By Femi Abbas
Osama is not a product of Pakistan or Afghanistan. He is a creation of America. Thanks to America, Osama is in every home (today). As a military man, I know you can never fight and win against someone who can shoot at you once and then run off and hide while you have to remain eternally on guard. You have to attack the source of your enemy’s strength. In America’s case, that’s not Osama or Saddam or anyone else. The enemy is ignorance. And the only way to defeat it is to build relationships with these people, to draw them into the modern world with education and business. Otherwise the fight will go on forever.” ¯ Greg Mortenson (Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace … One School at a Time)
In about two months time, most Nigerian Journalists will begin, as usual, to mimic and chorus the voices of their Western ‘superior’ counterparts on the tragic occurrence of 9/11, 2001. Precisely, on the 11th day of the coming September, that event will be 15 years old. Ever since, so many statements and counter statements, disclosures and revelations as well as analyses and interpretations, have been advanced by people who are directly or indirectly connected to the incident. The thoughts and views of different people from different parts of the world on that incident have remained as diverse as the interests they represent.
Some (Nigerian non-Muslim) readers of ‘The Message’ column have queried the leaning of this columnist so much towards religion, particularly Islam. They have wondered why yours sincerely can hardly put pen to paper in this column without tilting towards Islam in one way or the other. That is like querying the snail on why it incessantly goes about with its inseparable shell.
Perhaps, it may be necessary to make a clarification here that there is no columnist in the world without a particular interest that he or she represents. Let the doubting readers of this column endeavour to verify this assertion and they will discover that every newspaper columnist or radio broadcaster represents an interest about which he or she is reflectively passionate. What matters in such cases is the necessary application of professionalism. After all, while this Islamic column called ‘The Message’ occupies only one page weekly in ‘The Nation’ newspaper to educate Nigerians about Islam, many other newspapers allocate about five pages or at least three pages to the propagation of Christianity and the Muslims are not complaining. That clearly shows where religious tolerance or intolerance lies.
Voice of the Voiceless
As a veteran Journalist and a devout Muslim, yours sincerely chose to represent (in Nigerian media) the voice of the voiceless majority who happens to be the Nigerian Muslims. And that is without any prejudice to the media activities of a retinue of non-Muslim professional colleagues who also represent the voices of the various religious denominations to which they belong in their faith. For any or some of such colleagues to want to intimidate or blackmail this columnist therefore is the height of professional absurdity. A pot must not tag a kettle black.
Nigerian Media’s Perception of Islam
In Nigeria, Islam is seen in the media from the perception of the non-Muslim Journalists who dominate the pen-pushing profession. Thus such Journalists see everything about Islam from their own biased perception as they often accuse the Muslims of practicing their religion against the expectations of the non-Muslims.
What most Nigerian Journalists refuse to understand is that Islam is neither a dogma like other religions nor a mundane ideology that can be manipulated at will. It is rather a divinely guided total way of life for all its committed adherents. Any misconduct of a Muslim therefore, does not equate Islam in any way. There are laws and there are law breakers everywhere in the world. To attribute the misconduct of certain Muslims to the fundamental norms of Islam is to deliberately exhibit mischief with impunity at its peak.
As an informed Muslim, I do not query the use of anybody’s column to defend or protect his or her interest, whatever that interest may be. And in the same token, I do not expect any civilized reader or fellow journalist to query my choice of interest. Doing so may not only connote irritating ignorance, it may also amount to implacable provocation or unwarranted aggression which in itself is a euphemism for fanatical intolerance.
You may not like my thoughts or views just as I may not like yours. But in as much as I do not accost you for holding your convinced views, you do not have any right to accost me for holding mine. That is the democratic norm to which every civilized modern person should adhere in a multi ethnic and multi religious society like Nigeria. It is the also the principle of fair play with which journalism should be practiced as a profession.
FBI’s Disclosure on 9/11
On Friday, June 10, 2016, the United States’ Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) released what can be termed as its concluding report on the 2001 disaster popularly known as 9/11. This can be found in Vol.52 Issue 22 of an American security journal called ‘The Onion’. Excerpts from the introduction to that report reads thus:
“…..After 15 years of broadly targeting the 3.3-million-member community and extensively monitoring its activities, the American Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) declared an end Friday to its surveillance of Muslim Americans, saying its exhaustive study of their beautiful culture was finally complete”.
Officials confirmed that the program was started in the fall of 2001 when federal agents, captivated by Islam’s complex history and rich spiritual traditions, redirected the full force of the bureau’s intelligence-gathering apparatus toward developing a more thoughtful, nuanced appreciation of the Muslim-American way of life. The Director of FBI, James B. Comey had the following to say recently when the latest report of the Bureau was about to be released:
“We’d always known Islam was one of the great world religions, but it wasn’t until we recruited a network of 15,000 informants and infiltrated mosques all over the country (US) that we came to understand just how magnificent and fascinating it truly is,” said FBI director James B. Comey, who noted that agents gained a valuable and eye-opening understanding of Islam—while also learning a lot about themselves and their own faith in the process—after entering the Muslim places of worship to collect as much information as they could on the intriguing personal beliefs of the religion’s followers. “After analyzing the transcripts of thousands of phone calls and intercepting the communications of prominent Muslim-American leaders and academics, we’ve really come to admire their vibrant culture.”
“The considerable amount of intel we’ve gathered and carefully pored over for the past 15 years has shown us that their faith and customs are really quite inspiring,” Comey added. “If there’s one thing we’ve taken away from all our surveillance, it’s what a glorious and enriching part of our world Islam is.”
“According to sources within the bureau, the harvesting of internet data, widespread racial profiling, and the nationwide mapping of Muslim communities have allowed agents to closely observe the followers of Islam on an extremely personal level, thereby allowing them to develop a deep respect for the amazing ethnic and cultural diversity of the faith’s 1.6 billion believers, as well as the striking distinctions between the religion’s various sects, which, they stressed, went far beyond just Sunni and Shiite.
Remarking on all the information they had gathered, FBI officials emphasized that adherents of Islam speak dozens of beautiful languages—Arabic, but also Urdu, Pashto, Farsi, Bengali, Javanese, and many others—and noted that agents came to treasure this linguistic richness after installing recording devices throughout Muslim-American communities and then surreptitiously listening in on Qur’anic study groups, prayer sessions, and social events.
“Thanks to advances in video surveillance, we’ve been able to look inside Muslims’ homes and view some breathtaking calligraphy prints and hand-woven tapestries,” said former agent Casey Hanna, who fondly recalled assignments that allowed him to overhear moving recitations of the Hadith, which he was fascinated to learn come from an oral tradition and are considered to be the direct word of the Prophet Muhammad. “I went undercover in hundreds of Muslim-owned businesses and residences across the nation and was lucky enough to sample many variations on the aromatic stews and delectable desserts that serve as staples of halal cuisine—Arabian, North African, Indonesian. They were all delicious, and unlike anything I’d ever tasted.”
“I’ll never forget this one instance when I closely trailed a New York shop owner for three straight years—his coffee was just spectacular,” Hanna added. “Muslims were the first people to drink coffee, you know.”
“After realizing they could not fully nurture their curiosity by limiting their study to Muslims in the United States, the FBI reportedly enlisted the help of the NSA to find out more about the incredible religion. Between 2002 and 2008, the bureau is known to have monitored 7,485 email addresses around the globe in order to learn answers to their many questions about Muslims’ compelling lives and rituals, from why they don’t eat pork, to what Muslim holidays are like, to why some Muslim women wear garments that cover their heads while others don’t”.
The Director, J. B. Comey, told reporters that the FBI also received information from the CIA, whose enhanced interrogation techniques and clandestine intelligence-gathering methods yielded many interesting revelations from Muslim sources around the world, such as the fact that Arabs make up only 15 percent of the global Muslim population, and that through most of history, women in Islamic societies actually had more property rights than women in the West.
He said they thoroughly enjoyed studying “such a lovely people and such a lovely faith,” Comey explained that agents would often remove a Muslim citizen from their community and keep them detained for days, weeks, or even months on end to learn everything they could from them about Islam”.
“There’s no way I could remember the names of all the Muslim citizens that our agents brought in to discuss the beauty of Islam with one-on-one, but rest assured that with their help, the FBI has gained a deep and illuminating understanding of Islamic culture,” said Comey, who noted that by combing through thousands upon thousands of citizens’ banking records, agents discovered with astonishment how some observant Muslims set up special loan payment plans to avoid paying interest, as they consider it usury, which is forbidden under Sharia law”.
“It’s crazy to think about, but until little more than a decade ago, I had no idea there were Five Pillars of Islam that guided all Muslims’ spiritual lives. I also didn’t know anything about the multitude of Muslim contributions to mathematics and science that have been absolutely vital to the world. But that’s not to say they don’t value art, though. Poets like Rumi and Hafez drew upon mystical Sufist interpretations of the Qur’an to write verse that is every bit as sublime as, say, Keats or Coleridge. And don’t even get me started on the architecture.”
In concluding the report of his team’s research and findings, FBI’s Director, James B. Comey told the American Muslims as follows:
“As this program sadly comes to an end, I just want to thank Muslim Americans from the bottom of my heart for teaching us all about your faith and your culture,” he continued. “We’ve learned so much about you over the years. More than you could possibly imagine.”
From the foregoing, it can be vividly deduced that contrary to general global belief, Muslim terrorism in the US is more hypothetical than real. In other words, it is more of media propaganda than physical disaster. Another vital report from an FBI data summarized the scenario as follows:
“Terrorism Is a Real Threat … But the Threat to the U.S. from Muslim Terrorists Has Been Exaggerated”
The above conclusion seems to have brought to an end the 20th century view of a British intellectual but deified poet, Rudyard Kipling who in one of his poems once stated as follows:
“…OH, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet,“
Till Earth and Sky stand presently at God’s great Judgment Seat;
But there is neither East nor West, Border, nor Breed, nor Birth, When two strong men stand face to face, tho’ they come from the ends of the earth!” If that poem was sensible to the Europeans of the 20th century, it has surely become anachronistic to the Europeans of the 21st century. Today’s world is a global village in which no part can claim to be an island onto itself.
If it could take the well educated people of the United States a whole length of 15 years of rigorous research to understand Islam despite the involvement of experts in many areas of human endeavours, one can imagine the number of decades it will take half-educated Nigerians to even think of sitting down to study the divine religion called Islam. Nigerians are only good in copying from other countries either evil acts or satanic means of becoming rich as quickly as possible. The thought of emulating decency from other lands is alien to Nigerian so-called elite. But no matter how long it may take, reality will one day dawn on Nigerians about Islam as it is now beginning to dawn on Americans. Bitter as it may sound in the ears of Nigerian pessimistic bigots, America may soon become the voluntary haven of Islam with or without bigotry of the rest of the world, Nigeria inclusive.