizes on why we as Nigerians need to see tolerance as the best solution to our religion and ethnic diversities. The two faiths—Islam and Christianity— need to see one another as serving one common God (your Qur'anic references are evidence of that). If every Nigerian believes this, no more killings.

Semiu Kunle (

I spent most of the day mulling the idea of writing about the situation in Jos. After reading your commentary, I decided my article would no longer be necessary. Thank you for your forthrightness. I sorely miss Lamido Sanusi because his voice of reason and his usual powerful argumentation would have greatly contributed to the dialog. Unfortunately those of us who long for a rational dialog would have to do without him for now. The patented failure of leadership as you stated will sadly lead to an avoidable escalation of this situation. To date, no one has been forced to resign because of repeated failure to protect the innocent. No premeditated attack has been botched even though it takes logistics, planning and training to execute these attacks. The rising militancy is going to consume us all.

 The moment for truth telling is now but we lack leaders. I am a Christian born and raised in Kano. My first language of instruction was Arabic. I learned to call prayers in Arabic and do the ablution, etc. My teachers knew I was a Christian, the son of a Christian and they respected my family and accorded us every respect and courtesy of “people of the book.” My heart breaks for our nation and breaks even more for the lack of leadership. Thank you for adding your voice. I will go to sleep tonight feeling a little light hearted because I have discovered a like minded voice of reason on "the other side" of the religious divide in the mold of Lamido. Thank you very much. May the Almighty continue to bless you and protect you.

Emmanuel L. (

Mal. Farooq I read your article on Jos bombings from your weekly column in the Weekly Trust of 1/01/2011. As you have rightly  said, you speak the minds of millions of us Muslims who abhor the ideology of hate but who do not have the guts to come out openly to denounce what sects like Boko Haram are doing.

I live in Maiduguri and could you believe we do not even mention the name Boko Haram even amongst us the family members, let alone openly criticize or denounce what they are doing for the fear of being their next target of annihilation? This is because in Maiduguri, every family member is weary of the other member who might be a sympathizer or actual member of the sect because you would not know. Since after their clash with the security agents in Maiduguri in July, 2010, they went underground and do not exhibit their known identity and trade mark of wearing black turban on the head, just below the knee trouser and waist coat. Except for those who were known to one earlier, probably living in the same area, one may no longer identify them when they relocate to other parts of the town. That way they were able to strike in different parts of Maiduguri and thus instilling fear in the minds of all Maiduguri residents.

I personally believe the major culprit to blame is corruption. It is corruption that has prevented our young able-bodied youths not to have qualitative education to discern what is right from wrong. I know some lads in our area who were caught when they first came out as Talibans and bombed some police stations in both Borno and Yobe states. All of them were virtually half baked graduates actually having confused minds.

Therefore, to me, let’s fight corruption in all its ramifications and all other things will fall in their correct places.

Mohammed Kodomi (

I read your article and I said "WOW! A northerner!!!!” Sir, I am a northern Christian and sometimes I get confused. During 9/11 I was at the Law School. I decided to get more in touch with my northern roots (I studied at UNN) by befriending lots of my brothers form ABU, BUK and UDUS. My brother, it was a rude shock—the views some of my so-called brothers expressed with regards to 9/11.

My study at UNN also had me worried due to the fact that to most of the people I met said I was a Northerner. Some insisted on calling me Hajiya (despite my Christian name). I was confronted once by a class mate (shortly after the Miss World crisis in Kaduna). He said, “You are enjoying yourself here when your brothers are killing our people in the North.” Sir, I had the chills!!!.
Most of the people (Muslims and Christians alike) in government and elsewhere like to play the ostrich. They blame it on politics. Even back then amongst Christians in my state, they blamed IBB, then Atiku (when he was VP).

God will bless you for speaking out. He will protect you too. I will start to pray for you from today. We need people like you in the north and Nigeria who say it as it is.

Tina Hanis (

I am Nigerian Muslim, a graduate of English with interest in literary criticism, critical method, and social linguistics. But, please, don’t expect a good command of English like yours, I am sorry. After reading your article on that senseless bombing in Jos, I automatically became your fan. Just like you, I learnt how to read and write in Arabic at the age of 8 in Kano. I’ve spent all my life learning religious scriptures. It’s very disappointing how we’ve left our religion in the hands of some shallow-minded scholars whose knowledge of the Book is nothing beyond the words on the paper. I can still remember how they always mobilised youths in Kano during the IBB/ABACHA eras, depicting Islam as a religion of blood and thunder, elevating their distorted Jihad beyond the five pillars of Islam. It is sad that now most of them have political appointments in the state. They dump the bunch of illiterates they’ve trained for others to exploit. Listen to their sermons. It’s the usual “Qatilul mushrikuna kaffah.”

Muktar Ahmad (

Related Article:

Reader responses to WikiLeaks and university vernacular articles

I have again chosen to share with my readers a sample of the responses I received on my last two articles on this column. My response to some of the responses are indicated in italics, that is, if what appears in print is faithful to the original. I am withholding the responses I received from last week’s article, which came in torrents, for a later time. Happy reading.

Salam. Just finished reading your article. I do agree with you that if Assange were anything other than what he is, America would have been at war with his country. Allah kyauta. I wonder what pleasure they drive in killing people. It’s such an unfair world.

I really love and appreciate your post on white privilege. It’s quite revealing and true. Thank you.

Abdulnasir Imam (
My commendations to you for hitting the nail on the head. Double (or even better still, multiple) face is a feature of the West that needs to be denounced at every opportunity; having several codes for dealing with different classes of people and nations. A just society calls a spade a spade no matter whose interest is at stake. May we be strengthened to uphold truth and justice always.

Ridwan Coker, Lagos

Hope you had a splendid weekend. I enjoyed reading your piece on the comparison of the vernaculars of American and British universities. At the same time, this piece tickled my imagination on the deep reverence for the teaching profession in American universities. But some of the revelations I found in this article are quite disturbing. Prior to this time, I’d believed that a teacher (if I may use the generic term for all category of those who impart knowledge to others) is a king in the American academe.

But to find out that some category of teachers, or 'lecturers' to be precise, are held in contempt by those who are supposed to accord respect to all category of teachers for others to emulate really portends a great danger for most of the developing nations like Nigeria who see America as a role model, a point of reference, and a vanguard of educational advancement in the contemporary world. This is real conundrum for us here and a bad omen for all societies that trivialise education at all levels.

Farooq, you will agree with me that a teacher in Nigeria, for instance, is seen as a second class citizens (even among the educated ones) rather than first class citizens and therefore relegating a category of teachers, particularly lecturers in the American academe, will further exacerbate the status of the teaching profession in most of the developing countries who see anything American as worth emulating.
I hope that the American legislators cum elites, the vast majority of whom were once either 'lecturers', 'associate professors' or 'full professors,' will work assiduously to reverse this ugly trend and accord all category of teachers, whether ' lecturers', 'adjunct professors' or 'tenure-track' full professors, the full respect they deserve. Otherwise the refusal will scuttle our quest for revamping the once vibrant educational sector in our dear country.

As a matter of urgency, I will call on our politicians who are seeking to be voted into high office in the 2011 general elections to come up with a condensed master plan that will restore the dignity of education at all levels and put Nigeria on a high pedestal of economic development using quality education as a stepping stone.

Tijjani Abubakar

My response

It's the politics of the American academia. Every place or profession has its politics. American politicians, especially of the conservative bent, think American university professors are overpaid and over-pampered. There have been several attempts to do away with the whole concept of tenure so that the distinction between adjuncts, lecturers, and tenured or tenure-track professors will disappear. But American university teachers have so far successfully resisted this. Having said that, I perfectly understand where you are coming from.

Your article comparing the vernaculars of American and British universities is an interesting reading. Waiting for the next one.

Well done Farooq. Just finished reading the vernaculars stuff. Very well written. Learnt a lot, and cleared some of my curiosities.

Dr. Usman Tar, Assistant Professor, University of Kurdistan-Hawler, Iraq (

I was also thinking the title "Dr." applies to all faculties with PhD degree in the American system while names like "Professor", "Associate Professor" and "Assistant Professor" are various faculty positions. This is completely different from Nigeria-British English language where "Prof." "Assoc Prof." and "Dr." are more of titles than positions. I remember when my HOD was newly promoted to Professor, he often got infuriated whenever someone addressed him as "Dr." Can you shed more light on this please?

Salihu Girei (

My response

I will respond to your question in a sequel to this column. I actually intended to address it in this series but decided to let it slide because of space considerations.

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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Serious Guns and White Terrorism by Bill Quigley

This article, which appeared on January 10, 2011 in CounterPunch, is worth giving some thought to. Unfortunately, many of my conservative friends seem splendidly unreflective about the thoughtful questions asked in this insightful article.

Two Unasked Questions in Tucson Mass Murder
Serious Guns and White Terrorism

By Bill Quigley

Question: How does a mentally unstable man who was kicked out of school and had run-ins with the law buy such a serious weapon?

The weapon reportedly used in the mass murders in Tucson was a serious weapon - a Glock 19, semi-automatic pistol, with an extended magazine. Some weapons like that were illegal to sell in the US from 1994 to 2004 under the Federal Assault Weapons Ban. It is now legal to sell and own them. The National Rifle Association reports there are tens of millions of assault weapons in private hands in the US.

The federal background check for people purchasing such weapons only prohibits selling such weapons to people who have been legally determined to be mentally defective or found insane or convicted of crimes. This man had not been found legally mentally defective or convicted so he was legally entitled to purchase an assault weapon. In Arizona he was legally entitled to carry the weapon in a concealed manner.

The US has well over 250 million guns in private hands according to the National Rifle Association. That is more, according to the BBC, than any country in the world. In one year, guns murdered 17 people in Finland, 35 in Australia, 39 in England and Wales, 60 in Spain, 194 in Germany, 200 in Canada, and 9,484 in the United States according to the Brady Campaign

Does the US really need tens of millions of assault weapons and hundreds of millions of other guns? We already put more of our people in prison than any country in the world and we spend more on our military than all the rest of the world together. How fearful must we be?

Question: Why is there so little talk of terrorism?

Apparently when a mentally unstable white male is accused, terrorism is not the first thing that comes to mind. White terrorism is not a concept the US takes seriously.

When Clay Duke, a white male, threatened Florida school board members with a gun and shot at them before shooting himself, in December 2010, he was mentally imbalanced.

When Michael Enright, a white male, was arrested for slashing the throat of a Muslim NYC cab driver in August of 2010, his friends said he had a drinking problem

When Byron Williams, a white male, was arrested after opening fire on police officers and admitted he was on his way to kill people at offices of a liberal foundation and a civil liberties organization, in July 2010, he was an unemployed right wing felon with a drinking problem.

When Joe Stack, a white male, flew his private plane into a federal building in Austin, Texas, in February 2010, he was angry with the IRS. 

When a white male is accused of mass murder, white terrorism is not much talked of. Rather the mass murder becomes a terrible tragedy but not one where race or ethnicity or religion need be examined. 

Now, if the accused had been Muslim, does anyone doubt whether this mass murder would have been considered an act of terrorism? US Muslims could have expected increased surveillance and harassment at home and the places where they work and worship. They could have expected a Congressional inquiry into the radicalization of their people. Oh, Representative Peter King (R-NY) has already started that one!

[Bill Quigley is Legal Director of the Center for Constitutional Rights and law professor at Loyola University New Orleans. You can reach Bill at]

Related Articles:
Sarah Palin's Cartography of Terror Revisited
WikiLeaks and "White Privilege"
Christian Terrorism in America?

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Sarah Palin's Cartography of Terror Revisited

Sarah Palin just took down her Web site that had gun crosshairs on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords who, along with several others, was shot by a conservative, right-wing nut job identified as 22-year-old Jared Lee Loughner in Arizona earlier today, but here's a screenshot.

Screenshot of Sarah Palin's cartography of terror

Interestingly, last year, Rep. Giffords, in an interview with MSNBC, said this of Palin's map:  "For example, we're on Sarah Palin's targeted list, but the thing is, that the way that she has it depicted has the crosshairs of a gun sight over our district. When people do that, they have to realize that there are consequences to that action." How prophetic and premonitory!

These bloodthirsty, gun-loving, hate-filled American conservatives are no different from the murderous Muslim extremists they love to hate. But why isn't the media calling it what it is: domestic terrorism? Oh, I get it: it is "terrorism" only when it is committed by a Muslim.

Below is a picture Jared Lee Loughner

Face of a murderer: Jared Loughner
A friend just called my attention to what Sarah Palin said on March 28, 2010 in addition to her cartography of terror:

“In the battle, set your sights on next season’s targets! From the shot across the bow – the first second’s tip-off – your ………leaders will be in the enemy’s crosshairs­­­­, so you must execute strong defensive tactics. You won’t win only playing defense, so get on offense! The crossfire is intense, so penetrate through enemy territory by bombing through the press, and use your strong weapons – your Big Guns – to drive to the hole. Shoot with accuracy; aim high and remember it takes blood, sweat and tears to win.”

These are frightening gun metaphors. She must be smiling contentedly now that her wish has materialized literally.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Jos bombings: Can we for once be truthful?

By Farooq A. Kperogi

A monstrous mass murder of innocent souls has occurred in Jos again and we are, as always, being insulted with unimaginative, flyblown, and soporific platitudes by our political, media, and clerical elites. Almost every prominent Nigerian who has commented on this heartless, high-tech mass slaughter has mouthed one of three predictably ready-made bromides: oh, this is all about politics, not religion; it’s a failure of security and leadership; and it’s the consequence of poverty.

This is the safe, standard, prepackaged rhetorical frippery that our elites effortlessly regurgitate whenever violent communal convulsions erupt in any part of the country.  But this is getting insufferably trite. If the hypocrisy or intellectual laziness that actuates these thoughtless, simplistic sound bites didn’t have far-reaching consequences for our continued existence as a nation and, in fact, our very survival as a people, one would simply yawn in silence and ignore them.

But it so often happens that after these hypocritical, clich├ęd phrases are uttered, the nation will be anesthetized into a false sense of security and normalcy, the culprits will never be ferreted out much less punished, and everybody will go to sleep—until the next upheaval recrudesces and jolts us all out of our pigheaded complacence.
A scene from the bombings in Jos
And then the predictably mind-numbing, mealy-mouthed banalities will be invoked again by the elites to explain away what happened, and so on and so forth. This rhetorical formula is safe because it absolves people in political and cultural authority from the triple burdens of thinking, confronting uncomfortable truths, and taking action. That’s why politicians are often ironically the first to blame “politicians” for the episodic fits violence that now habitually punctuate our national life. Well, “politician” is a floating signifier that encapsulates everybody in politics, and what refers to everybody, as they say, refers to nobody. Case closed.

To be sure, political manipulation, inept security and leadership, and poverty are all deeply implicated in the perpetual cycle of violence and recriminations that have become fixtures in our socio-political landscape. But a murderous perversion of religious doctrines and violent, unthinking ethnic particularism are even greater culprits. People who are brainwashed into believing that those who don’t share their faith deserve to be murdered, or people who are so wedded to their ethnicity that they lack the capacity to tolerate others, are just as dangerous and as culpable—if not more so— as the politicians who “manipulate” them.

 Poverty, in and of itself, does not predispose people to violence. There are much poorer countries in Africa than Nigeria that are remarkably peaceful. Take, for an example, Benin Republic, our western neighbor. Or Senegal, an over-90-percent Muslim country that elected a Roman Catholic as its first president. And, of course, security lapses become an issue only in societies that have a predisposition to senseless, unprovoked violence, such as ours.

Now, a group which calls itself Jama’atu Ahlus Sunnah Lid Da’awati Wal Jihad has claimed responsibility for the deadly bombs in Jos. It also claims to have perpetrated its savage murder of innocents, some of whom may in fact be Muslims, on behalf of Muslims and Islam. But the preponderance of reactions to this unsettling revelation among our Muslim leaders and commentators, including security agencies, has been to impulsively dismiss the group’s claim even when they have no contrary evidence—much like Goodluck Jonathan and his minions unthinkingly exculpated the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) of responsibility for the October 1 terrorist attacks even when the group actually claimed responsibility for the attacks. Same attitude, different personalities. That is the Nigerian story.

One uncomfortable fact that our elites in northern Nigerian have been shy to confront meaningfully and fearlessly is that we do have a worryingly enervating crisis of noxious religious literalism. By religious literalism I mean lazy, literal, and de-contextualized reading of religious texts, which current Central Bank governor Sanusi Lamido Sanusi almost singlehandedly fought for several years in newspaper articles when he was an ordinary banker. I’ve heard so much thoroughgoing hate and blatant call to murder by local, often ignored, religious clerics in the name of sermonizing. These are unmentionable sermons that will curdle the blood of any sane person and cause them to wonder if they share the same humanity as these ignorant, homicidal clerics. Boko Haram’s leader’s video justifying and claiming responsibility for the Jos bombings is an eerie echo of these hateful sermons.

 But I know these sermons to be atrociously grotesque perversions of Islam’s core teachings because I am the son of a Muslim scholar who knows as much about Islam as any educated Muslim should. My 80-something-year-old dad taught me to read and write in Arabic before I even learned to read in the Roman alphabet. And my dad’s dad was a Christian. So were many of his brothers and sisters--in a predominantly Muslim community. Yet we lived in peace. My dad always took care to remind us, like all broadminded Muslim scholars do or should, that the references to “unbelievers” in the Qur’an are not to Christians or Jews; they are to seventh-century Arabian idolaters who launched unprovoked attacks against the emergent Islamic religion.

Christians and Jews are properly called “ahlul kitaab” (translated as “people of the book”) in the Qur’an. Although the relationship between early Muslims in the 7th century and Christians was not without problems, it was, for the most part, marked by tolerance as evidenced in several Qur’anic verses.

Examples: “Surely those who believe, and those who are Jews, and the Christians, and the Sabians -- whoever believes in God and the Last Day and does good, they shall have their reward from their Lord. And there will be no fear for them, nor shall they grieve" (2:62, 5:69, and many other similar verses); “[A]nd nearest among them in love to the believers will you find those who say, ‘We are Christians,’ because amongst these are men devoted to learning and men who have renounced the world, and they are not arrogant” (5:82).

In the second verse, you can almost mentally picture the Nigerian Reverend Hassan Matthew Kukah and many (Catholic) priests.

But ignorant, hate-filled, and hidebound religious literalists have stripped adherents of other Abrahamic faiths of their status as “people of the book” and have dressed them in the borrowed robes of “unbelievers.” And they are straining hard to make gullible people believe that all the scriptural verses about retaliatory aggression against “unbelievers” in the Qur’an refer to Christians and Jews.

Unfortunately, these hitherto fringe perverts of the message of the Qur’an are beginning to enjoy a position of dominance in northern Nigeria’s religious discourse, and many sane, thinking people are afraid to contradict them, lest they be tagged as “hypocrites” or “sympathizers of unbelievers” and then murdered.

I know I speak for millions of silent Nigerian Muslims when I say that these blood-thirsty, homicidal beasts who murdered innocent men, women, and children in the name of Islam don’t represent us. But until enough Muslim leaders and commentators come out to openly denounce these people and the ideology of hate that animates them, they will continue to hijack and appropriate the mainstream, and we will all pay dearly for this--literally and symbolically.

But, first, the perpetrators must be made to face the consequences of their murders. Unfortunately, Goodluck Jonathan has robbed himself of the moral capital to bring these murderers to justice because he also publicly shielded his own MEND kinsmen from the consequences of their own savage terrorism against Nigeria.

The question is: can we afford to go on like this, especially now that we are entering a really dangerous phase of mutual annihilation through bombs? Certainly, our elites’ habitual, knee-jerk, platitudinous reactions to communal violence will hasten our collective ruination. But we need to always remember that the consequences of a violent break-up of Nigeria won’t be pretty for everybody.

Tolerance, understanding, and the acceptance of our diversity are the only values that can sustain us a nation.