As Egypt, Yemen and Libya deal with different degrees of violence in response to a US-made film about Islam, Nigerian security agents fear similar incidents in the country’s predominantly Muslim north. So far, the situation is generally calm, but authorities have taken steps against an Islamist backlash, possibly following Friday prayers, reports Reuters. Talks with locals reveal that certain young Nigerians harbour strong feelings towards the film and the issues it raises.
By Kingsley Madueke, Jos
“I’m very angry with the US for allowing such movies to be produced and released within its borders,” says Sagir Salami, a Muslim resident of Jos, Plateau State. “Muslims are very peaceful people, but that doesn’t mean we’re cowards.”
Paul Gimba, a young businessman in the Jos suburb of Tudun Wada, believes those behind the film, Innocence of Muslims, have done something wrong. “It’s not right to mock any religion or religious figure,” he says. “As a Christian, I’m taught to respect other people and whatever religion they choose to practise.”
But Gimba also condemns the killing of the US ambassador to Libya and three other Americans. “What happened in Libya is irrational and totally unacceptable. The killers must be fished out at all costs,” he says.
His sentiment is echoed by Shehu Zakari, a trader on the commercially vibrant Ahmadu Bello Way in Jos metropolis. “I’m not in support of the killing of the US ambassador in Libya because he wasn’t part of the production of the film,” he says.
Zakari is, however, in favour of peaceful protest against the foul depiction of the Prophet Mohammed. “The US is a troublemaking country, and every Muslim has every right to be angry at the US government because of this singular act of disrespect to our guide, mentor and prophet,” he says.
In fact, a local news source reported Thursday that a group of Muslims, numbering up to a hundred, had the day before staged a peaceful demonstration against the film along Bauchi Road in Jos. The leader of the protesters, Mallam Mansur Sani Adamu, is quoted as saying: “We’re doing this to express our anger against enemies of Allah and Islam led by America and her allies like Israel, Denmark and Holland.”
While there have been no reports of violence so far, further demonstrations are expected to take place in some states in the troubled northern part of the country, where Islamic militant group Boko Haram has been no stranger.
More demonstrations anticipated
Nigerian security agents fear religious bigots will exploit the situation to instigate violence. In a move to forestall acts that may lead to the destruction of lives and property, police inspector-general Mohamed Abubakar deployed forces to potential trouble spots. The security chief also ordered security to be beefed up around the embassies of Western countries, including the US, Denmark and the Netherlands.
“Muslims in Nigeria will definitely protest because this act of blasphemy is beyond pardon,” says Salami, who was part of what he called a small demonstration by a handful of Muslims along Bauchi Road. “I strongly believe Muslims will protest on a wider scale in other parts of the country, peacefully.”
Joe Dashit, an undergraduate student in political science, finds the pattern worrisome. “My concern is that every time there is an anti-Islam publication in another country, Muslims in Nigeria will react violently against innocent Nigerian Christians who know nothing about the publication,” he laments. “I want to call on Nigerian Muslims to be thoughtful and not to take the lives of innocent Nigerians who know nothing about this movie. But if they do, we have no choice but to defend ourselves.”