Religious hatred simmers in terror suspect’s homeland (RELS 348)

In today’s world of unprecedented access to information, not a day goes by where the Internet is not bombarded with news articles speculating on the numerous conflicts taking place around the globe. The issues of religion, colonialism and political violence seem to be the major problems that most Third World countries face. A very good example of such country is Nigeria. Nigeria as a nation has been facing a lot of religious and political instability over the past decade and they have blamed the British Empire for the role the played in unifying the country during the colonial period.

The CNN reporter (John Blake) reports a story about a story about AbdulMutallab a 23-year-old Nigerian being held for allegedly trying to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner on Christmas Day in 2009. While much attention has focused on his privileged background, less has been said about the religious conflict in his homeland.

According to John Blake, Christians and Muslims have been killing each other in Nigeria for much of AbdulMutallab’s lifetime. At least 10,000 Nigerians have died during Christian-Muslim riots and ethnic violence during the past decade.

Adebayo (2002), states that modern Nigeria emerged through the merging of two British colonial territories in 1914. The amalgamation was an act of colonial convenience. It occurred mainly because British colonizers desired a contiguous colonial territory stretching from the arid Sahel to the Atlantic Coast, and because Northern Nigeria, one of the merging units, was not paying its way while Southern Nigeria, the other British colony, generated revenue in excess of its administrative expenses.

It made practical administrative sense to have one coherent British colony rather than two. It also made sense to merge a revenue-challenged colonial territory with a prosperous colonial neighbour, so the latter can subsidize the former. The amalgamation made little sense otherwise and has often been invoked by Nigerians as the foundation of the rancorous relationship between the two regions of Nigeria. Northern Nigeria, now broken into several states and three geopolitical blocs, is largely Muslim. It was the center of a pre-colonial Islamic empire called the Sokoto Caliphate, and its Muslim populations, especially those whose ancestors had been part of the caliphate, generally look to the Middle East and the wider Muslim world for solidarity and socio-political example. The South, an ethnically diverse region containing many states and three geopolitical units, is largely Christian. The major socio-political influences there are Western and traditional African.

These differences have been a source of political disagreements and suspicions between the two regions since colonial times. Adebayo (2002) asserts that each of the two regions contains ethnic and religious minorities who harbour grievances against ethnic and religious majorities they see as hegemonic oppressors. These grievances are sometimes expressed through bitter political complaints, through sectarian crises stoked by political elites and incendiary media rhetoric, and through violent insurgencies.

Between 1947 and 1959 Nigerian nationalist leaders from different regional, ethnic, and religious communities came together in a series of conferences and parliaments to negotiate the transition to self-rule and to map out a common future. During these interactions and in the first few years after independence in 1960, the jarring effects of arbitrary colonial unification manifested as seemingly irreconcilable differences of aspirations, priorities, and visions. So deep were these religious and ethnic antagonisms that one Northern Nigerian Muslim nationalist leader declared Nigeria “the mistake of 1914” while a prominent Southern Nigerian Christian nationalist figure called Nigeria “a mere geographic expression.”

In Nigeria’s national politics, Christian anxieties about Muslim domination of the national political space and the accompanying fear that politically dominant Muslims would use their privileged perch to Islamize national institutions and impose Islamic Sharia law on non-Muslims date back to colonial times. Muslims, especially those from Northern Nigeria, for their part, have sought to fend off what they regard as unbridled Westernization and have sporadically sought refuge in parochial religious reforms.

In a nutshell, colonialism in Nigeria came with the wide spread of Christianity in many major cities in Nigeria. The British government used force and oppression to instil their religion on the their subjects against their existing traditional and Islamic believes. They were successful in some parts and not too successful in other parts of the country. According to (Irwin 2006, p. 289), hegemony was the term used by Gramsci to describe the imposition of the system of beliefs on the ruled.

Hash tag # uwreligions


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