From Brussels to Jos – a Lesson in Countering Terrorism (Part 2)

Rev Canon Hassan John, Jos, Nigeria 

Part 2 – The Key to Countering Terrorism

Reflecting on the Brussels bomb blast and indeed the attacks in Europe by the Islamic state, there is this worry about the seeming daunting task of nipping these attacks in the bud.

Jos-street (2)

The challenges are however very clear. Whether it is the analogue approach of the Nigerian security agencies’ method of addressing the challenges or the swift high tech effective manner in which the western world is able to curtail hundreds of these attacks and only these relatively few slip through, the challenges of dealing with Islamic insurgencies are the same.

I believe that the best people to help fight the radical Islamists are Islam Muslims. Now this is a sensitive issue but let me attempt to walk the thin line.

Soon after each bomb attack in Nigeria (pictured), most of them against churches, there are deadly reprisals that follow. Muslims have been attacked by youths who felt frustrated by the incessant attacks and mass murders that have preceded these attacks. The Islamaphobia had increased with each incident.

As long as there are Islamic extremist who attack and kill so also will there be people who are Islamaphobic. It is the sad reality playing out. We need to jointly fight this phobia.

The fact is that very few people and families who are directly or indirectly involved and traumatized by any of this attacks will have any positive feeling towards Islam especially if they are from a different ethnic or religious backgrounds. Every attack creates terror and generates fear. It disrupts peoples’ routine and some permanently. Each attack impacts and changes our social landscape no matter how minimal. Many people will definitely not like that and we really shouldn’t. But I believe that we must focus, despite our different backgrounds and beliefs, we must unite to fight this evil.

It seems that the burden will be much more on Muslims all over the world to be the vanguard and the flag bearers of standing up with their fellow Muslims to fight radical Islamism. I think it is not enough to play safe and try to distant Islam from the radicals. It is not enough to claim Islam is a peaceful religion and Muslims are peaceful people and the radical Islamist are simply distorting Islam.

It is not enough to wait for the west and non-Muslims to fight the radical Islamists while other Muslims hope that the world will see the difference between the radical and non-radical Muslims. Calling those who cannot seem to see the difference Islamaphobic is not going to help the situation. Many societies are already divided on this.

This terrorism is a war against Islam as it is a war against civilization and it behoves Muslims, as everyone else, to be fully part of and engage in this war against terrorism. The war on extremism can mostly be won on intelligence gathered. To a large degree, I think, the Muslim community can work at providing this from their mosques and madrassas, schools and even homes as they begin to notice signs from those who are out to destroy Islam by radicalizing the followers.

COCIN Hqts Church Bomb Blast (2)

To help counter the radicalization in Europe and all over the world, Muslims must be seen and heard supporting the war against terrorism, especially the ones they agree with which is currently against ISIL in Syria. To keep quiet gives the impression of a western aggressor against Islam.

The Umma and the Muslin clerics must find the courage to declare the Fatwa on those of its members who are out to kill and destroy those against their own ideology.

Now I do admit that this is not as easy because the truth is that Muslims all over the world do not all agree on what is radical Islam and what is not.

The fact also is that the fundamentalists, the extremists and the liberal Muslims hold onto and use the same Quran and Hadiths. While ‘peaceful’ Muslims in Europe will condemn the attacks in Paris and Brussels, we know that ‘peaceful’ Muslims in northern Nigeria until very recently, supported Boko Haram and some still sympathize with the terrorists. Others had supported and mourn Osama Bin Laden, as the Pew Research Centre on global attitude showed in 2010.

It is possible that western interventions in Libya and Syria have catalysed the attacks in Europe, according to some experts, but is Islam really ready to transform itself and can it do some house cleaning and house keeping?

An African proverb says ‘a lame man can not complain that the man carrying him smells of sweat, even if indeed he does.’ The Muslims should therefore not expect the world to be politically correct all the time and should not cry ‘Islamaphobia’ when certain truths are presented.

Each time I travel, as a Nigerian with a green passport, the passport and border control in airports will take their time to scrutinize me much more than they will do many nationals. I do not and will never hold a grudge because the past activities of Nigerians with drugs and fake documents have necessitated that they be more thorough. No security officer has the capability to look at me and see a saint. It is part of their job to find out, that means being called out. That can be described as profiling, well is there a better way? Maybe, maybe not but I think what needs to be done has to be done. That how I see it. It is therefore important that we do not assume that people should know that all Muslims are peaceful. We must work together. It is not ‘us’ and ‘them’ our young men and women must see us all united in ‘we’.

We all are in a war. Radical Islamists and terrorists will not spare anyone who does not agree with their ideology. We therefore all must come together, in love and truth and sincerity, fight this war otherwise we will be with it for a long time.

The attacks in Brussels have stirred up quite some emotions for me and possibly for so many who have experienced these attacks at some point; security agents and the medics who have to go through the scenes, soldiers, police and families. The impact can be very present if you have had any experience at all with this terror. May we ever be united against evil, where ever it is and in whichever format it appears.

“Part 1 – The Horrors of Terrorism” was be posted on Wednesday 30th March

Hassan John
Canon Hassan John

The Reverend Canon Hassan John is Vicar of St Christopher’s Anglican Church, Rayfield in Jos, Nigeria.   Following a career in the media he is also the Information officer of the Anglican Diocese of Jos.  Hassan is the founder and coordinator of the Rayfield Peace Project that brings together Christian and Muslim women and youths in a peace building initiative that builds trust and rapport between the Christian and Muslims in Jos.  He is currently on sabbatical studying Christian Apologetics at the Centre for Christian Apologetics in Oxford.

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