BAGA & CHARLIE HEBDO: Between Creed and Conscience

Posted: January 21, 2015 in Articles, EZEAMALUKWUO SPEAKS 1, INSIDE NIGERIA
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charlie hedbo

by Okoye Chukwudi Ezeamalukwuo

“The Death of an innocent man is the death of humanity.” — Cf. Qur’an 5:32

On 7th of January 2015, two masked gunmen armed with assault rifles and other weapons forced their way into the offices of the French satirical weekly newspaper Charlie Hebdo in Paris. They shouted “Allahu Akbar” (Arabic for “God is [the] greatest”), fired many shots, and killed twelve people including a French National Police Officer and injured eleven others. The gunmen identified themselves as belonging to Al-Qaeda’s branch in Yemen. Five more persons were to be killed later and another eleven were wounded in related shootings that followed in the Île-de-France region.
The same day information started trickling of a much bigger massacre in Baga, Nigeria, by the Islamic sect known as Boko Haram. The official number of the dead and missing is still yet controversial, with local sources and international media reporting that it was in the region of two thousand, while the Nigerian Military gave a more meagre (though still very high) number of around one hundred and fifty people.

Map of Nigeria

Map of Nigeria  

While outrage for the much bigger death toll in Baga was very minimal and in some quaters non-existent even in Nigeria where the incident took place, that for Charlie Hedbo was far more extensive and widely expressed.

Victims of Charlie Hebdo Shooting, photo courtesy of Wikkipedia

Victims of Charlie Hebdo Shooting, photo courtesy of Wikkipedia

Procession and protest was held in Paris for the victims of Charlie Hedbo and for free speech, while in Nigeria, the victims of Baga were send gently into the good night without so much as a whimpher.
The publishers of Charlie Hedbo has since cashed-on on this publicity. The magazine now has about seven millions subscription for its latest issue, which has on its front page cover the cartoon image of a weeping Prophet Muhameed holding a banner which reads; I am Charlie.

Vigil for the Victims of Charlie Hedbo

Vigil for the Victims of Charlie Hedbo, photo courtesy of Wikkipedia

This has generated serious outrage and condemnation from the muslim world which the massacre in Baga did not generate, which the massacre of innocent people in Nigeria and Cameroon by Boko Haram did not generate. Now this is both an abnormal and contrasting reactions to two incidents.

Boko Haram have been kidnapping and killing innocent Nigerians, many of whom are muslims. ISIS have been kidnapping and killing innocent people in Iraq and Syria, mostly muslims. Al-Qaeda has been kidnapping and killing people in Yemen, majority of who are muslims.
All these they do in the name of Islam.

There have been some condemnation against these actions from some prominent muslims leaders, scholars and imams. That is the truth, but what was not seen is a protest in Niger Republic condemning the actions of Bokoharam, or a solidarity vigil in Turkey in memory of the victims, or a procession in Pakistan demanding the elimination of Boko Haram or ISIS, or a huge banner in front of a mosque in Nigeria denouncing the sect and their violence.
In Nigeria these are what you mostly hear:
-A fight against Boko Haram is a fight against Northern Nigeria.
-Boko Haram should be given amnesty like the Niger-Delta militants.
-Boko Haram members are not from Northern Nigeria, in fact they are not even muslims.
-Boko Haram is the military wing of CAN, Christian Association of Nigeria.
-Boko Haram is working for President Goodluck Jonathan, they are Igbos trying to destroy Northern Nigeria.
-Boko Haram is a conspirasy by France, by Usa, by the west and their media to discredit Islam and divide Nigeria.

In all of these, Islam is never part of the Equation. Muslims are never the aggressor, it is someone else, it has to be someone else. Yet when a mediocre magazine in France published a cartoon of Muhameed, there was widespread condemnation from the Muslims. There was violent protest in Niger Republic, there was a vigil for the terrorists in Turkey, there was a procession in Pakistan, there are banners now in some Nigerian Mosques condemning France and the cartoon.

Violent Protest in Niger Republic against Charlie Hebdo, photo courtesy of ABC News

Violent Protest in Niger Republic against Charlie Hebdo, photo courtesy of ABC News

Protest against Charlie Hebdo, photo courtesy of CNN

Protest against Charlie Hebdo, photo courtesy of CNN

As an independent observer, I am compeled to ask if the sanctity of human life, the sacredness and preciousness of this one and only life that we all have got, if it is worth less to some people than how others percieve their religion?
The Death of an innocent man is the death of humanity, does this no longer apply?
How can someone claim to love a God, whom he/she has not seen, who might not even exist, when he/she does not love (by love I mean appreciate the sanctity, the sacredness of) the life of his fellow human being that he can see?
How does one justify publicly and privately the murder of 11 cartoonist, the burning of churches, the pains of an opponent, the death and destruction of an enemy and yet bows his/her head in prayer to a God who is all merciful?
What happened to love for an enemies and prayers for those who persecuete us. What happened to turning the other cheek, to forgiveness, to tolerance, to patience, to moderation?
Is it that the actions of those two men at Charlie Hedbo is not murder –a mortal sin? Is it that the actions of Boko Haram, ISIS, Al-Qaeda and other islam sects who go around killing innocent people all in the name of a God who is all Merciful and his holy Prophet, cannot be classified as blasphemy, as a terrible insult and as a major threat to Islam?

The world is becoming a more dangerous place. Good men are behaving more cowardly and evil men are becoming bolder and bolder, but in the words of Edmund Burke: all that evil needs to triumph is for people of good conscience to remain silent. So I ask; Is it so difficult for some of us to put aside our biases, our religious inclinations and to look solely on our humanity and choose that which is right between our creed and conscience?

Okoye Ezeamalukwuo writes from Lagos, Nigeria. You may reach him @mr_charlze

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this write up is solely those of the writer, and does not necessarily represent those of Lyriversity.

Liberty of Creativity

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