A Muslim group nicknamed Boko Haram (but whose actual name is Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati Wal-Jihad) has been widely blamed for a series of bomb attacks targetting police stations in the largely Muslim northern Nigerian city of Kano.
The same group has been held responsible for a string of other attacks in recent years as it campaigns to force an ‘Islamic government’ on the country. One of the saddest features of Muslim history is the regular appearance of these kinds of small extremist khawarij-type groups – of which al-Qa’ida is the most prominent contemporary example – who believe that other Muslims who do not agree with their worldview are actually unbelievers and worthy of death.
When I was younger I was taught by many senior Muslim leaders in the UK and elsewhere that secularism was akin to atheism and that only a truly Islamic state which enforced the Shari’ah would provide the real answer to humanity’s problems. Looking back, I just shake my head and can’t believe I actually swallowed that argument for so long. It is just so embarrassing.
By contrast, the Arab Spring has brought many welcome developments, particularly the fact the people in Egypt and Tunisia have now been able to freely elect their own leaders. One can only hope that the leaders of the Islamic-minded parties that have won those elections now look to best serve their people with honesty and humility. An ‘Islamic state’ which does not respect the human rights of all its people including freedom of religion and gay rights would necessarily be an unjust state.
The leaders of the an-Nahda (Tunisia) and the Freedom and Justice Party (Egypt) have an opportunity to show that Islam can be compatible with a modern understanding of human rights.
Instead of being hijacked by the violent idiots of Boko Haram and al-Qa’ida, imagine if Islam became synonymous worldwide with learning, tolerance, innovation and human progress.