Those who believe in killing innocent people are on one side of the divide from those who recognize that innocent blood cannot be washed off by a plea to religious or political sentiment.
When considerations of a secret sort guide people to carry out public acts of violence that leads to the loss of lives of other people who have no knowledge or even understanding of what prompts the perpetrators of the violent acts in the first place, we recognize that we are dealing with actions that we can rightly term terrorist.
How terrorism can be justified in the minds of perpetrators remains one of the mysteries of the being called man. No other animal no matter how ferocious visits such destruction on its own kind and yet if we are to presume that man as a being is truly endowed with reason, we may be forgiven if we suggest that people who carry out such activity are not really human because they have lost the gift of empathy.
What can happen in the mind of a person who only a few years ago was a helpless baby basking in the love of a family and requiring the aid of so many others to grow up that he can engage in terrorist acts? How does it happen that a point of no return is reached and the mind becomes so distorted that a person can no longer empathize with others when he carries out his violent intentions?
The most amazing thing for me is how the meaning of such action is externalized and the terrorist and his sympathizers say they carry out their actions in the name of “a greater cause” or as a result of “deprivation and poverty”. The Communist says he does it on behalf of the Proletariat, the Religious Fundamentalist that he carries out such evil in the name of his God or Gods, the Secret Agent carries his out on behalf of his government; all of them expressing the idea that the best way to serve humanity is by killing innocent humans. If this is not the embodiment of the foundational principle of evil, then we may never find a true meaning for evil.
One of the saddest things about such evil in the Nigerian context is the existence of a very large number of people who stand on the sidelines and cheer on the perpetrators of these acts seeing in them heroes of what they consider to be their own inward struggles. Thus, one sometimes reads comments after such arbitrary attacks have been carried out which are made in such a way that they imply that the pain inflicted on our collective psyche by such terrorist acts target only one ethnic, religious or partisan group. As if the terrorist in carrying out his evil acts is somehow correcting an injustice done to the identity one favors.
“Mahlala (the teenage Pakistani school girl) is a Muslim as is her family and she is now forced to practice her religion in Britain which is historically a Christian nation. The irony being that a practicing Muslim needs a Christian framework to worship because a group of people who claim to be fighting in the cause of Islam kill practicing Muslims that they do not like”
There is nothing further from the truth for terrorism is a point of view that is evil in itself and not as a result of what it targets. Those who believe in killing innocent people are on one side of the divide from those who recognize that innocent blood cannot be washed off by a plea to religious or political sentiment. Terrorism is evil pure and simple and its targets are only a reflection of the opportunity its perpetrators have at a given point in time.
Those terrorists who shot Mahlala the teenage Pakistani school girl may have said they did it to further the cause of Islam but in reality they are simply criminals who have no regard for the lives of individual Muslims. Mahlala is a Muslim as is her family and she is now forced to practice her religion in Britain which is historically a Christian nation. The irony being that a practicing Muslim needs a Christian framework to worship because a group of people who claim to be fighting in the cause of Islam kill practicing Muslims that they do not like.
The Pakistani Taliban is furthering its own cause and using the religious identity of over a billion Muslims to push forward an evil agenda that does not respect the right to life of even the innocent pure and simple. In the same vein when those who started bombing religious houses in Nigeria launched their campaign by targeting churches, any Muslim who did not feel horror and disgust at what was done has his moral compass obscured by evil.
Shortly after attacking churches the terrorists next took to killing Muslims who did not share their point of view and destroying their mosques. Any Christian who did not react in disgust to this has his moral compass obscured by evil. The simple reason for this is that the terrorists do not subscribe to the views of normal empathetic people. They have internalized an evil perspective and can no longer see the world as the normal person who can empathize with fellow human beings can.
To identify with or attempt to justify the actions of terrorists on the part of anyone who does not accept the killing of innocent people as legitimate is simply unfortunate and reveals the existence of negative contradictions in a person’s moral compass. Evil is the enemy of civilization in all its forms; whether it’s a Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Indian, Traditional African or Chinese civilization, the marker of our common humanity is respect for all human life; particularly the innocent and vulnerable. To act in such a way as to ignore this truth is to subscribe to evil.
There is another dimension to all this. The fact that Nigeria has been visited in such a way imposes on all Nigerians the imperative to show the humanity of their natural identities. How for instance should a Yoruba person respond to raw evil and carry himself in such a way that all humanity can recognize as heroic? For that matter what should the response of a Hausa, Ibo, Ijaw, Nupe, Fulani, Edo, Ishan, Tiv, Taroh, Jukun, Efik, Ibibio, Iyala, Idoma, Igala, Itshekiri or Bekwara person for that matter be to show the world the heroic reserves of his culture in the face of evil? This dimension is essential as we Nigerians look for ways to collectively fight off the evil that has invaded our world.
“When those who started bombing religious houses in Nigeria launched their campaign by targeting churches, any Muslim who did not feel horror … at what was done has his moral compass obscured by evil…. The terrorists next took to killing Muslims who did not share their point of view and destroying their mosques. Any Christian who did not react in disgust to this has his moral compass obscured by evil.”
We are not the only people confronted with the evil of a misguided terrorist onslaught. The Arab world faces it in massive doses as we speak as does the Western world. It works great damage in Somalia and has devastated whole regions of Darfur in the Sudan. Each people are called upon through adversity to aspire for greatness, our challenge in Nigeria is no different. I am greatly encouraged in our ability to show the world the internal power of our unique cultural heritage by the example of the small nation of Rwanda in East-Central Africa.
If the Western Powers had the likes of statesmen in the mold of President Paul Kagame at the end of the First World War, no Adolf Hitler would have been able to seduce the German peoples into the unfortunate misadventure that the Second World War actually was. The transformation that the Rwandan nation has undergone gives one a basis for hope in the ability of our African heritage to deal with the manifestation of evil when we dig deep into our ancestral heritage. All is not a hundred per cent well with Rwanda yet but one must be blind and bigoted not to applaud the impressive achievements in that nation over the last twenty years after the genocide in 1994.
If the small ethnic categories of Tutsi, Hutu and Twa can achieve so much and make humanity proud, I do not think that my hope is misplaced when I believe that Yoruba, Hausa, Igbo, Ijaw, Efik, Fulani, Gorok, Kanuri, Ham, Baju, Ilaje, Edo, Etuno, Taroh, Etsako among so many others can replicate this great feat on home soil in the face of so much evil. Nigeria bears the stamp of the potentials of greatness in her peoples. In the face of evil they can choose to rise up and make their potentials show. Or, unfortunately, they can also choose to play the ostrich and allow a few misguided terrorists rob them of their chance to help make the world an oasis for human civilization to thrive.
Written by Joe Anuga, director of Operations at Baobab Think Limited, is a lecturer of Political Science at the University of Jos