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Islam: Beyond blasphemy, the blasphemous and its liquidator (I)

When Deborah Samuel set out that day for her school, little did she know that was going to be her last in this world. Little…

When Deborah Samuel set out that day for her school, little did she know that was going to be her last in this world. Little did she know that uttering blasphemous statements against the Prophet of Islam in a super-charged environment that was full of highly precocious young Muslim elements would earn her instant death and in the most heinous and egregious manner. Even if she had thought of recanting, or withdrawing the said offensive statement, that thought did not matter anymore as soon as she shared the statement on social media. There was no way an arrow, once released from the bow, could be made to return to the source. Thus Deborah found herself at the bottom of the “hill” where she was crushed by a ‘trailer’ that had set itself free from the top of the hill; a ‘trailer’ that had no ‘brakes’ nor a ‘driver’; a ‘truck’ that was full of subjects that were ready to die in defense of what they held dear.

Since her death, our nation has been held in the jugular, as had been the case in the past, by at least three discourses – the discourse of the pro-blasphemous, the counter-discourse of anti-blasphemy and, the reasoned discourse of the non-player. The pro-blasphemous discourse belongs, in the main, to the non-Muslim; those who consider blasphemy as a weapon with which Islam could be fought; a strategy through and by which the unfinished business of the crusade could be consummated. The pro-blasphemous critic would prefer to self-identify at least in the public as a ‘free thinker’, while in the secret, he professes affiliation to the “Cross’. He would argue that only a religious freak or zealot would find unwarranted vituperations and satire either of God or His prophets objectionable. “There should be no crime or offense”, he would argue, “in desecrating the persona and the personality of any Prophet of God or even that of the Almighty”. “Let God defend himself”, he would pontificate.

In other words, for these elements in and outside Nigeria, Islam is the enemy within. It is the nemesis of the other. The pro-blasphemous critic considers adherents of Islam as boorish, uncivil and seemingly fated to tragedy. He would therefore not condemn blasphemy nor the blasphemous since he luxuriates in trampling upon Islamic monuments. He excoriates and abominates Islam, its markers and labels. He anathematizes the hijab on the Muslim girl. He fulminates whenever he hears the Adhan being called. He is seized by grief each time he catches sight of a successful Muslim. He wishes that the sun would rise one day and only Christians would be left on terrestrial earth.

Thus since the death of Deborah in Sokoto last week, pro-blasphemous elements in our nation have seized the incident as opportunity to propagate their Islamophobic agenda. Since then, they have been at work. Since then they have been busy. They have been busy justifying the blasphemy. They have been busy turning the Qur’an upside down, attacking the foundation of Islam and dismissing the religion as that which is sold to hate and violence.

Ironically too, since the past one week I have also been busy. I have been inundated by enquiries, or rather with queries, from brethren about, for example, the Āyat (verse) of the Qur’an that purports to sanction and promote unwarranted desecration and destruction of life and properties especially that of the non-Muslim. In fact, only yesterday evening, a concerned compatriot sent a poster bearing seven quotations from the Qur’an in which these claims were purportedly asserted; portions of the Qur’an taken out of their contexts by the enemies of Islam in order to subject the religion to opprobrium. “Prof”, one of our brethren asked me yesterday, “Is it true that in Qur’an 9: 111, Muslims were enjoined to kill non-Muslims in order to receive 72 virgins in heaven!!?” Falsehood! Treachery!! Conspiracy!!!

But what does it say? what does Qur’an 9: 111 says? It reads: The Almighty hath purchased of the believers their persons and their goods; for theirs (in return) is the garden (of Paradise): they fight in His cause, and slay and are slain: a promise binding on Him in truth, through the Law, the Gospel, and the Qur’an: and who is more faithful to his covenant than Allah? then rejoice in the bargain which ye have concluded: that is the achievement supreme”. Any mention of virgins in this verse? None! Any instruction to Muslims to engage in unwarranted acts of murder or violence? Nil! But as far as Islamophobes are concerned, falsehood is key in the negative representation of Islam. Blasphemy and the blasphemous are weapons by which Islam could be otherized.

Now what about the counter discourse of anti-blasphemy? Who are they? How might we make sense of their rhetoric? Of what impact has their posture and arguments been relative to the fetishized terrain imposed by the incidence of the killing of Deborah last week? (To be continued)

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