Sunday, January 22, 2012

Nigeria Bleeds..176 Killed On Islam's Bloody Borders

Earlier this month, Christians were given an ultimatum by the Islamist group Boko Haram and its various affiliates to leave Northern Nigeria on pain of death.

This weekend, Boko Haram struck in a series of coordinated attacks that left over 176 Christians dead and scores wounded in the northern city of Kano. The Islamists targeted several police stations and other public buildings, including the building housing the assistant inspector general of police. And of course, churches, businesses and private home belonging to Christians were attacked, with bloody results.

This happened not in some remote backwater but in Kano, Nigeria's second largest city with a population of over 9 million.

There has been continuous violence in Northern Nigeria for years, ever since the country became independent in 1960. The most populous nation in Africa and the eight largest oil exporter in the world, it is almost a poster case for what commonly happens along what many demographers and historians have called 'Islam's bloody borders'.

The north is mainly Muslim and is fairly underdeveloped while the rest of the country is Christian or animist and has the oil wealth.

A century ago, there were very few Christians in Nigeria, except for a few coastal enclaves; most of today's Nigerian Christians' families were either Muslims or followers of tribal religions not so long ago. The line between Islam and Christianity has continued to march north and as this process has continued, Nigeria's Islamists have repeatedly called for Islamic rule and sharia over the entire north, and used violence to attempt to drive the increasing numbers of Christians out by force.

Just last Christmas Day, Boko Haram (the name loosely translates as 'western education is forbidden') bombed a church near Abuja that killed 43 people and carried out an August 26th suicide bombing of the United Nations building in the capital that murdered 24 people.

Adding to Muslim unrest, the current President Goodluck Jonathan is a vocal Christian from the south who took over from ailing President Umaru Yar'Adua when he died in office. In 2011, Jonathan became the first ever sitting Nigerian president to run for re-election, which he won handily. His election victory was greeted by rioting by Muslims in the north.

There are various analysts and pundits writing for the dinosaur media who are referring to what happened this weekend as 'unrest' based on the Nigerian government's cutting of the government fuel subsidy. Some, like CNN's Fareed Zakaria are typically attempting to spin this away from a problem with Islam-based terrorism as the harbinger of a 'Nigerian Spring' based on social disquiet, forgetting that unlike Libya, Tunisia and Egypt, the Nigerians just elected a president a little over a year ago.

Make no mistake...this is about Islam and its interaction with the 'other'.

Following this weekend's attacks, President Jonathan visited Kano, declared a state of emergency and pledged to to fight the insurgency.

“They are no spirits,” Jonathan said of Boko Haram after his Kano visit yesterday. “Look at your neighbors and know what they do, and if there’s any suspicious movement, inform security agencies.”

The problem, and one that has become increasingly more evident is that there are some elements in Nigeria that have been aiding and abetting Boko Haram. No insurgency of any kind in modern times can thrive without the support of a good number of the people within its operational bases - insurgencies need a secure source of money, arms and recruits as well as safe havens to train.Even though many Muslim leaders officially disavow Boko Haram, there is a wide spread belief in Nigeria that a significant Muslim element look the other way at best and provide a welcoming environment for them at worst, with the idea of dislodging a democratically elected non-Muslim government by making Nigeria as it is ungovernable. Rooting them out is going to be the real challenge, and there's a definite possibility it could lead to a second Nigerian civil war between the Hausa-Fulani Islamists and the Christians and animists.

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